Typo made a splash at CES 2014 with the BlackBerry-aping Typo keyboard for iPhone, and they were at CES 2015 to show off their new not-patent-infringing Typo 2 keyboard. But really, the more interesting news out of Typo was their new iPad keyboard, it doesn't try to copy Apple. If anything, it feels more like a copy of the Microsoft Surface Type Cover, but with some slick software.
But first, let's look at the Typo 2 for iPhone. Leaving behind the BlackBerry-style design of version one was obviously the right legal call for Typo, but it's led to a keyboard that's not quite as functional as before, and certainly nowhere near as attractive (not that the original Typo was a good-looking device). Additionally, the Typo 2 still covers up the iOS home button, and while there's a supplementary home button on the keyboard, it lacks the Touch ID fingerprint sensor you can find on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6, which means you can't use Apple Pay. Typing was decent, but in our short time we found the keys rather stiff and the offset layout a little difficult to get used to.
The Typo for iPad, however, actually isn't that bad. Typo says the $179 keyboard is the thinnest Bluetooth keyboard for iPad. Both the full-size iPad Air and the smaller iPad Mini keyboards offer full-size keys, although the iPad Mini one combines a few keys (tab and Q, for example) to help with the condensed layout. Typing was a relative breeze on both models.
The keyboard's not the only part of the Typo Air. There's also a case for the tablet that while adding some bulk, also ads a friction hinge metal kickstand to prop up the tablet at whatever angle you desire. Typo says their using the same provider that builds the hinge that keeps the MacBook Air's display upright.
Possibly the coolest part, and likely the most controversial, is the software that Typo's developed. On one part, they're touting built-in autocorrect (not predictive typing), something that few other Bluetooth keyboard manufacturers can claim. That comes courtesy of the Typo app for iPad, which includes a custom software keyboard that's not at all a keyboard. In their demo, Typo brought up a calendar inside their keyboard app, essentially giving the iPad dual-app capability. But if we had to guess, that kind of app would flies in the face of Apple's App Store review guidelines.
Even without the app, the Typo for iPad keyboard seems like it might be pretty decent. We'll need to get more time with it to make a final judgement, but even the combination of the keyboard and case might well be enough.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.