Why I Like a Good iPhone External Keyboard

Back during my cross-USA bicycle tour in 2001, I composed daily email updates (this was pre-blog days) of my trip using a Palm Pilot docked into a Landware GoType external keyboard. To send my updates, I docked the Palm Pilot into the PocketMail BackFlip and then held the combo up to a pay phone (those were still relatively easy to find in rural areas) – listening to the screeching as my email was transmitted.  (I finally got around to updating the blog to show the old setup from 2001.)

While remarkably low-tech by today’s standards, this setup was small and light, which was perfect when traveling by human power for over two months.  In more recent years, this setup had evolved into a Palm smartphone with an external Bluetooth keyboard. But with the availability of netbooks these days, it seems that the niche for such a setup would have completely vanished, if not for some of us who are on long hiking or biking trips and can’t guarantee being near a power outlet.

When I first upgraded to my iPhone, I was surprised to see that there were no supported external keyboard solutions. (Now I’m not surprised, knowing that Apple hangs on tightly to the reins with strict App Store requirements.) But just recently I saw this new external keyboard for the iPhone. Looking at its size and weight, I would much rather carry a netbook!  Not only that, but then I saw this gem: “Due to Apple’s restrictions, you will not be able to type into any application.”  Not very useful to me!

Enter BTstack Keyboard, which allows using most external Bluetooth keyboards with the iPhone. I’m using the Palm Wireless Keyboard 3245WW, which is still available on Ebay. It’s the best $5 I ever spent!  The downside is that this app can only be used on jailbroken iPhones. But for me (and others) this is one reason making the iPhone worth jailbreaking.