For the last few months my MacBook Air has been my main computer. It works quite well for me and, thanks to the large solid-state drive and the ability to connect it to a larger monitor, it serves as a desktop computing platform quite well. When I do connect it to a larger monitor, I like to have a separate keyboard and mouse so that I don’t have to worry about the placement of the laptop itself. Until now that is meant using a magic mouse and Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. I’ve been trying out something new, however, and it’s a rather compelling option if you are using a set up such as this. In fact, it’s a rather compelling option if you’re using any desktop computer at all.
This new keyboard is the WOW-keys iPhone dock, charge and sync, keyboard. It functions as a full QWERTY keyboard, has a nice place for charging and syncing, the iPhone functions from the keyboard, and with the addition of some software, turns the iPhone into a trackpad for your computer. Yes, the WOW-Keys keyboard replaces your keyboard, your iPhone cradle and even your mouse! It’s a great design that offers a superb degree of practicality, so let’s dig in.
Here’s what the description on Amazon has to say about the WOW-keys keyboard:
WOW-Keys is a full size QWERTY keyboard that allows you to input text into your iPhone from its keys. It can also be used to input commands into your computer from your iPhone. The WOW-keys actually merge the multi-touch capabilities of the iPhone with the PC. Swap modes quickly with the touch of a button, and execute common tasks via 12 HOT Keys made specifically for interacting with the iPhone. The hotkeys include a way to pause, play, skip a song forward or back, as well as increase or reduce the brightness of your display. You can even search, go through your photo album, or turn the display off. Simply flick a switch on the keyboard and you can use your iPhone as a number pad or interact with certain apps (not included). The keyboard can also function as your standard USB keyboard, all the while keeping your iPhone synced and charged at the same time. This is compatible with PC, MAC, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPod Touch.
The WOW-keys keyboard is a full-sized QWERTY keyboard that allows you to input text into your iPhone from it’s keys.
Works with PC and Mac.
Works with iPod and iPhone.
USB charging & iTunes synchronization.
Use an iPhone as a multi-touch pad for PC.
Button for direct switching between PC and iPhone mode.
The keyboard ships in a simple box and only contains the keyboard with its USB power cord loosely wrapped with a cable tie. As you can see, it is a simple black and white design. While chunkier than Apple’s offerings, it certainly isn’t overly big and heavy either.
The white exterior wraps the keyboard, which is primarily made of shiny black plastic. There is a noticeably thicker area on the right hand side is that holds some of the relevant buttons for accessing the iPhone controls. It makes the keyboard look a little bit off-center, but it’s what was required to make it as functional as it is.
Taking a closer look at the iPhone docking area, you can see that the iPhone sits in the slot and is flush with the top of the keyboard. The upper portion of the docking area is a bit lower than the rest which makes it simple to grab the iPhone and remove it from the dock. It’s important to keep in mind that positioning the iPod in the dock happens by moving the iPhone from the top horizontally down into the dock connector, and removing it takes the opposite action. Pulling up on the top of the iPhone won’t be good for the iPhone or the keyboard.
As noted above, once the iPhone is in the dock it sits flush with the rest of the keyboard. You now have the keyboard on the left, the iPhone on the right and some controls at the very right.
The other two buttons on the keyboard are for the play/pause of music when the iPhone is being used as an MP3 player, and a caps/scroll lock. The one button can serve both functions because of the button directly above it which toggles between them.
When the keyboard is plugged into the computer, it may take a few seconds for the keyboard to be identified. My MacBook Air walked me through the process of helping to identify it, and in a short period of time I was good to go. Once that occurs you will see one of the LED lights on the right-hand side shining. It starts out in PC/Mac mode. This means the keyboard is being used to input text on the host computer, and the iPhone can sync and charge.
Pressing the button with the computer icon on it, however, activates the iPhone mode. The light next to iPhone will glow, and the shortcut keys on the keyboard itself can now be used to control the iPhone. In addition, in this mode you are able to input text to your iPhone itself using the keyboard keys. It’s actually quite handy, although I am not sure why you would want to put text directly into your iPhone when the keyboard is already connected to a computer. In a perfect world the keyboard would work as an input device for the iPhone even when the keyboard was not connected to the host computer and, in fact, it does. The keyboard still needs to be attached to a power source, but if it is you can use it to input text directly into the iPhone. That makes it a bit more compelling of a product for me since it increases the ability to use the iPhone to write long messages.
Speaking of the keyword functioning like a keyboard, the company notes that the keys are “scissor keys”, a patented technology that provides “comfort and soft keystroke!” In practice I found the keyword to be quite good. The keys were responsive, and there was not too much to play when activating them. There is, however, far more play than you will find on the MacBook airs keyboard and, as one who loves using that keyword, I found myself struggling a bit to become used to using this design. That does not mean I won’t be able to, but I found myself going back to the Bluetooth keyboard when I needed to quickly put a great deal of text.
The iPhone hotkeys are spread across the top of the keyboard and are identifiable by their icons. This graph shows what shortcuts are available.
One of the really neat tricks with regard to this keyboard is the ability to turn the iPhone into a trackpad. Those of us who use a MacBook or Apple’s Magic trackpad will find it quite easy to do since you are simply moving from one glass trackpad to another. The design of the keyboard is such that the trackpad is positioned to the right of the keyboard, which is great placement if you are a righty but less great if you are a southpaw. I am left-handed, so this was a bit of a transition. I did, after a short time, find it quite handy and fun to use.
Unfortunately the keyboard does not ship with software to make this functionality possible. That means you need to track down the iPhone application you would like to use and then at the companion software to your computer. It was not difficult to do, but it would have been a nice addition with the keyboard itself.
This graphic from the company gives you a sense of how flexible and functional this keyboard is.
In all, the keyboard offers some great functionality, some really cool geeky stuff to get excited about, and it saves space on the desk as well. With this keyboard, iPhone or iPod Touch users don’t need to have a separate dock for syncing and charging their device, don’t need to have a separate trackpad or mouse, and don’t need to have a charging cable for their iOS device. Yes, with this keyboard you have all of that right at your fingertips through the simple combination of the keyboard and your iPhone.
If you are in the market for a new keyboard, or want to replace the keyboard and mouse you are currently, then using this is a great option. If you like a keyboard with a little more play than the one that ships with the current generation MacBook Airs, you will be quite happy. If, however, you love the low profile and limited throw of the keys on the MacBook Air you will, at a minimum, find yourself having to make an adjustment, and you may be less satisfied even after that.
You can get the Wow-Keys Keyboard dock through our Amazon Affiliate Store for just $96.89. Details and ordering can be found here.
What I Like: Well made; replaces keyboard, iPhone dock, mouse and trackpad; use for computer or iPhone and switch with one button; use without a computer when plugged into USB adapter; looks cool and geeks will love it
What Needs Improvement: Does not ship with a trackpad app; keys take some adjustment if you use a Mac keyboard