For iPhone detractors, the lack of a physical keypad on the device has long been a rallying cry against the top-selling smartphone.
But Cody and Robert Solomon, the father and son co-founders of SoloMatrix, are hoping their "Spike" iPhone case and keyboard hybrid will change that for good. The product may force BlackBerry users everywhere to take a second look at the iPhone.
While Spike is hardly the first attempt at creating a physical keyboard for the iPhone, an Amazon search for similar products reveals many of them to be clumsy creations with lousy reviews. But unlike other iPhone keyboards, Spike doesn't need Bluetooth, a power source or a dock connection. It's not a standalone item, but an attempt to work the keyboard into the physical body of the iPhone, within a protective case.
The Solomons are currently fundraising on Kickstarter to try and bring the Spike case to life in two versions, Spike 1 and Spike 2. Spike 1 is a case with the physical keyboard stationed on the back. The case splits in two, so when users want to type, they can split that bottom half and reverse it so the keyboard faces the front. Spike 2 features a 360-degree hinge that tucks into the back of the phone case, making both access to and hiding of the keyboard a bit easier. Both Spikes would allow users to type with gloves on, a feature currently unavailable when using the iPhone's own touchscreen. The Spike 1 will retail for $35, while the Spike 2 will retail for $60.
The development of Spike was aided by Robert Solomon's work with keyboards for more than 25 years. In the Kickstarter video, he talks about working with Datadesk Technologies, which helped to develop and manufacture some of the first keyboards for Macintosh. At SoloMatrix, both Solomons have spent two years developing and attempting to obtain a patent for the TypeSmart technology that's behind Spike.
Whether the Spike offers a true improvement to the iPhone remains to be seen, but it could be a welcome addition for the many who consider Apple's insistence on touchscreen typing to be the device's Achilles' heel. It's also a break with some of the less aesthetically-pleasing physical keyboard options available, although iPhone design fans may still see the keyboard as a figurative mustache on the "Mona Lisa."
As of Wednesday, the duo had raised nearly $55,000 of their $75,000 fundraising goal, with 30 days left to fundraise.