I previously wrote about Kickstarter and how you need to go into backing projects with your main purpose to support the idea and not so much as to receive products. The added bonus is that sometimes you do get products. My first one last week and I have been using it ever since. The Touchfire keyboard for the iPad is a silicone overlay that secures directly to your iPad display and provides physical feedback as you type. You can check out my image gallery that shows a few photos of the Touchfire and retail packaging.
I regularly use the ZAGGfolio and find that keyboard to be fantastic. However, it does add thickness and weight to the iPad package and I often want to travel lighter. I met one of the Touchfire creators, Steven Isaac, at a local coffee shop in December and had a chance to see an early prototype. I liked the idea of having something placed directly on the iPad display to help with a more traditional typing style since I have simply been index finger poking at the keyboard since I bought my first iPad. After checking out the prototype I went and backed the Kickstarter project.
In the box and first impressions
The creators spent time designing a good out of box experience, including the shipping box. Your Touchfire will arrive in a compact box measuring approximately 10" long by 5" wide by 1" thick with the Touchfire logo on the front. After opening the box top you will find a trifold instruction sheet that runs the length of the keyboard storage container and provides you with everything you need to get started. Directions are present for installing, using, and even cleaning.
Below the instruction sheet is a black storage case, reminiscent of a slim pencil box. The Touchfire is stored inside. Under the storage case are extra adhesive stickers and a caution sheet. The Touchfire is extremely lightweight with some fairly strong corner magnets. I couldn't really judge it without installing it and testing it out.
You can use the Touchfire with all generations of iPad and there are clear instructions for those with and without a Smart Cover. I like to use my orange Smart Cover while my iPad back is protected by the Sofshell case. The first step is to remove the adhesive back on the two top cover clips and place the on the Touchfire. You then position the Touchfire on your iPad display and close the Smart Cover so that the top cover clips adhere to the underside of your Smart Cover. That's it, you now have a Touchfire keyboard system. Let's now look at using the Touchfire.
Magnets hold the Touchfire in place along the four outer corners as well as through a long magnet positioned below the space bar (along the right side of the iPad display). When you want to use the Touchfire you simply hold down the silicone flap that extends out from behind your Smart Cover and hold it down in place as you open your Smart Cover. I prefer to type with my iPad angled up so I wrap my cover back and under the left side. If you don't hold the small flap then the Touchfire will stay attached to your Smart Cover. If you have the keyboard in place and want to stop entering text and use the full display then you simply grab the top two clips and fold the Touchfire down on itself (shown in the instructions) so that the magnets keep it out of the way.
Daily Usage Experiences
I highly recommend everyone read the included instruction sheet before trying to use the Touchfire as it will explain everything clearly and help you get setup properly. I typed this entire review using the Touchfire and would never have written this much with just the onscreen keyboard. My biggest problem so far is hitting the left shift key with my left pinky finger, but that could be a finger dexterity issue. I really enjoyed having some feedback right on the display and plan to use the Touchfire exclusively as my external keyboard for a few weeks. It is refreshing to have a nice and light solution back on my iPad that still helps me enter text at a much faster pace than when I just use the onscreen keyboard.
Each key has four cells that are used to help give you physical feedback and travel as you press down on them. You even hear a soft sound as you press each key, which helps confirm you pressed down hard enough to register a key press. The excellent iOS autocorrect system is still used too so you can just keep on going and trust the iPad to pick up a letter or two as you roll along while also counting on smart period insertion. The return key has two squares and the two shift keys have no four cell backing. There is no raised area along the bottom row that covers the space bar, letter/symbol toggle, mic button, and keyboard toggle. You can still activate screen elements through the keyboard too if you are not actively entering text.
When I use the iPad keyboard without the Touchfire I have to consciously look at the keyboard to find each key. The Touchfire allows me to place my fingers in position and type away without looking at the keys while staying focused on the area above the keyboard where I am entering text.
You can buy a Touchfire keyboard now for $49.99. At $49.99, it is priced at about half of what the external hardware keyboards are sold at and the convenience of having it with you at all times without sacrificing size is a major benefit. As a military veteran it is also important to me that the Touchfire is fully MADE IN THE USA! International Rubber Products in Los Angeles manufactures the Touchfire and I am proud to have been an early supporter. It is exciting to see a product go from an idea to a very useful accessory. If you don't want the added weight and bulk of an external keyboard, then I recommend you consider the Touchfire keyboard solution.
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