Made from soft, water-resistant rubber and completely flexible, Scosche’s freeKEY ($60) is perhaps the most portable of all of the full-sized Bluetooth wireless keyboards we’ve yet seen marketed towards iPad and iOS users, thanks to its ability to roll up into a 4.5″-long tube that’s roughly 2.25″ in diameter. The integrated battery and Bluetooth hardware are found on the left side, complete with a water-resistant, rubber-capped panel for the power switch and USB charging port. A retractable USB charging cable is included in the package.
freeKEY works generally as it’s supposed to; using Bluetooth 2.0, it properly connects to an iPad or iPad 2 to become a physical replacement for the tablet’s on-screen virtual keyboard. Pairing is a very easy process: it has a “connect” button that puts it into discoverable mode, which the iPads recognizes almost instantly, and requires only a four digit pairing code to complete the syncing. Unlike some of the Bluetooth keyboards we’ve tested for iPads, freeKEY’s keys are all where you’d expect them to be, besides an atypically small space bar and some generic function keys that aren’t iPad-specific.
That aside, freeKEY is just a keyboard, though it’s unusually squishy because of its entirely rubber exterior. Surprisingly, typing on it is easy, and as these keyboard accessories go, we found it to be very accurate—the only challenge you’ll deal with is the need for a flat surface, because freeKEY has no internal reinforcement to keep itself straight or flat when laid on a leg or other curved shape.
The keys are about the same size as on most of the iPad-specific keyboards we’ve tested, which is to say roughly 90% of the key size on Apple’s keyboards. There are no iOS-style function keys; in fact, the keyboard is set up for a PC, complete with a Windows key that’s nestled between control and alt. Luckily, the Windows key functions in the same way as the command key and can be used for cut, copy, and paste when combined with the appropriate letter. A number of keys are completely superfluous, including the entire top row of function keys.
We were initially somewhat skeptical of how freeKEY would do as a keyboard, but we actually liked it—while it may be a rebadged version of an OEM keyboard, and it’s certainly not iPad- or iOS-customized, there’s no question that it does what it’s supposed to do. Though we’d have preferred more iPad-specific keys, it’s less expensive than Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, is even easier to carry around, and can be put away when not in use instead of hanging at the iPad 2’s side all the time. If you’re working from any flat surface, as small as an airplane tray table, you’ll almost certainly be able to type better with freeKEY than the iPad’s or iPad 2’s virtual keyboard. As such, it’s worthy of a B rating.
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Compatible: iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3G/3GS/4, iPod touch 2G/3G/4G