Two bluetooth keyboard cases for when you don't want to use the on-screen iPad keyboard

For those who crave a physical keyboard for their iPad, there are now more options than Apple s own keyboard dock. I am the victim of my early adoption once again as I bought two different bluetooth keyboard cases only to be disappointed with both of them. They have made me appreciate the on-screen keyboard even more.

SENA Folio with keyboard

The first to market was SENA with their Folio with keyboard. It is a beautifully crafted, albeit somewhat bulky, leather case. The leather construction makes this a work of art but the spongy keys on its built-in keyboard proved to be a huge disappointment. I prefer the accidental hitting of the caps key on the on-screen iPad keyboard over ending up with double and triple keystrokes for most letters using the SENA keyboard. This is one product to avoid. I understand that the company recognizes the failure in their choice of keyboard and may have a new model in the works. Wait for that one and avoid version 1.0.

ZAGG Mate iPad keyboard

ZAGG, the makers of the protective invisibleSHIELD system (very protective but needs frequent warranty replacements for discolouration issues,) has now introduced their ZAGG Mate keyboard case. It looks good and has a much better keyboard to the touch than the SENA case. There is a bit of a ledge to have to deal with but the keys still feel really good. When I originally posted this article, I thought that the fact the power light shuts off just one second after powering it on meant that the keyboard could not keep its charge. In fact, it is supposed to shut off and it is important to follow the bluetooth pairing instructions that involve pressing the recessed button above the bluetooth logo to make the keyboard discoverable.

The SENA experience taught me to appreciate the on-screen keyboard on the iPad even more until the ZAAGGmate came along. Now I have a more responsive keyboard and no triple entry of letters. I'll keep you posted in the coming weeks on whether it is easier to carry around the iPad with the ZAGGmate or the MacBook Air when on the go.

Update on Friday, January 7, 2011 at 11:51AM

End user error - the ZAGGmate was not DOA. After speaking with the great folks in customer support at ZAGG, it turns out that it was my fault that the ZAGGmate did not appear to be staying powered on. In fact, the power light only turns on for about a second and then does go off and on initial set-up it is important to press the recessed little bluetooth discovering button above the bluetooth icon on the keyboard that I though was just an indicator light. ZAGGmate rocks!

Update on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It took awhile but I just received an email from SENA customer services that they are shipping a new keyboard for my Folio with Keyboard. This confirms the rumour that they have improved the keyboard. I will post another follow-up once I try it out. We may have another winning keyboard case on our hands if the new one has less bouncy keys.

Update on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:11PM

SENA customer support was happy to send me a replacement keyboard for their Portfolio with Keyboard. Although on the outside, the updated keyboard looks almost identical, it actually is MUCH better than the original keyboard they were shipping. The keys are no longer jittery and therefore I can now type and get just the one letter at a time instead of multiple letters.

There are two external distinguishing features to help tell if you have the new and improved keyboard. The new one does not have SENA written on it and it has a mini-USB port instead of the iPad dock connector for charging. 

I can now say that both the SENA and ZAGG keyboards are a pleasure to work with. Overall though, the ZAGG is more like a real keyboard and has some extra useful keys so that you don't have to touch the iPad screen Home button. The ZAGG though, because of its metal ledge, feels a bit awkward at times. If you insist on a physical keyboard, both are excellent choices.

Update on Friday, July 22, 2011 at 2:29PM 

(This comment was copied from original submission date and posted as a journal follow-up article in preparation for changing to DISQUS for future commenting on my blog.) The bottom line, in the end, was user error and no defect at all with the ZAGGMate!

7Jan2011 comment from ZAGG:
I work at ZAGG and am terribly sorry to hear about your trouble with the ZAGGmate. We have sold thousands of these fine keyboards and have had an exceptionally low defect rate. Clearly, this means nothing to you if yours was DOA and again, I apologize. Please contact our customer support via email or telephone. Our contact info is right at the top of each page on our website.  Thank you for your patience.


7Jan2011 my response:
Thank you so much for finding my posting and responding to it. I did indeed fill out the form on-line at ZAGG two days ago requesting a product replacement for the ZAGGmate but have yet to hear back. It certainly feels like it should be a winning product but, as you can understand, having it arrive DOA was a disappointment. I am glad to at least know that thousands have been sold without any problems. I hope someone from your company will be able to respond to my replacement request asap.

Robert M Schertzer, MD, MEd, FRCSC