Disclaimer: I am posting this way to early, because Blackberry recently announced that they will close their platform, which, to my understanding equates a remote brick for remaining devices. So, before the supply of cheap replacement keyboards from AliExpress dries up, I wanted to see if anyone else is interested in this.
I’ve been experimenting with different froms of DIY side slider keyboard attachments for my phone ever since my trusty Droid 4 died in 2017, and whatever I tried, they all sucked, because it is really hard to fit a decent sliding mechanism onto a phone that wasn’t made for it. The weight balance is always terrible.
So my next try is to add a detachable USB C Blackberry Q10 keyboard supported by a half-case (kinda like the Typo keyboard case from 2015 for the iPhone).
This is still in the concept/waiting for parts from China stage. I am not planning to sell this, but instead to open source it (schematics, software, PCB files, STL files) for anyone who wants to build it.
There are no guarantees at that stage that it will work and/or be good.
But if this sounds interesting, you might consider to shell out a fiver and buy a Blackberry Q10 keyboard from AliExpress, before they become unavailable.
Additionally to the USB C keyboard functionality I am considering (if I have enough space) to fit into it also a charging port that passes current to the phone (data is very difficult), and possibly even a DAC and headphone jack.
Interesting. Though I am unsure about the size. I believe the panacea way to go with keyboard is OSK on portrait mode and a hardware keyboard slide out on landscape. So for example if you were to quickly type a short message or URL or IM you would use OSK on portrait, while a longer email or post like mine or yours is better made with landscape. In that regard, I liked the Cosmo Communicator and Gemini PDA keyboard and look forward to Astro Slide with its slide out keyboard. The f(x)tec has too small keys for my taste, might as well have BB keyboard.
I totally agree that side-sliding would be much better. But retrofitting a slider keyboard to a regular phone is hard, because the center of gravity is way off, with all the weight in the screen portion instead of the keyboard portion. Also, adding a sliding mechanism is pretty hard, since there are no off-the-shelf parts for that. There were bluetooth sliding keyboard attachments, but I can’t find a single vendor that still sells those.
So adding a blackberry-style keyboard seems a lot easier. I’d make it so that it covers the navbar portion of the screen, so that the phone isn’t enlarged much and the center of gravity doesn’t shift too much.
Before Android 11 there was the “wm overscan” command, which allowed to define what part of the display is used. With that, it would be possible to automatically make the display smaller when the keyboard is connected and enlarge it again, when the keyboard is detached.
It wouldn’t be too hard to patch that into the OS again, but sadly it is not built-in anymore.
Planet use Mediatek SoCs and deliver bad support. Slow security updates, if any, and short amount of software support (2 years or so?). All that for a premium price. Other companies like Fairphone do much better.
But I believe (unfortunately!) that a hardware keyboard is too much a niche. Not enough people care about it (which also perhaps says something about the quality of OSKs nowadays). Therefore a solution like this might be the next best thing if you want it attached to the device, I agree.
The alternative is to use a Bluetooth keyboard or a USB-C adapter. I wonder how many people are still using that, and if for them this would be a better alternative. Consider for example the Logitech K480. You can put the smartphone in it to stabilize it. Good enough for typing in the train, for example, but not good enough to use while typing on the street. What I mean is that your solution is excellent for usage on the go. That’s part of the specific (sub-)niche.
By the way, the prototype is working and open source under https://github.com/Dakkaron/Fairberry
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