By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 07/05/2012
In what may be the final nail in the coffin for RIM and their BlackBerry product line, SoloMatrix has developed a compact, non-Bluetooth, non-battery powered keyboard that does its job and gets the heck out of the way when you don't need it. The Spike is a combination case and reversible keyboard. Surprisingly, starting at just $20, the Spike is priced similarly to traditional cases that don't have the added keyboard functionality.
SoloMatrix was founded by Robert Soloman, and his son Cody. Robert is responsible for many successful keyboards for Apple, Palm and other platforms over the past few decades. So there's a heritage behind the Spike keyboard case that is inspiring. Indeed, as a reviewer, I probably could've requested a freebie, but I felt compelled to order one and back their Kickstarter project, here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/matrix/spike-makes-the-iphone-as-easy-to-type-on-as-it-is
The entry level Spike1 splits in two and you remove, rotate, and reattach the bottom half to use or hide the keyboard. The Spike2, which I ordered, has a dual hinged foldaway keyboard so you can easily switch between data entry mode and full screen touch access.
I got to play with the Spike cases at CE Week, last week in New York City. This highlights one of the disadvantages of Kickstarter, namely that potential backers cannot touch the product but have to commit on faith. I'm here to tell you that the Spike will be a cool, useful, accessory, and if you do a fair amount of text entry, such as emails and text messages, then the Spike will be very beneficial to you.
So how does this device work, if it doesn't use Bluetooth or batteries? A very sophisticated set of physical buttons, resting on a special capacative backing allows you to push through, via the button, to the touchscreen, even with gloves, only when you press on that button. This means you give up some of the specialized keyboard buttons, like the Siri button or the @ sign when using the email keyboard, but a quick reversal of the physical keyboard exposes the touchscreen as needed. That's why this is a great solution for those who do a lot of text entry, as the moments when the physical keyboard isn't necessary will be rare.
My only concern was that the next iPhone is expected in October, and this form fitting case/keyboard is not likely to be compatible. Of course, my wife will probably inherit my old iPhone 4S so she can use the keyboard. So, the promising news is that SoloMatrix is looking at offering today's early adopter pricing for Kickstarter backers of the existing model. So you could get today's model at a great rate, and the next version at the same great rate.