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Hands on with the ZAGG Pocket Keyboard for iOS and Android

ZAGG takes a unique approach to compactness, while providing a keyboard that is still big enough to be useful.
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By James Kendrick on
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1 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Portable keyboards designed to be used with a smartphone must be compact to be practical. It makes no sense to carry a keyboard that is much bigger than the phone.  ZAGG takes a unique approach to keeping its Pocket Keyboard compact but still big enough to be useful.

At first blush you have no clue what the Pocket Keyboard might be. It is a black gizmo made of brushed metal about nine inches long and two inches wide. It is not heavy, but  feels sturdy.

Looking around the device you see an indentation that is a slot for opening the keyboard. It unfolds in stages, first the two halves of the keyboard, then the stand, and finally the tray to support the phone. It sounds complicated but it's a natural process that only takes a second or two.

Unlike other folding keyboards, the Pocket Keyboard is folded horizontally between two rows of keys. This prevents having extra space between keys as is the case on keyboards folded vertically.

The tradeoff is that the Pocket Keyboard is long in the keyboard horizontal direction. Other keyboards that fold vertically can be small enough to fit in a pocket. Despite its name, the Pocket Keyboard won't comfortably fit in one.

When the device is unfolded, it turns on automatically. This is confirmed by a green LED to the right of the smartphone tray. Once it’s been initially paired to either an iPhone or Android phone, the power on process connects to the phone over Bluetooth. Closing the Pocket Keyboard turns it off, which conserves the two-year battery.

About that keyboard

The chiclet keys are small and have shallow travel. This doesn’t impede fast typing with a little practice. This review was written using the keyboard and there weren’t any issues.

The keyboard is small, about the size of those designed for the iPad mini. It takes a while to get used to the cramped layout, but rapid typing is possible with a little practice. The layout is standard, with keys positioned much like those on a laptop.

Some less frequently used keys are smaller than others. The two piece space bar is very big and tall, and there are four arrow keys for moving around the screen. Sadly, the Enter key is not very big and can be easy to miss when typing. I hope this is addressed in a future revision of the keyboard.

There is a CAPS LOCK key that triggers a blue LED when toggled on.

One design choice that ZAGG made with the Pocket Keyboard is to omit a row of keys for controlling either iOS or Android. On most keyboards this row is where you find a Home key, along with other controls for iOS/Android.

The keyboard is small, so it’s understandable that an additional row of keys for such controls is omitted. It would have been worth it for the Pocket Keyboard to be slightly bigger to add a row of control keys.

Other keyboards get around lack of space for dedicated control keys by making existing keys serve as control keys when typed in combination with the Fn key. ZAGG could have done this but chose not to do so, and the missing Home key for both iOS and Android and the Back key for the latter are sorely missed. ZAGG needs to address this in a future version of the Pocket Keyboard.

A lack of iOS/Android control keys was also a big issue with the keyboard accessory for the Nexus 9 tablet I recently reviewed.

Should you buy one?

The ZAGG Pocket Keyboard is a reasonable solution for those needing a keyboard for occasional typing. It works with iOS and Android, and it can be used with tablets but that is not practical. Only phones can fit in the tray behind the keyboard, and big phones only in landscape orientation.

See related: Logitech Keys-To-Go reviewHow the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real workiPhone 6 Plus: Changing the way I work in a big way

While the Pocket Keyboard is acceptable, I prefer the Logitech Keys-To-Go. It is very portable and slightly bigger than the ZAGG, yielding a superior typing experience.

The Pocket Keyboard is available from ZAGG for $69.99.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Long two-year battery life
  • Comfortable typing
  • Integrated stand

Cons:

  • No device control keys (eg. Home, Back)
  • Not practical for portrait orientation on phones
  • Some keys too large while others too small

Reviewer's rating: 7.5 out of 10

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Not much bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus.

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Opening the keyboard -- step one:

Unfolding the keyboard

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Opening the keyboard -- step two:

Keyboard fully opened

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Opening the keyboard -- step three:

Exposing the kickstand

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Ready for business

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Even big hands can touch type, albeit it's a bit cramped.

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ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

Note the absence of a top row of control keys as commonly found on mobile keyboards.

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