Saturday, November 01, 2014

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard

This one goes in the category of solving first world problems...  One of the reasons that it took so long to post my Brazil 2014 travelogue is that the quality of the original composition is questionable.  Back in 2008 or so, I realized that I have a terrible memory, so composing the travelogue after the trip didn't work too well.  So I started typing up the travelogues on a mobile device while on the trips.  Well, it turns out that I'm a terrible phone/tablet typist, on top of the fact that typing on those things sucks anyway.  Despite this I persevered, and continued to crank out travelogues.  But this sucky typing experience makes for poor quality posts.  And this is further exacerbated by my robotic matter-of-fact prose style.

All of this is background info for why I was in the market for a more "typable" mobile device this year.  I initially considered something like the Surface Pro 3, or a similar convertible tablet type thing, but decided that $800 (or even $500) was far too much money to spend on something that I would essentially only use for one two-week trip every year.  So I was pretty excited when a couple of months ago I stumbled across an article touting the upcoming release of the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard.  I just bought one last week (see picture above), and can definitely understand why the black model is in short supply.

First, the product basics.  It is a Bluetooth keyboard that folds up for easy transportability.  It has a supposed battery life of 3 months (it comes with a USB charging cable), and supports paring with up to 3 different Android, iOS, or Windows devices.

As for my thoughts after playing with it for a few minutes...  I like it a lot.  Well enough to post about it.  One thing that I was initially concerned about was the 3 device support - the device switch has 3 positions, one each for Android, iOS, and Windows.  So I figured that if I wanted to switch between pairing it with my phone and my tablet, which both run Android, I would have to redo the pairing process while keeping the device selection on Android.  Well, it turns out that the keyboard will pair with Android devices even when on a non-Android switch position - I accidentally tested this out with my Android tablet and the Windows switch position.  The downside is that you lose the OS-specific functions (which are a really nice feature) when you mismatch, but most things still work great.  And I guess it's a little confusing to have to remember that the Windows position is actually for the Android phone/tablet, but you would have to remember the pairings with a generic 1/2/3 switch anyway.

The other minor "complaint" I have is that the keyboard is pretty cramped.  This obviously makes sense when you consider that mobility is one of the goals, but I did find myself making quite a few typing mistakes the first couple of minutes while using the keyboard.  I got used to it pretty quickly, though, and my error rate began approaching normal.

Overall, I'm really glad Microsoft released this product.  The compact design is great for traveling, and typing isn't too terrible on it.  And I love the multi-OS support.  This should hopefully improve the quality of next year's trip's travelogue.  While this keyboard doesn't end poverty or bring about world peace or anything like that, I feel that it is an excellent product that is worth the $80 and my recommendation if quality mobile typing is a use case that you have.

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