Earlier this week, I was sent the Typo 2 case for iPhone 6. And, while we don’t ordinarily review accessories here on the PhoneDog YouTube channel, I felt I had to get one to see if it really is the BlackBerry rip-off that the Canadian tech giant says it is.
I have to say, upon opening it, the Typo 2 comes in some really nice minimalistic packaging. All that comes with it are the instructions and a short Micro USB to USB cable. And setting it up is really simple.
Before applying it to your phone, you pair the Bluetooth keyboard to your iPhone 6 by pressing and holding the backlight key. Once paired, you’re read to go and you can start using it. It comes in two parts, so all you need to do is slide the top and bottom halves on and click them together. Easy as pie.
There are cutouts for all the necessary ports, camera and buttons on the edges. Even on the bottom edge where the keyboard itself creates an overhang. The finish of the plastic has a really nice, soft textured feel to it making it pleasant to hold. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t make it too uncomfortable to have in palm. It definitely makes the iPhone feel less balanced, but it’s no longer than a Galaxy Note 4 with the case applied.
Sadly, for those attached to Touch ID’s security and convenience, the keyboard covers the home button. It has a replacement on the keyboard so that you can still go to your home screen or double-tap to get to the multi-tasking view. But you can’t scan your fingerprint.
For anyone looking to add a physical keyboard experience to their iPhone, I’ve not used anything as good as the Typo. I’ve tried a couple of different slide-out keyboard options over the years, but none are quite as pleasing to use as the Typo 2. But it does take some getting used to.
Still, the question remains: Is it a BlackBerry rip-off? I think the answer to that depends on how you look at it. First, you have to decide exactly what a BlackBerry keyboard is. After all, the company has gone through a number of different designs over the years. Whether that’s the round, separate keys on the 7230, the compressed QWERTY on the Pearl series or - more recently - the giant square keys on the Passport.
But to most, the “classic” BlackBerry keyboard is that featured on the Bold lineup. The same as is used on the current BlackBerry Classic. Its keys have a round, sculpted edge, with keys that taper away from the center of the keyboard.
The original Typo case was invented by a couple of guys who didn’t want to carry a BlackBerry and an iPhone. And so they released a case to give a BBerry feel to an iPhone 5/5s. They were sued and were banned from selling it because it was - quite blatantly - a BlackBerry rip-off. It had the same shape keys, and basically the same layout.
With the Typo 2, the keys have changed shape. Instead of the round sculpted edge, these are clearly more square. It’s a completely different feel. And I have to say, it makes it slightly more difficult to type on than it is on the Classic. But the lawsuit isn’t just about the shape of the keys.
It states that:
“The Typo2 Keyboard still
blatantly copies BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard trade dress designs that have been embodied in numerous BlackBerry smartphones from the 2007 BlackBerry 8800 to the current Q10 and Classic models. The Typo2 Keyboard also infringes numerous BlackBerry utility patents related to BlackBerry’s proprietary keyboard design, backlighting and typing automation technologies”
So it’s about backlighting and typing automation as well as the overall look. And the truth is, if you showed someone the keyboard with the rest of the phone covered up, they’d assume it was a BlackBerry. I don’t find that its mechanical response is the same as that of the Classic. It’s decidedly less solid feeling, and the keys aren’t as well separated. It even has a different typeface and font marking all the buttons.
The layout is similar, of course, because a QWERTY keyboard needs to be.
And here’s the crux: As much as I see BlackBerry’s point of view, I struggle to see how else this could be achieved for iPhone users who want a physical keyboard. At least, for those who want to type in portrait view and not use a huge horizontal slider. It needs to have a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom of the phone, and it needs to fit all the right symbols and buttons in a small space without making it impossible to type.
If you want to grab one before BlackBerry does (or does not) get them banned again, you can purchase the iPhone 6 Typo 2 case for $99 from Typo’s online store. Or, for those in the UK, you can grab it from Amazon for £79. The iPhone 5s model is slightly cheaper at $79USD or £59GBP.