Most modern smartphones are touchscreen-only devices that let you use virtual keyboards or voice when you want to enter text. But a generation of smartphone users that got their start on BlackBerries and Palm Treos continue to hold a soft spot in their hearts for physical keyboards.
More specifically, they’re offering three models, designed to fit the some of Apple’s latest flagship phones.
- Clicks for iPhone 14 Pro is available now for $139 and ships by February 1.
- Clicks for iPhone 15 Pro is up for pre-order for $139 and ships in mid-March.
- Clicks for iPhone 15 Pro is up for pre-order for $159 and ships in early spring.
All three models have the same basic design. It’s a silicon case designed to slip around an iPhone, with Lightning or USB-C connectors in the bottom, depending on the model.
At the bottom is a 36-key QWERTY keyboard with backlit keys arranged to resemble the iPhone virtual keyboard layout, so it’s easy to remember that the number keys are arranged across the top, for example, and the microphone button is in the bottom right corner.
There’s no battery in the Clicks keyboard, so there’s nothing to charge. Instead if draws power from the iPhone itself. While it’s not a “Made for MagSafe” accessory, it’s thin enough to work with “many MagSafe wireless chargers,” although your results may vary.
There’s also a Lighting or USB-C port at the bottom of the case with support for passthrough charging, enabling wired charging without removing the phone from the case. But you cannot use wired Earpods with the case, so you will need to remove the phone if you want to do that.
Obviously the Clicks keyboard adds some size and weight to an iPhone, but the company has added a bit of weight to the bottom section to keep it from making an iPhone top-heavy. And it frees up screen real estate on the iPhone itself, since you don’t need to use an on-screen keyboard when typing with the Clicks keyboard.
And while a lot of folks have discovered over the years that they can type more quickly and accurately using on-screen keyboards, particularly with auto-correct, there are some benefits to using physical keys including a whole bunch of keyboard shortcuts that are already built into iOS, which can be easily triggered using key combos on the Clicks (or other) keyboard(s).
In addition to Fisher and Michaluk, Clicks co-founders include the CEO and Director from F(x) Technology (another niche company known for its keyboard phones), who serve as CEO and CTO of Clicks. And the team hired a pair of designers who have experience working on BlackBerry products.
That said, it remains to be seen how big a market there is in 2024 for an accessory that clips onto an iPhone to make it more BlackBerry-like that sells for $139 or more. And, as the FAQ makes clear, there are some limitations to the device.
It’s not available for Android yet. There are only two colors available at launch (yellow and grey). It’s not available in stores, so you’re going to have to order it sight unseen. There are only a few iPhone models supported. And the only available layout at the moment is QWERTY.
It’s also not IP rated for dust or water resistance (which would be hard to accomplish while still allowing the keys to move, so it’s really being marketed more as a keyboard than a case, even though it wraps around an iPhone. The company says it will “offer a degree of added protection… against scratches, minor bumps, and drops,” but that’s about it.
And the keyboard doesn’t support emoji input (although there are some workarounds to quickly bring up an on-screen keyboard when you want to use emoji).
If this thing becomes popular enough, we could eventually see additional colors, keyboard layouts, and supported phones, but don’t expect a waterproof Clicks keyboard with emoji support anytime soon.