The biggest hurdle in making the iPad a true replacement for a laptop is having the right case. It’s taken me several years, but I’ve finally found it. Kickstarter-funded Touchtype provides an ingenious and elegant solution for the main issues with respect to iPad productivity: the keyboard and the stand. Any number of manufacturers sell cases that have connected keyboards. The problem with these cases is that by essentially attaching the keyboard to the iPad, it eliminates the ability to adjust the keyboard’s distance/placement with respect to the iPad. This makes for wildly bad ergonomics, and leads to inefficient/uncomfortable typing. Compound this with the fact that most of the keyboards that are connected to these cases lack the necessary tactile responsiveness, and you end up feeling like you’re typing on a toy. The best keyboard is Apple’s Bluetooth wireless keyboard. This is because, for everyone who has an Apple computer, there is no distinction between this keyboard, and the one you use every day, in terms of touch and responsiveness. Prior to the Touchtype case, however, if you wanted to use Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard with your iPad you had to carry it separately from the iPad, and thus defeat the goal of reducing clutter when you travel. Not to mention that, absent some form of case for the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, it gets dinged up pretty fast in a briefcase/bag.
Touchtype ingeniously solves the problem by constructing its case with a pocket that allows you to slide the keyboard into the case itself. Importantly, you can still use the iPad when the keyboard is neatly tucked away, but, when you need to type, it slides right out, and—placing it wherever you like with respect to your iPad—you’re ready to go.
The case also allows you to position your iPad in either landscape or portrait mode, which facilitates different types of input needs.
The construction of the case is durable and solid. I am confident that my iPad is safe. While the case, in order to fit the keyboard, does add about another two inches in overall size when compared to the dimensions of cases that just contain the iPad, this is still roughly two inches smaller than the 11” MacBook Air.
In terms of appearance, I have the gray polyuerethane version, and I’m honestly not thrilled with its looks and feel. The color and veneer to me most closely resemble that of a Member’s Only Windbreaker that your used-car-salesman uncle wore in the mid ’80s. I now wish I had backed the Espresso or Black models of the case.
This aesthetic quibble notwithstanding, the only other problem I have with the case isn’t the case’s fault at all. The one flaw of Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard is that all it takes for it to be turned on is a baby to whisper near its edge. Annoyingly, to turn the keyboard off, you have to hold the power button down for three seconds. What this means is that you’ll inadvertently turn the keyboard on when it’s in the case. Not only does this result in the battery of the keyboard dying, but also the battery of the iPad running out. Another danger is that because you can start music playing on an iPad by pushing a function key, there will be times when music will suddenly follow you wherever you go. It might take a moment to realize that it’s coming from inside your shoulder bag, and that somehow the power button on the keyboard was turned on, and the cover of the case pressed against the key that tells the iPad that you want it to play music (even though you don’t really want it to play Western Swing at this moment because you’re at a funeral). Of course, you can avoid all this by turning the Bluetooth setting of your iPad to off, and Apple—with iOS6—has made this easier by adding this option right to the Settings menu, but it’s still a nuisance. A nuisance that is compounded by the fact that you know Apple could eliminate this issue with a firmware update to the keyboard that would make it require a three-second press to turn the damn thing on.
That gripe aside—and, sadly, it’s not a trivial one—the combination of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and the Touchtype case is an absolute killer. It’s so good that I find myself wanting to write with this set up, and enjoying it far more than typing on my MacBook. There’s something about being able to move the keyboard independent from the screen that makes it a far more ergonomically enjoyable experience. Couple this with the increase in portability, and it’s a winner. Hell, just not having to take something out of your bag to get through security at the airport makes it a winner for me.