Android and external keyboards

by Jeffrey Stark

April 5th, 2012

I have seen a lot of requests for QWERTY or external keyboard recommendations for android phones.

This post will share my experience while experimenting with QWERTY keyboards on android.
I have a Samsung galaxy nexus running ice cream sandwich (ICS). I have gotten 3 separate keyboards to work with ICS.

1) RII 66-key Mini Bluetooth Keyboard http://t.co/phMyyFnA or

The RII tends to be very sensitive on its key presses and I found I was typing many duplicate key presses when using this keyboard. However, I like the form factor. This is a 'mini keyboard' similar to a blackberry's key size. It fits in a pocket and is extremely portable. If you are into typing with your thumbs than this is the perfect keyboard size and layout.

This keyboard was very easy to set up with my phone.

2) Freedom Pro

http://t.co/zZ74O6VF

The Freedom Pro works great with the phone. If running ICS than ignore the android instructions on freedom's website as they are completely incorrect. I was able to set this keyboard up in HID mode without installing a driver.

This is a great keyboard and was fairly easy to connect to my phone.

3) Nokia SU-8W

http://europe.nokia.com/support/product-support/nokia-wireless-keyboard-su-8w/software

This keyboard is my favorite of the bunch for hardware, weight and design. However, it is also the hardest to set up with ICS. I could pair this keyboard and get the QWERTY keys to work no problem with the standard setup. However, to get it to recognize some of the non-qwerty keys like escape, I had to download and install a 3rd party app.

I would not recommend this keyboard unless you have 1 already kicking around in a closet somewhere. The app to connect the keyboard is a paid app and has a few quirks.

I would also suggest that if you are having any problems connecting a QWERTY keyboard to your android phone that you check out 2 apps:

Bluetooth Keyboard JP
BlueInput

Both of these apps facilitate connecting external keyboard to your phone.

I also just bought the following folding usb QWERTY keyboard: http://goo.gl/3b7Dw
And will report on results from it as soon as it arrives.

10 Comments

  1. anoniem
    Posted 2012-04-14 at 9:58 am

    I have a question / problem.

    My freedom keyboard pro is not working with android 4,0 ICS (HTC sensation xe )

    My device says that Freedom Pro keyboard is connectied to the device. But when I try to type to test the keyboard nothing happened. (I followed the youtube instructions)
    I think everything was oke:
    – Installing software ( V.1.0.65 for android OS 2.1 and above)
    – Pairing, full batterys, SRP, code (0000),
    – Keyboardstatus: connected

    has anyone a solution?

    sorry for my bad english

  2. Posted 2012-04-14 at 10:31 am

    What you want to do is uninstall the freedom keyboard driver. Change the keyboard switch from SPP to HID. Than try pairing again. That worked for me. The instructions in the video on freedom’s site are completely incorrect.

  3. Posted 2012-04-14 at 10:32 am

    I was also told that the upgrade to ICS that just came out fixes the keypress issue identified with the RII keyboard.

  4. johnf
    Posted 2012-05-07 at 7:13 am

    The vOICe appears on seeingwithsound.com, it is an Android app.,and originated ten years ago as a PC windows program. About 500 Kb, including a lot of camera tweaks and neuro science stuff.
    Disadvantage of PC version, it is too bulky , fragile and not really portable (street wearable).
    Disadvantage of Android version, it is too vulnerable , fiddly and cannot operate an external camera. The vOICe is designed to operate with a spectacle-camera or similar head mounting . Any cheap webcam will perform adequately. The website shows users managing quite well with backpacks containing PC tablets. Keyboard access is very awkward.
    In my opinion an advance in hardware is overdue.
    1) Use an extension keyboard, and consider using the IN10DID or Cykeys Chord keypad designs. These enable full QWERTY to be encoded by an array of 8 buttons , single handed use is common.
    2) The Raspberry-pi is a cheap and powerful ARM board, why not emulate The vOICe , or the useful parts of it, on this platform.
    Now imagine a blind person, fully in control of all camera functions from an inside pocket , consuming two watts of battery power, carrying only a few ounces of equipment , total cost less than £ 50 all in.. What a lovely student project.

  5. Posted 2012-06-08 at 4:15 pm

    I have recently updated to the latest version of ICS and can confirm that the RII’s multi-keypress problem (identified above) is no longer present.   The keyboard works great now.

  6. Posted 2012-06-08 at 4:17 pm

    I just purchased the AZIO KB334B Black 80 Normal Keys Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard (work with iPhone, iPad, Android 3.0) from new egg This keyboard is fantastic, it can store multiple pairings so you can use it with multiple devices. It has a great feel to the keys and will become my keyboard of choice for when I am travelling.

  7. SysReq
    Posted 2013-01-12 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Jeffrey,
    I have a Galaxy Nexus, obviously with Jelly Bean (4.2.1). I read this post and all comments, and so, can you give me updated information about these keyboards? I wish buy a mini-keyboard with iOS and Android (JB) support, and a full input support (letters and commands)… do you still suggest AZIO keyboard, in my case? Thanks very much in advance!

  8. Posted 2013-01-12 at 1:54 pm

    I am rellly happy with the AZIO KB334B Black 80 Normal Keys Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard and even just recommended it for 2 other people who both went out and bought 1 and were really happy with it.

  9. bamidele
    Posted 2013-03-21 at 4:26 am

    thanks for making life through your write up. I have just bought a tablet with anroid operating system and your write up is helping me. Although your emphasis is on phone hoping what is written would also apply to tablet. Regards onilude b.j

  10. Jeff
    Posted 2013-08-09 at 8:55 am

    For HTC Sensation and other android devices you will need to purchase “Blueinput” software (app) to run the Celluon Magic Cube and other bluetooth keyboards.  Blueinput works. Only 7.45 EUR

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