Late this week, some interesting BlackBerry news surfaced, with one being Canadian-born pop singer Justin Bieber could have been the face of BlackBerry rather than creative director for the brand Alicia Keys. The second BlackBerry news, and perhaps one that is more interesting to the tech community, is that Ryan Seacrest is looking to kill off the smartphone brand all together with his latest investment–a BlackBerry-styled keyboard case that attaches to your iPhone to give iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s owners a physical, hardware keyboard.
Interestingly, the keyboard, which aims to reduce or eliminate typos and inaccurate typing, is called Typo. Unlike keyboard cases and attachments that were available previously, Seacrest’s Typo keyboard works in portrait mode, rather than a landscape-oriented slider.
The famed entertainment personality, radio host, and producer of shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians has invested $1 million of his own money to end a phenomenon where people are carrying two phones. Seacrest discovered at business dinners that his friends and colleagues were often sporting two devices–one, the BlackBerry, for answering and replying to emails, and the second, usually an iPhone, for everything else. Typo is Seacrest’s answer to this first world problem to help eliminate the need to double first phones when going out.
The $1 million in funding is just the start, and Seacrest and his partner are promising to invest an additional $5 million more for future keyboards.
So how does this keyboard work? Essentially it’s an iPhone 5/5s case with a keyboard that snaps onto the bottom and connects to Apple’s smartphone via the Lightning connector. The phone’s home button would be concealed by the keyboard, so for iPhone 5s owners that means you would lose out on TouchID.
The bottom of the Typo keyboard case would house a four-row keyboard, similar to the keyboard on the BlackBerry Q10′s keyboard, and Seacrest had moved the home button to the bottom row of his keyboard, which occupies the same row as the space key. The main difference between Typo and iPhone 5 versus a BlackBerry Q10? Mainly form factor. The Q10 occupies a square display whereas the Typo keyboard adds more length to an already long iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s Retina Display.
The form factor itself is interesting as it looks like a Mophie case has been attached. Given the longer screen size of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s in portrait mode, it’s unclear how the ergonomic would work as the keyboard, which occupies the bottom, would make the phone appear top-heavy. Additionally, the keyboard goes all the way to the very bottom edge of the case, which would love to room for you to rest your fingers or grip the device on the bottom edge when typing with two thumbs.
Whether Seacrest’s Typo will help cure the “crack-berry” addiction of BlackBerry owners who are aching to just carry one device is unknown. Given that it’s one of the better keyboard options for the iPhone at this time, Typo perhaps stands the best chance at success. Seacrest says his keyboard frees up an additional 40 percent of screen real estate from not having a software keyboard block up the screen. The trade off would be you would have to carry a longer, slightly thicker device.
Still, for some, like the President of the United States and government officials in other countries, the BlackBerry may be the most secure platform for now, especially in light of NSA monitoring, CIA spying, and FBI tapping of communications.
According to All Things D, the Typo keyboard will be making its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show early next month in Las Vegas. Will this be the final nail on BlackBerry’s coffin? Perhaps not, but it may increase the appeal of the iPhone and give iPhone owners more flexibility given Apple likes to stick to a few limited models.