BoxWave Keyboard Buddy Case Review

BoxWave makes a foray into a unique, niche segment of the iPhone case market with its Keyboard Buddy Case. Of course, that is the segment that features what some view as a necessity, a built-in physical keyboard. With a tiny, but growing number of choices, there is a lot of potential for BoxWave to break-in with a hit. The company obviously saw this opportunity to stand out in a market that has been missing a stellar protective case and keyboard combo.

A telling sign of fairly understated packaging, the Keyboard Buddy Case is one of BoxWave’s premium, premier products. Made out of rubberized plastic with a silver rim, the design works pretty well. Its looks subtly blend in nicely with the iPhone 4, though a premium feeling could have been extended to the inclusion of metal for the rim rather than a silver-colored plastic.

Upon the first (addicting) impression, it was evident that BoxWave nailed the slide-out mechanism, allowing users to quickly pull the keyboard out and snap it back with ease albeit slightly loudly. Continuing to the “piece de resistance,” the feel of the keys is smooth, but not overly so. Bringing the keyboard’s quality above most is how the keys’ tactical feedback is clicky as users are accustom to (and a good keyboard should be) rather than annoyingly mushy.

Through a tiny button that has to be pushed with a pin, the case is put into syncing mode and you can connect your iPhone via Bluetooth. Afterward the case’s physical keyboard replaces the virtual keyboard whenever the two are paired, which can free viewing space in some apps or leave a blank space where the latter would be in others. The freed viewing space can go a long way to improve some including note-taking, messaging, and VNC/remote desktop apps.

With the Keyboard Buddy, you can use commands that Apple built into iOS specifically for Bluetooth keyboards, including brightness and media controls along with useful commands such as copy, paste, and select all. Some characters and numbers are hidden behind a function (fn) key. This does not make working with numbers any quicker without a function lock, though BoxWave made the most of the space that they had, with no room left for comfortably-sized dedicated number buttons.

Wherever you can type with the virtual keyboard, you can type with the Keyboard Buddy as you would expect. Touch-typing takes a while to get used to, though I am sure there are some people out there whose iPhone typing speed would improve with the Keyboard Buddy after the learning period. I’m part of the group who has no problem getting through long emails with the iPhone’s virtual keyboard at a fairly quick pace, so I cannot say that I type quicker on a physical mobile keyboard. If your mobile typing ability/preference is a contrast to mine, then the Keyboard Buddy’s keyboard can be fantastic.

At a MSRP of $80 (though it is available from BoxWave and Amazon at a ten dollar discount), pricing is a little steep until you take what the case offers into consideration. Not only do you get a solid protective case, which cost $30 on average, but also a mini, well-designed Bluetooth keyboard in the same slab of rubberized plastic.

Even with the inclusion of a keyboard and a built-in battery to power it (that promises to last an impressive, not-too-annoying 45 days between charges), the additional thickness is not as significant as I was expecting. It is noticeable, but nowhere near a deal-breaker. Same goes for its weight. One small thing worth noting is how I got my palm caught in the gap between the iPhone and the keyboard, though the potential for that to happen is not a big deal as long as it’s avoided. Since the iPhone fits tightly within the case, it isn’t a case to constantly be shuffled between; you will want to keep it on for a while at a time.

There is no doubt that the Keyboard Buddy Case provides a quality physical keyboard experience superior to the average found in an iPhone case. That being said, the case is for the select people who have been itching for a virtual keyboard alternative or haven’t been able to make the jump to an iPhone because they don’t want to give up a tactical keyboard. Minor caveats aside, I can say with confidence that this is the case to get if you are part of one of the aforementioned groups.


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