Smartphones and tablets — especially tablets — are convenient for jotting down your thoughts using an onscreen keyboard. But when it comes to fingers flying over that keyboard, not so much since the onscreen “keyboard” can’t actually handle 10 finger input. For those times, a separate keyboard is the best answer — providing that said keyboard’s ease of use doesn’t preclude real functionality. And while we’re wishing, it should have a few added bits besides the expected.
Which the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset does (fyi – they add iPad/iPhone in the name but it’s not a deal-breaker). To start, it’s a solid implementation of a keyboard. By that I mean that you’re getting full sized QWERTY keys, not tiny tabs that expect fingers the size of Thumbelina’s. The construction of the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset is one of the real highlights, so let’s start there.
To begin, the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset has an aluminum base. This bespeaks both stability and durability — this ain’t a folding keyboard, but then again it won’t break apart the first time you press down too hard. About the size of an Apple iPad, plus a few inches, it’s designed for use with any tablet (or smartphone), although it IS slated as being iPad-worthy. Which it is, thanks to having dedicated keys along the top row that affect an iPad’s performance. Examples of this are a “Lock” key at the far right that brings the iPad to life or de-illuminates it, keys for cut and paste use, brightness control and playback of audio/video. There’s also a “Search” key for bringing up the “Search” window.
Regardless of this, the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset will work with any Bluetooth-enabled tablet — just less sensible to get it for that.
Getting back to the physical design, a horizontal channel along the end farthest from you will hold an iPad vertically or horizontally, aided by a pull-up flap that acts to stabilize the tablet or smartphone’s back. No need for a physical connection between keyboard and device either: Bluetooth is enabled to “pair” the two and then auto syncs whenever the tablet is placed in position.
But if you feel the iPad’s built-in speaker needs a boost, you can plug between the headphone output and an input found at the upper left edge of the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset. This engages the built-in speaker.
Looking at the frontmost left edge, you’ll see a mini-headphone jack. That’s not for listening to; it’s for plugging in the included telephone handset. Doing this lets you control the audio so that it’s more discreet. It also makes listening to a conversation in Skype or such less problematic when the environment is noisy. And for your radiation-freaks out there, using the handset protects your head from any radiation better than foil would (in this given situation anyway).
The last port to be concerned about is on the right side — a micro-USB plug so that the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset can charge its internal battery. About 2 hours results in up to 40 hours of use. I stopped clocking it at 10 and the internal lithium battery never got hot that I could feel. So that’s all good.
Using the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset is difficult should you be writing in bed or have it seated on your lap — it’s really made to be on a flat surface like a table or desk. As an accessory to use with the iPad it’s useful and dependable. That the retail cost is under $100 doesn’t hurt either. And as part of a tablet-derived “office” it’s got real drive. That’s because it turns your iPad into a laptop for all practical purposes without adding lots of wires to it. A touch-screen laptop, neat! The addition of the phone makes for sensible telephony use; after all, who says everything that you say and hear should be shared with everyone around you all the time? Life ain’t Facebook. I finally tried calling my niece using the FaceTime feature and it was a lot easier to work it this way, for sure. Besides I could use the handset to disguise the fact I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet.
Bottom line: A Bluetooth keyboard takes the chore out of using word processing and other writing applications on a tablet, specifically the iPad. Onscreen keyboard, fah. The solid design of the CTA Bluetooth Keyboard with Telephone Handset makes it an easy companion if tossed in a backpack, and its use on a desk adds a touch of class. No complaints.
- Tablet held without gripping tabs or locks
- iOS dedicated keys
- iPad can be laid face down on keyboard for dust-protection when not in use
- No power connection for charging tablet/smartphone
- Handset can not be secured in depression should the keyboard be moved
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.