A Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone?

Sections: Apple Business, Conferences, iDevice Accessories, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Macworld

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Bluetooth Keyboard with SmartphoneThe Macworld Expo is like CES – so many products to see that you forget about most of the smaller ones. But sometimes, the smallest products are the coolest and most innovative out there. Macworld picked up on something quite special: The $100 BTKeyMini from MacAlly. It’s a small, portable, foldable Bluetooth keyboard – something that many of you will have seen before in the past. So what’s so special about the BTKeyMini? A writer at Macworld had a talk with one of the MacAlly representatives, and apparently when the BTKeyMini arrives in March, it will be compatible with iPhone. If this is true – it will be a first. You will be able to use it in any iPhone application where the normal touch-screen would be used as a keyboard input.

An external keyboard for the iPhone may not seem like much – but it is. This would transform the iPhone from a “smartphone” to a smarterphone. You would be able to type emails at least two times faster with this keyboard – and when you’re done, you just fold it up and put it in a bag. This could, in fact, eliminate the need of a laptop like a MacBook Air in a lot of situations. The iPhone can visit every website on the internet thanks to its Safari browser – and you can do that anywhere in the world thanks to its EDGE connection (although HSDPA would have been a lot better). I can’t wait to see this thing in action.

Via [Macworld]

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  • RT

    Are you kidding? This is huge! Something I've been wishing for and waiting for. Exactly right, eliminate the notebook on trips (not for all but for many). I can see it now, in the airplane when these things start popping up, it will be like when I first started traveling with an IBM Thinkpad. Head turns, stares, interest. DIfferent, unique. And the realization of just how much change the iPhone really is up to for us all.

    This is the next level, no doubt about it. Little screens, folks typing away. With a SDK, the 3G with an Intel chip, the Mac computer is the limit as to what can be loaded onto the iPhone.

    And put Bluetooth on the next iTouch, for sure!

  • Dave @ iPhone Shaq

    This could really affect the mobile computing market.

    Only good things for the consumers point of view though!

  • Hlorri

    That representative was misinformed.

    The iPhone will not work with any keyboard, bluetooth or not. It is lacking the required Bluetooth profiles (HID and/or SPP), as well as, of course, nearly every other bluetooth profile in existence.

    (That's why you can't even transfer files to/from your iPhone, and tether your phone's internet connection with a bluetooth-enabled laptop, the way you can with nearly every other phone in existence. Not that it would be terribly smooth with the slow EDGE speed and all, but better than nothing while on the road).

    Hopefully, the new SDK and ability for 3rd party applications to run on the iPhone means that there will be some keyboard drivers released for it at some point.

  • RickS2K

    There will be no MacAlly bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone, so let's put this nonsense to rest now.

    Hlorri is right, and I also contacted MacAlly's tech staff to confirm. They have nothing for the iPhone, and there will be nothing until Apple adds the required Bluetooth profiles to the iPhone.

    This is not to say that a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone isn't absolutely necessary. I get 150 plus emails a day, and my business requires me to respond in fully formed, thoughtful, coherent prose. All cellphone keyboards, including the iPhone's are useless for anything requiring a command of the English language. Are you listening, Apple?

    And by the way, AValive ( is taking pre-orders for this vapor-ware MacAlly iPhone keyboard, This guys should have their chains yanked for selling something that does not exist and will never be sold until Apple makes the necessary changes in the iPhone hardware.

  • Lapep

    You know this could totally replace the Macbook Air considering the ability to use Google Documents online. Never need to bring anything else again when you travel in most cases.

  • Imran Anwar

    I don't know what this 'news' item was based on…. a quick search at the vendor web site shows:

    Your search – BTKeyMini – did not match any documents on

    Enough said.


  • Dijital Media

    Considering the iPhone has TV out (composite) you could conceivably output to a larger screen where available. Pair that with an external keyboard and you have a rock-solid iPhone blogging platform.

    If it's just a matter of Bluetooth profiles, then couldn't that be updated in a future firmware? Am I understanding right that it's not a 'hardware' limitation?

  • Hlorri

    Yes, I am pretty sure that this _could_ be added in future firmware releases; perhaps also specific "keyboard drivers" for particular keyboards might be possible without this support. In either case, though, this requires Apple's blessing; they have not seemed to keen on the idea ever since the iPhone's initial launch.

    By the way – spot on w.r.t. TV-out. I use my Nokia N95 this way – I have the N95 hooked up to my TV, and use a bluetooth keyboard from the sofa to check mail, do web surfing, even do remote SSH (via PuTTY for S60) via the WLAN in my home. The only thing that prevents the iPhone from being able to do the same is the lack of a real bluetooth stack.

  • ADS

    Stacks lf us business users need to take notes with an iphone & a bluetooth or doc keyboard.
    Yes I own a MacBook Pro too – but an iphone with keyboard will fill a rather large hole in the Apple range….

  • Mike

    A product like this Has been available for the Palm Platform since 2000.. now if Apple cold release the SDK and enable bluetooth keyboards it would work with the off the shelf Palm keyboard…


  • Michael

    Wouldnt that be nice?

  • coconutgirl

    yum yum yum yum yum yum yum. saw some gimmie-rigged versions of the keyboard (with this dock n' all) a while back but real, foldable… yummy! ah, travel, airports, even coffee bars or work on da beach… without lugging the laptop (what I had wished that crappy Vaio Picturebook would have done 8 years ago). Save my back for much more important things, like surfing – thanks.

  • iguy

    Why can't they just let people build a wired connector version then? Bluetooth isn't the only way to connect the keyboard! I would love to be able to get a cellulon keyboard with a cable I had to manually plug into my IPhone! It really would open up new possibilities on the phone! The ability to take notes in a conference, or work on a spreadsheet at reasonable efficiency. Or connect to a remote work machine and hack up a quick script to fix up a nightly build that has an issue, while you wait for your wife to shop!

    The possibilities are immense. I'm fast with the thumb keyboard, but no where near a rate I would ever buy a word processor or spreadsheet app for my IPhone. Apple is really being quite annoying with their choice to disallow this sort of thing. This is why I've often chosen to go the PC route. Apples arrogance really grates me the wrong way

  • Hlorri


    You must understand something: Steve Jobs can never be wrong.

    If he has said that a mouse should have one button (because it looks aestethically more pleasing), then that's law. Sure Apple engineers are free to find ways around this "law" (so they came up with the mighty mouse which uses capacitive sensing to detect a "right" mouse click, or multi-touch touchpads etc) – but the basic design of an Apple Mouse is one that has one (actually no) physically visible buttons.

    So if Steve has said that the iPhone's "innovative" touch screen keyboard is the best thing since sliced bread, then there should not be a need to support anything else (because that would, if allowed, "pollute" or ruin your iPhone "experience").

    The ultimate irony is that I actually use an Apple Wireless keyboard with my Nokia N85, and I connect to the Internet from my MacBook Pro via the same phone. (None of which would be possible with the iPhone).

    'Course, he has not really come up with an answer to some iPhone shortcomings:

    * Lousy Bluetooth stack with only support for HSP (no DUN for internet connection tethering, no HID/SPP for keyboard/mouse, no OBEX/FTP for browsing the filesystem and send/receive files, no A2DP/AVRCP for stereo audio streaming, .. the list goes on

    * Lousy support for corporate WiFi networks (EAP/802.1x authentication etc). I connect fine to our corporate WLAN via my N85, my coworker's iPhone just sits there staring empty into the air asking "huh?"

    * Standard mobile ('dumbphone') Java applications cannot run on the iPhone. That includes some things that would otherwise be particularly useful to its shortcomings, such as AmazeGPS (turn by turn GPS navigation), Opera Mini (superfast web browsing), Skype (though Fring now works with it), and do on. Not to mention that there is no equivalent for many SmartPhone applications for other platforms, such as (just for Symbian/S60): Nokia Internet Radio, Nokia Sports Tracker, Message Reader (for the visually impaired), or even plain old Flash support in its Web browser!

    * No SIM unlock available (so you can't go abroad and expect to pick up a pre-paid local SIM, you need to pay roaming rates to AT&T)

    * More expensive data plan ($30/month) than for most other phones ($15/month unlimited); over a 2-year contract period that's a $360 difference, more than the difference between the iPhone sales price ($199) and that of e.g. the N85, N95, or other unlocked (and much more capable) phones.

    Don't get me wrong: I was seriously looking at the iPhone when it first came out; It certainly brings together a lot of "innovative" user interface aspects into a very neat package. The only thing that kills it for me can be summed up pretty much in one word: "restrictive".

  • frank

    I have a brain teaser for every one maybe someone can help me before i send my 3g back to apple. so i have had my 3g for 17 days and love it every thing about it. well till this morning i left it charging over night and by mid day i noticed my phone was very quiet witch is not usual. so i picked it up and noticed i had 13 new emails 7 texts so i checked my settings ya every thing is set to announce and just then i got a call it rang i answered it i could not hear anyone so i hung up and called them back i still could not hear anything so i put it on speaker phone and then i could hear them and they could hear me so next i tried the i pod function sure enough no sound so bottom line i get ring tones and full speaker phone function butt no music which uses the same speaker as the speaker phone option and no sound with incoming email or text witch uses the same speaker as the incoming call speaker so needless to say im confused and starting to regret getting this phone with no insurance any suggestions?

  • Adam

    Have you got it wet? I had a similar issue when a single drop of water entered the headphone socket. I left the unit in the sun for an hour & was back to normal :)

    Jesus is Alive!

  • frank

    hey thanks adam after reading i though back and when i woke up this morning there was a cup of water on my computer desk that my cat must have knocked over during the night my phone was on the opposite side of the desk and dry this morning but may have been splashed so i took your advice no sun here this time of year so i turned my heat on and put the phone over it for half hour and all is normal again

  • Adam

    Cool Frank glad to be off help :)

  • Stephen Brown

    We did an external keyboard on SDK 2.0 without jailbreaking:

  • Jay

    Heh, one way to think about improving the keyboard is allowing a "key" can access content..??

    I just saw a new iphone AP , "Lightning Remarks", it speeds up keyboard use by 5-10X. Its cool, it has 1000's of pre stored remarks that , when replying to emails/texts (or creating new ones) you select categories and sub categories and you have available list of neat replies or messages. In 2-3 keystrokes you get 2-3 sentences remarks.Beauty is, it paste right back in emails. This is a cool idea for iphone users who want to speed up the keyboard use.

    You can also add your own categories and remarks, this is limitless!

  • robinsonor

    Bluetooth technology makes data communication more and more easy, like the dealling of I/0.
    i always like to use <a href="bluetooth" rel="nofollow">">bluetooth headsets

  • michaelcraig

    I run a university department. I'd like an iphone. It seems to have excellent capabilities and the screen is a perfect size for meeting and lecture notes; but I won't buy one until it will work with a keyboard. I tried the built-in keyboard in the store and, though pretty, it is worse than useless for writing.
    I use my trusty nokia, bluetooth linked to a keyboard, in every meeting I go to. The screen is tiny, but even so I have been able to leave my laptop at home for two years now. when something important comes up my colleagues are on it even before the meeting is through. Ah! freedom. Freedom of action.
    Apple please wake up to this point.

  • Guy

    I have been wainting for this option for a while. I used to have a similar keyboard for my Palm Pilot and I used it all the time to take notes in meetings or quick edits to documents. My only question is regarding the use of Bluetooth… Where I used my portable keyboeard the most was when I was on boeard an airplane travelling on business. It was much more convient than taking out the laptop. However if the connection is through BT then you can't use it on a plane. the Airplane mode of the iPhone shuts BT communication. Why not have a dock for the keyboard because you need to have the iPhone just in front of it anyways. Icould be a short cable to allow horizontal or vertical view and a support to hold the phone…