Samsung keyboard cover for Galaxy S8 Plus: A physical keyboard when you need it

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus has a gorgeous large display and room for a software keyboard. However, some people still enjoy the feel of a physical keyboard and Samsung provides a simple option.

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When you purchase a Samsung smartphone and login to your Samsung account on the device you are sent a 30 percent coupon code to purchase an accessory priced at $59.99 or less. I used mine to buy the Galaxy S8 Plus keyboard cover, priced at $59.99 ($42 with 30 percent coupon).

After I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, see my full review, I was thinking I might use the coupon to pick up another wireless charger, but I already have them at my office, home, and bedside so was trying to figure out what else might be good to purchase. The Samsung keyboard cover has been an available accessory for the last few Galaxy smartphones, but I never had a chance to try one out.

While this keyboard accessory is no BlackBerry KEYone, see the ZDNet review, it is an interesting accessory to consider. The keyboard cover is a two piece solution; a minimal poly carbonate shell and a small snap-on keyboard. Let's take a closer look at both.

Poly carbonate shell

Even if you never use the keyboard after purchasing this package, the poly carbonate shell case is pretty compelling in and of itself. It is very lightweight, stays on more securely than other shell cases I have tried, and doesn't really take away from the sleek S8 Plus design in any regard.

For the first time in any case I have yet tested, there is a small divider between the camera opening and rear fingerprint scanner so it vastly improves the ability to hit the fingerprint scanner positioned oddly on the back of the S8 Plus. Along with the divider, the opening is clearly accented so your fingertip fits perfectly.

There are ample openings cut in the sides for the Bixby button, volume button, and power button with a bottom opening for the headphone jack, USB Type-C port, speaker, and mic. There is also a small opening at the top for the microphone.

The sides of the shell only come up a bit so that the entire dual edge screen is accessible without interference. Looking from the front, it's tough to even tell you have a shell case on your S8 Plus. However, there is some back glass protection and the corners all do have some poly carbonate covering them so it should help a bit with drops. It also has a matte feel so is easy to hold, more so than the slick glass back.

Keyboard piece

There is no battery in the keyboard and no connections via Bluetooth or WiFi are made to pair the keyboard. You simply snap it into place on the bottom into the two small notches on the sides of the shell case. I've researched online and haven't yet found an answer to how it works, but assume it is just some type of proximity sensor and capacitive tech in the keyboard.

The display automatically reduces in size to accommodate the keyboard cover with the bottom of the display matching perfectly to the top of the keyboard. The edge panel shortcut also gets reduced to about half its normal size with the keyboard in place.

There are three rows of keys with a bottom row for two shifts buttons, the 0 key, the symbol key, and fairly large space bar. Below this you will find the three Samsung buttons for recent apps, home, and back. Obviously, you cannot switch these like you now can with the on-screen buttons on the S8 Plus.

Pressing and holding the home button launches Google Assistant so that is a very handy shortcut. The Samsung website, and other websites selling this keyboard, advertise other keyboard shortcuts, but I have tried everything I can think of and have yet to discover any other button combinations to launch the browser, music player, email, or other apps. If a reader knows the trick I would greatly appreciate knowing it.

The keys are not backlit, but the white and light blue on black is very visible in all but the lowest lighting condition. It has a traditional QWERTY layout with many alternate keys available on just about every key. Pressing and holding on a letter provides the accented character too.

Keyboard cover daily usage

There is decent spacing between the keys and while I am not as fast with this keyboard as I am with swiping on the default Samsung on-screen keyboard, I do like using the physical keyboard from time to time. There is good tactile feedback when you press each key and also an audible element to pressing each key.

You can snap the keyboard on the back of the shell cover if you don't want to use it and for some apps you will have to do that since they will not even function with the keyboard attached. For example, Samsung Pay does not work with the keyboard attached and a warning will appear if you try to use such apps with the keyboard attached.

The keyboard cover is an interesting accessory and thanks to the 30 percent coupon I am satisfied with my purchase. The shell alone may be worth the $42 I paid for the combo as it significantly improves the fingerprint scanner experience and ability to hold the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.

Related ZDNet Samsung Galaxy S8 coverage

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