It's hard to give the Touchfire keyboard 3 1/2 stars. Not because I want to give it more, or less. It's hard to give this inventive product that got its start on Kickstarter a single rating because I see users breaking down into one of two groups: those who think it is a solid 4 1/2 star "where has this been for the last three years?" product, and those who think it is a 2 1/2 star "who the heck would want that thing on their iPad?" product.
- Allows for Touch Typing
- Provides markers for the "F" and "J" home keys
- Works with any 9.7" iPad including the iPad 1, iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4. (Does not work with the iPad Mini.)
- Only 1/10th of an inch thick
- Can be stored in your Smart Cover
First things first, the Touchfire is the "thinnest, lightest keyboard" that isn't a keyboard. While it is billed as a keyboard, it is more accurately a cover that fits over the iPad's on-screen keyboard. But this isn't a bad thing. While it means you need the on-screen keyboard on your iPad's display to take advantage of the Touchfire, it also means there is no need to worry about Bluetooth connections.
The Touchfire is made of transparent silicon and is around 1/10th of an inch thick. It uses magnets to fit into place, and while it doesn't quite live up to the "automatically snaps perfectly into place" hype, it is pretty easy to install on your screen. And as a cool bonus, the Touchfire comes with magnets that will allow you to store it inside your Smart Cover. And while that seems a simple thing, its actually one reason why the Touchfire is a good buy for some people.
You see, the Touchfire isn't for people who want a wireless keyboard or a keyboard case. No. Those people probably already have a wireless keyboard, and if they don't, they can probably get one for around the same price as the Touchfire.
The Touchfire is made for those who would like the convenience of a wireless keyboard, but are so turned off by the idea of carrying around an extra gadget (or wrapping their iPad up in a keyboard case like a laptop) that they simply won't buy one. The Touchfire provides the ability to touch type without looking at the screen, stores easily within the Smart Cover, takes around 4 seconds to go from storage to use and can be attached to the bottom edge of the iPad when the entire screen is needed.
So how well does it work?
The Touchfire is not for those who hunt and peck, typing out passages with their index fingers while staring straight at the keys. It is strictly for the touch typist who is tired of constantly shifting their vision back to the on-screen keyboard to make sure their fingers are lined up properly. It also won't magically make typing on a touch screen easier, so if you are new to tablets and are still getting used to the cramped keyboard, you'll feel just as awkward typing on the Touchfire.
And while advertised that you can drag and swipe through the keyboard, which is helpful when you need to get at special characters accessed by holding a key down, this feature didn't quite work out in practice. It works OK with a short swipe, but when you need to drag your finger completely across one of the keys, the keyboard had a tendency to get in the way.
But if you fit into that category of wanting a wireless keyboard without wanting to carry around a wireless keyboard, the Touchfire is a good product. It takes a little getting used to the feel of the silicon underneath your fingers, but you can definitely feel the keys beneath your fingers, and because it has the standard markers for the F and J keys, you can even align your fingers on the right keys without ever looking at the iPad's screen.
It's also very cool how easy it is to store within your Smart Cover. Once the magnets are installed, it is simply a matter of closing your Smart Cover as you would do anytime you stopped using the iPad. When you open the Smart Cover, the Touchfire will be stuck to the cover rather than your iPad. How hard is it to install those magnets? It took me about thirty seconds, and twenty of those were spent reading the rather brief (and easy to understand) instructions. You just put the magnets in the right place on the keyboard with the adhesive facing up, close the Smart Cover, and press down in the area of the magnets.
Should You But the Touchfire?
Overall, I was impressed with some of the features without being completely blown away by the keyboard. I see it being useful for anyone that wants to touch type without the hassle of a Bluetooth keyboard, and the easy storage is a bonus, but at $50, anyone who simply wants a keyboard to occasionally connect to their iPad will be better off looking for a wireless solution.
Note: The Touchfire works best with the iPad Smart Cover. Compare Prices on the iPad Smart Cover.