At last month’s 2009 Pacific Legal Technology Conference I co-presented a session on smartphones for lawyers with Peter (“Pete”) Roberts, Practice Management Advisor for the Washington State Bar Association.
One of the areas of discussion that generated quite a bit of interest was around the availability and utility of full-sized external keyboards for smartphones. I had such a setup WAAY back when for a very early-edition Palm Pilot and found it made the device significantly more useful. Fast forward a decade and despite the almost infinite number of iPhone accessories on the market, I have been unable to locate this seemingly obvious add-on.
However, during my research I did come across one apparent option for Blackberry owners that is both an external keyboard and larger monitor/display screen. One of the session attendees also alerted us to and personally vouched for another external keyboard that she has been using with her blackberry with great success.
In the non-legal technology press and blogs there seems to be some disdain for external smartphone keyboards as being poor value for dollar with the cost of netbooks constantly hitting new lows but that misses the point for most lawyers in my view. Between home and office computers and a smartphone, most attorneys are more than sufficiently equipped with computing power and the addition of another standalone device would complicate, rather than simplify the technology picture. However, maximizing the value and utility of your smartphone just makes good sense. So, without further ado, here’s the two external keyboards I’ve surfaced so far.
Option 1: Celio RedFly External Keyboard + Display
The RedFly by Celio looks very intriguing – essentially giving your blackberry a NetBook-like footprint with a near-full sized keyboard and a much larger monitor. The caveats are that support for blackberries has just been added within the last month, and for Canadians, I don’t see a buy-in-Canada option anywhere on the site yet, although they do note one distributor for the Canadian market.
Option2: The Freedom Universal Keyboard2
Unlike the RedFly, the Freedom Universal 2 is a one-trick pony: it is an external keyboard full-stop. However, it is already a second-generation device which means it’s more battle-tested than the RedFly at this stage, and I have one strong recommendation from a lawyer I know with hands-on experience with the device so that might be the more conservative option at this stage. As with the RedFly though, it’s not clear that the device has been fully deployed in the Canadian market yet (their website doesn’t list a Canadian contact, but does reference a Canadian distributor) so regardless of which option you choose, it might involve a pickup the next time you visit our friends south of the border.
If any readers have hands-on experiences to share about either of these two options, or other choices I might have missed, I’d love to hear from you.