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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I imagine the aspect ratio may be a bit unwieldy for everyday use, but nice idea in the interest of nostalgia.
Thanks for sharing!
Not only that, I can “type” twice as fast with this Openboard fork with Swype-like functionality. So I don’t think the Blackberry attachment would be terribly practical anyway.
This said, just look at it: It’s such a well-made accessory! I want one just because it’s such a cool toy.
The thing is, with this attachment I can type without looking while walking.
And I don’t need Autocorrupt for typing.
Also, CTRL+A/Z/X/C/V all work as expected and in cursor key mode I can use WASD as cursor keys. Couple that with shift, and it’s super easy to select text.
In the end, it’s more about control and precision than about sheer typing speed.
That said, I get ~55 WPM on the physical keyboard with no errors, compared to ~45 WPM on Gboard with typos.
That one is lost on me, as I have a few missing bits that make it all but impossible for me to walk without paying attention to the walking full time
I don’t dispute that a keyboard is great. But as someone who gets easily gets 120+ wpm on a full size 104-key keyboard, any typing arrangement on a cellphone is going to be a compromise anyway.
The best solution I’ve found so far is that Swype-like keyboard thing, which is surprisingly quick and accurate to input plain English, even when you’re shaken like a bag of popcorn on the bus or something. And the Swype-ish soft keyboard also has left and right keys - if not up and down. For anything else that requires more involved or faster typing and requires an attachment to the cellphone, I sit down an pull out one of these:
Your little device sits somewhere in the middle in terms of practicality for me: it makes the device too unwieldy for casual use and it doesn’t seem to provide fast enough input to make up for the extra heft.
But mostly it’s a fantastic creation and I love it just because it’s so damn neat. And it IS small enough that I would want to carry one around with me all the time just for the coolness factor Fairphone would be well-advised to sell an accessory like this. I bet it would fly off the shelves.
Obviously, my creation isn’t for everyone as evidenced by me being the only one who (afaik) has one
But for me it’s small enough that I keep it on all the time.
Obviously, it can’t compete with a full keyboard where you can do 10 finger touch typing. But compared to a virtual keyboard it offers much more precision, no need to use autocomplete or any other hacks and it works in any setting (from typing regular text to programming or using a command line interface).
But the biggest benefit compared to e.g. the device you posted about is that it has no drawbacks over a virtual keyboard (apart maybe from when you want to type really quietly).
I had a small bluetooth keyboard with a clamp to mount the phone to it. I had it in my backpack for over a year and in total I used it maybe 5 times. Because fetching it from a backpack, mounting the phone to it, re-pairing Bluetooth because the connection doesn’t work anymore and then realizing that the keyboard is all but empty because it’s been so long since I last used/charged it was always so much of a hassle, that it was just more convenient than just using the touch keyboard.
The Fairberry just stays on my phone. I pull it out of the pocket and it’s just ready and works. No bluetooth, no battery. If I need to access USB, I just pull it off, and when I’m done, I just push it back on.
I write a lot on my phone, since I often just have small breaks when I have time to do something quick. For that, the Fairberry is great, because it’s just super convenient and upgrades my most convenient kind of typing.
Tell you what: if you ever decide to sell it or crowdfund its production, you got yourself a customer