Portable keyboards and Bluetooth technology for PDAs are not new. A fabric keyboard is, and a new product offering from Just Mobile is just that, a Bluetooth Fabric Keyboard, named RoKy .
My first impressions with the packaging caught me by surprised, as it was large enough to make me expect to find a full size keyboard inside. Instead, the carton presented the installation CD, the fabric keyboard, universal device stand, two AAA batteries, and a stuff sack.
Assembly was simple: free the pieces from their secured holdings, open the battery package, slide open the plastic cover from the box attached to the left hand end of the keyboard assembly, and insert the batteries. I then tested the provided flat stand and found it a most unique solution to propping the handheld for proper viewing.
After playing with the physical items, I looked over the packaged CD. It included the required device drivers and Manual (11 pages), that I advise you to review to make your experience good from the start (more on this later).
I use a Palm TX, and this was my first time ever pairing my TX with any other device with Bluetooth. I downloaded the application and installed to my handheld. I was expecting a few bumps to get connected, but it was very easy. Knowing the keyboard had to be on and observing a green light, I knew I was one step ahead of the manual. I then opened the app on my handheld and a "Tap Here to Connect" button appeared in the center bottom of the display. I did as it said, and to my delight I was connected.
Read the Manual!
A review of the manual did not seem practical, since I was already connected, so I moved to the CardTxt application and begin typing, and it worked, that simple.
I begin typing my first impressions of the RoKy and was disappointed by the results. Only two of the five characters I had entered were displayed. I typed some more with the same results. I thought I had a bad unit.
I then reviewed the manual and discovered I needed to calibrate the keyboard. This function is located in the install Fabric Keyboard application, via a drop down menu. After pressing start, the screen instructs you to press three keys on the keyboard, reminding me of the digitizer calibration on a touchscreen, but without targets.
Pick Your Settings
I then returned to the drop-down offerings and selected Keyboard Typing Settings. This is very important. From here you select your preferences for the keyboard sensitivity, repeat rate, repeat delay, key clicks, your connection time period and disconnect timeout, as well as the battery level of the keyboard.
Since I mentioned the battery indicator, the documentation said to expect 10 hours of use from a set of batteries. I experienced much better, and after four weeks of moderate use I still have about 75% of the battery life. I suspect this is result of the duration between uses, and should expect the listed battery life if using for longer sessions. My periods were normally about 30 – 45 minutes, once a day, for notes.
The sensitivity setting is what I played with the most. There are four options, Low, Medium, High, and Very High. I tried each, not noticing much improvement, and ended on Very High as my preferred setting.
Now, returning to CardTxt, I was now resulting in 3 of 5 characters being recognized, so I returned to the manual. Reading from cover to cover, I learned that I must hit each key, dead center for best results.
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Returned to my trial and yes, that did improve my results. Unfortunately, I have worked very hard to avoid watching where my fingers tapped on my other keyboards. With the RoKy , though, I found my eyes spending more time watching my fingers than the display. This slowed my normal typing slowness to a crawl. The best analogy I can share is that utilizing the Fabric Keyboard is that it’s very similar to typing on a manual typewriter, in which each key selection was intentional.
The spacing of the keys is very close if not identical to my full size keyboard, and this was comfortable once my fingers became accustom to the intentional selections. Eventually I found myself not watching my fingers as much.
I did try the RoKy with my standard PIM apps, and it functioned fine. It did not play well with Documents to Go, though, as hitting the Return key closed the document I was editing. Also, the arrow keys did not provide the function I am accustomed to with a standard keyboard and Word-type application.
As for portability, the RoKy traveled very well. The fabric keyboard rolled around the battery encasement and slipped into the stuff sack, with room for the PDA stand folded flat. The sack with all contents was about 5 inches by 1.75 inches.
The RoKy is listed as compatible with Bluetooth devices with these operating systems;
- Palm OS
- Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 (Smartphone)
- Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 (Pocket PC/PDA)
- Microsoft Windows Mobile 2005 (Smartphone)
- Microsoft Windows mobile 2005 (Pocket PC/PDA)
- RIM BlackBerry
- Symbian S60 (v2.0, 2.1)
- Symbian UIQ (v2.0, 2.1)
The RoKy sells for $116. For more information, you can visit www.Just-Mobileonline.com
The Plus Side: I liked the compact size this product provides for my travels, and the ease of connectivity. Once I became intentional in my key selection and aimed for the center of the key my results were very good.
The battery life was better than expected in my use. Also, as a keyboard that provides connectivity to a broad range of products, I suspect the basic functionality will be a benefit for handhelds with limited input offerings at present.
The Minus side: I did not enjoy the intentional key pressing, as my fingers/hands required a break more frequently than with a conventional electronic type keyboard. I may continue my PC when doing a large amount of text input, or if I must use my TX, return to Graffiti 2, or type on the built-in keyboard with the stylus.
The other downside from my TX experience was the stand did not allow for landscape view. The only solution was to prop against a book, or lay the handheld flat.
Final Thoughts: The RoKy may not be the solution for all users; however, if you travel, and space is a major factor, you will like the compactness and minimal weight.
This keyboard will also provide the WOW factor to people that see you using it, which may reduce your output as well.
And considering the wide selection of products compatible with the RoKy , you will have a universal keyboard functional with your choice of device, as long as Bluetooth is an option.
With time and practice this may just become my travel companion for my report summaries.