Gadget Watch: Case makes iPhone a BlackBerry clone

Jan 09, 2014 by Ryan Nakashima
This undated handout photo provided by TYPO shows the company's new iphone case that turns gives your iPhone a Blackberry keybaord. BlackBerry, the company that made physical typing on mobile devices an addictive craze, is suing Typo Products LLC, accusing it of copying its world-famous keyboard. (AP Photo/TYPO)

If you love your iPhone but would prefer a physical keyboard, Typo could be for you.

But you might want to order soon. BlackBerry, the company that made physical typing on mobile devices an addictive craze, is suing Typo Products LLC, accusing it of copying its world-famous .

The idea's great: With BlackBerry's ongoing struggles and the rise of touch-only iPhones and Android phones, physical keyboards on were headed to obsolescence. That's a big loss for people who can use their thumbs to type as fast as 60 words per minute on a .

Enter the Typo Keyboard, a Ryan Seacrest-backed phone case that was showcased at this week's International CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

HOW IT WORKS: Typo's keyboard slips over an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S like a protective case.

Its similarities with BlackBerry phones are notable: It has angle-cut keys suitable for thumb-typing. The keyboard layout is nearly identical—for example, with parentheses above the "T'' and "Y'' instead of the "9'' and "0'' on a typical keyboard. Thick silver bars separate rows of keys.

Physically, there are a few differences. Because the Typo case covers the iPhone's home button, it added one with the same function on the bottom right. There's a Bluetooth function on the "0'' key so the Typo can connect to the iPhone wirelessly. A light bulb key on the bottom left gives Typo's keys some lighting to use in dark environments.

THE DISPUTE: In a federal lawsuit filed Friday in San Francisco, BlackBerry Ltd. alleges that "Typo chose to copy BlackBerry's iconic keyboard design" and is making money off of BlackBerry's widespread recognition and goodwill.

Typo responded in a statement that BlackBerry's claims "lack merit" and that the company is excited about its "innovative keyboard design."

LOOK AND FEEL: In my hands, the Typo works fine—just like a BlackBerry—except it is blocked from using Apple Inc.'s autocorrect function while typing. So that means you have to tap misspelled words that are underlined in red later and choose from options to fix them. If you have an iPhone 5S, the fingerprint sensor will be covered up, so you'll have to resort to inputting a passcode.

DEVELOPMENT: Laurence Hallier, the CEO and co-founder of Typo, said testers of the device included BlackBerry users and others.

"We wanted that thumb-typing like the BlackBerry," he said. "We went out and priced it out. We built prototypes. It took us 18 months."

Typo Products is a Los Angeles startup co-founded by Seacrest and Hallier.

AVAILABILITY: Typo sells for $99 and is expected to start shipping on Monday. It works only with the iPhone 5 and 5S, not the 5C or older iPhones.

Explore further: BlackBerry sues startup founded by Ryan Seacrest

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Orders of keyboard BlackBerry start in Canada (Update)

Apr 09, 2013

The maker of the BlackBerry phone said Tuesday that a modern smartphone with a physical keyboard will be available in Canada in the coming weeks as major wireless companies started taking advance orders.

Recommended for you

Five features an Amazon phone might offer (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Apr 17, 2014

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...