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Computerized Investing > May 18, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$59

Slide-out Bluetooth keyboard case for the iPhone 5.

When it first came out, the iPhone set the standard for smartphones. While some may argue the design is starting to show its age, especially in light of intense competition from the likes of Samsung, the iPhone is still an impressive piece of technology. For some, however, the thought of typing on a virtual keyboard is a major turnoff. My sister still clings to her Blackberry because of its dedicated keyboard. I must admit that, starting out, typing on the touch screen was annoying. But over time, I’ve become somewhat proficient.

In an attempt to improve upon the on-screen typing experience, many companies have created dedicated keyboards for the iPhone. One such company is NUU, a maker of iPhone accessories and wireless speaker systems. The company recently sent me one of their latest offerings: the NUU MiniKey for iPhone 5. The MiniKey is part-case, part-keyboard: you snap your iPhone into the case and the Bluetooth keyboard slides out when you need it.

Out of the Box

The MiniKey has an understated design, with the focus being on functionality. It consists of a plastic shell in which you snap your iPhone. The shell leaves the bottom ports and speaker, top and side volume buttons and mute switch exposed. There is also a cutout for the rear-facing camera. The phone itself rests below the edge of the case, protecting it when you lay it face-down on a flat surface.

The case itself measures 4.88 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.67 inches, which means it more than doubles the thickness of the iPhone 5. Weighing three ounces, it also nearly doubles the weight. These are trade-offs you have to contend with when using any type of case. Luckily, I didn’t find the added girth and weight to be too much of an inconvenience. I was still able to carry my phone in my pocket.

The slide-out keyboard is on rails that offer smooth movement. When extended, the keyboard protrudes about 1.25 inches below the phone when held in landscape orientation.

The keyboard itself has 48 keys distributed over four rows. On the left side of the keyboard face is a dedicated on/off switch, and on the right side of the case is a micro-USB charging port.

The MiniKey also comes with a micro-USB charging cable and a user’s manual.

Setup

As mentioned earlier, you snap your iPhone into the case, which offers a snug fit. Getting the phone out wasn’t too difficult.

Before you can use the MiniKey you must pair it with your iPhone 5. You begin by turning the MiniKey on by sliding the power switch on the face of the keyboard to On. You then press the pairing button that is directly above the power switch until the Bluetooth light on the right side of the keyboard starts flashing. You then go into your iPhone’s settings, making sure Bluetooth is enabled, and select NUU MiniKey from the last of available devices. Once the MiniKey is paired with your iPhone, it will automatically pair each time it is powered up and your iPhone has Bluetooth enabled.

Performance

Having been typing on my iPhone’s screen for two-plus years, I found the MiniKey to be a step backward in terms of typing speed and accuracy, the two things I would hope would improve. The keys are stiff, which means I have to type more slowly to make sure every “tap” registers. The worst offender was the space key. I found myself really having to press down on it with my thumb for it to work. Even then, being more deliberate didn’t cut down on the number of typing errors. I would say, conservatively, my typing speed was cut in half. This would probably improve as I got more used to the keyboard and perhaps, over time, I could “break-in” the keyboard to make it more responsive. However, I don’t have the patience to do so.

Overlooking these obvious flaws, the MiniKey does offer some nice features. First and foremost, you can view the entire screen when you are typing instead of the virtual keyboard taking up half of the screen. Secondly, the keyboard is backlit, making typing in low-light environments much easier. You can toggle the backlighting on and off to preserve battery life.

Many of the keyboard’s features, including numbers and symbols, are secondary controls that you access by holding down the function (fn) key and pressing the desired key.

Battery Life

Interestingly, NUU doesn’t provide any statistics as to the battery life of the MiniKey. All the company says is that it takes about three or four hours to charge.

Overall

I really wanted to like the NUU MiniKey, but after using it for a week or so, I gave up on it. First, I prefer my battery case to extend my iPhone’s battery life, and, secondly, I didn’t see the benefit of a keyboard that made me type more slowly, yet caused more typos. If you are someone who absolutely hates using the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, and have more patience than I do, then the MiniKey may be worth a look. Luckily, at $59, it isn’t a significant investment.

Pros

  • Backlit keyboard
  • Allows you to see entire screen when typing
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Stiff keys made typing slow and difficult

NUU MiniKey for iPhone 5

$59 (Currently $42.56 from Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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