While testing the BlackBerry Hub+ services suite on a Samsung S7 Edge I opted to pick up a Samsung S7 Keyboard cover case built by Samsung. It’s an odd contraption that performs way better than I expected, but still pales in comparison to a true BlackBerry typing experience.
- Keyboard attaches to standalone hardshell case
- Cheap to acquire
- Totally wireless implementation
- Stiff plastic keys
- Cluttered keyboard layout
- Simplistic design
If there’s ever been a rip-off BlackBerry keyboard this is it. But Samsung actually did a fair bit of innovation to get this misguided accesory to work. The keyboard cover is just that. A plastic keyboard cover that sits ontop of your phone’s lowest third. When you put the cover on TouchWiz adapts the screen to fit the keyboard on the fly. This means it doesn’t play nice with some 3rd party launchers.
Enter a text field and the default software Samsung keyboard activates. It displays a three sets of predictions above the keyboard which can be expanded to see more suggestions. The capacitive buttons remain functional as well as the home key but you do lose the fingerprint sensor.
One of this biggest initial concerns I had with this combo was how it would actually work from a typing perspective. I’ve found the software jumps between cover on and off with ease and that while using the default Launcher everything worked as expected. I have the BlackBerry virtual keyboard installed on this Edge and it actually jumped back and fourth with relative ease.
When you put the cover on it invokes the Samsung default keyboard. This cover requires no Bluetooth or NFC but has capacitive sensors built into it so as you type you’re actually typing through the cover down onto a specially modified Samsung virtual keyboard layout.
These cases were introduced with the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 devices but on the newer models this keyboard has also been refined and many of the negative quirks in the build have been ironed out. The keys are more firm (almost too firm) and the color options are much improved.
The cover does exactly what is says it does and once you get accustomed to the odd placement of the Shift and Alt keys you’ll get fast with this attachment. I was surprised at how-well it captured my key presses. You can take the cover off and attach it to the back of the case when you want to watch a video or look at pictures, this also helps you from potentially losing it.
As well, you can simply leave the cover at home and continue to use the sleek Samsung hard-shell that comes in with the cover. Another nice addition here is that you’ve hot keys for your multitasking, back and home functions. You can also use Shift + Space to switch between languages which is a nice implementation.
While the cover is plastic and uninspiring from a design point of view it’s entirely functional. It makes you really reassess the value of a psychical keyboard. When this one launched it was $60 bucks, probably not worth it. But for $20-$30 bucks it might be more accepted. I think when we look at BlackBerry as they price their future QWERTY Android we have to understand the value their keyboard has over this cheap alternative. It will have a touch sensitive surface for an array of gestures and scrolling. Potentially a fingerprint sensor and genuine BlackBerry keys and a more utilitarian layout without needless bells and whistles. I mean, there’s two shift keys and a standalone dollar sign $ button on this cover… Why?
It’s nice to try the form factor in a way with this keyboard cover but what it makes up in functionality it lacks in quality. BlackBerry, you win this round.