With smaller keys and a lack of tactile feedback, onscreen keyboards found on mobile devices can make inputting anything longer than a search term a real chore. Portable physical keyboards such as the Jorno folding keyboard provide a solution if you're lucky enough to have a desktop or similar flat surface at hand, but if you're taking full advantage of portability and need to enter text while out and about, then a handheld keyboard might be worth considering. The itablet Thumb Keyboard not only puts a physical QWERTY keyboard at your fingertips – well, thumbtips – but also boasts a rear-facing touchpad that lets users provide touch inputs without taking their hands off the device.
The itablet Thumb Keyboard from AHX Global isn't the first portable keyboard we've seen sporting a rear-facing touchpad, but it is the most ergonomic. Unlike the Econo-Keys EK-76-TP keyboard that requires the user to physically flip the device over to use the rear touchpad and dual buttons, the itablet Thumb Keyboard is designed to be held like a games controller, putting the 52 x 40mm (2.05 x 1.57-inch) touchpad at your fingertips while you type. The only downside is that when holding the device, typing is limited to the thumbs but that's likely to be easier to get to grips with than one-handed solutions like the iFrog or Kee4.
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The Thumb Keyboard sports a full QWERTY keyboard with backlit keys and connects to compatible devices via Bluetooth 2.0 using the Bluetooth HID (Human Interface Device) protocol.
Compatible devices include iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Bluetooth-enabled PCs and, naturally, AHX Global's own tablet computer, the itablet. The keyboard's form factor also makes it ideal for a bit of couch-bound typing, so its compatibility with Bluetooth-enabled IPTV systems, as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles is also a plus.
The itablet Thumb Keyboard measures 50 x 90mm (1.97 x 3.54 in) and weighs 96.6g (3.4 oz). It is currently available in black or white and in U.S. or U.K. keyboard layouts for GBP79.99 (approx. US$130) but AHX Global says it will release other commonly used keyboard formats in Q3 2011.