After months of waiting I finally received my Touchfire keypad. In a previous article I discussed the journey of the product as it moved from innovation to manufacture. The project, which was funded through Kickstarter, was originally targeted to ship in Q1 of this year, but was delayed due to various challenges with production. The saga began in the United States with the initial idea, where it then moved to China for pre-production, until quality and turn around problems eventually forced the manufacture back to the Unites States.
The awe inducing iPad screen, made of resilient aluminosilicate glass provides no tactile feel when you tap on the virtual keyboard, a challenge for some users. The Touchfire was designed to extend the functionality of the Apple iPad by enabling the ability to touch-type. There are many other external keyboard solutions for the iPad; however the Touchfire promises a solution that doesn’t impact the battery life of the iPad or add significant weight.
Touchfire on iPad 2
The Touchfire consists of a thin flexible membrane which rests on the screen of the iPad, held into the place by magnets. The membrane has physical keys which line up with the keys on the Apple virtual keyboard. The Touchfire itself works with any model iPad but works especially well with the newer models as the magnets are embedded in the Touchfire specifically for easy positioning on the iPad 2 or 3.
The Touchfire ships with a small storage case, small plastic clips to attach it to external iPad covers, extra cover clip adhesive strips, directions, and a legal disclaimer sheet which makes me weep for humanity (example: The Touchfire will NOT make your device waterproof!) Installation is straightforward and you can begin using it almost immediately after unboxing. The directions show you how to install the cover clips and properly fold and stow the Touchfire.
Touchfire stowed on the iPad smartcover
After a week I’m very pleased with Touchfire from a usage and functionality standpoint. I was slightly disappointed with the build quality of the two keyboards I ordered as they both had a little extra silicon “flash” which I carefully removed with scissors. The “flash” didn’t impact the keyboard functionally but it did harm the aesthetics. Considering the price point, I would hope that future production models get trimmed with more precision. In everyday use the keyboard easily folds up off the screen or into my smart cover using the cover clips. Sometimes I need to slide the keyboard slightly to keep the keys lined, mainly due to my typing style which is a little heavy handed.
Was it worth the wait?
Absolutely, after the long delay between ordering and delivery, I was afraid that there was no way the product could live up to the anticipation. But the product works well, and definitely improves the typing experience on the iPad; it has become and indispensable part of my device arsenal.
One of really cool features is the impressive translucence of the membrane, allowing you to keep it in place, even when the virtual keyboard isn’t active, allowing you to still see and swipe the screen. However, the thinness of the membrane gives me concern about long term durability of the product, especially since my iPad gets such heavy use. Also it attracts dirt during regular use. An email from the company suggested that this was due to a chemical residue left over from the manufacturing process and that it could be rinsed off with water, but I’ve found that my Touchfire still collects quite a bit of debris.
The price of the Touchfire is $49.99 plus shipping which seems to be a about a bit high to me. I’ll be paying extra attention to how it holds up over the next year or so to decide on whether that price point is reasonable.