General News

Clicks is a $139 iPhone case for people who hate touchscreen typing – Ars Technica

Clicks keyboard

There’s an app for the keyboard promising new features, but it’s not mandatory for the keyboard to work.

Clicks Technology

I used to be a speed demon on phone keyboards. Similar to when I use a mechanical keyboard, I could type with so much ease that during their early days of text messaging, people in my household would ask me to write out their longer messages. Those days of carefree cell phone typing hit a rut when I got my first iPhone.

Now, I can’t start without first looking at my touchscreen keyboard. And I almost always make at least one typo when writing long texts, emails, or documents. That’s why I’m intrigued by the latest attempt to bring old-school physical keyboards to iPhones.

A snap-on keyboard for the iPhone

On Thursday, Clicks Technology unveiled Clicks, a keyboard available for the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max that snaps to the phone like a case. But instead of adding protection, it adds a physical keyboard. Each key boasts 0.22 mm of travel, Jeff Gadway, SVP of product marketing at Clicks, told Ars via email. That seems like miles compared to the flat nature of touchscreens.

Clicks Technology has hinted at plans for releasing Clicks in additional colors beyond what's seen here.

Clicks Technology has hinted at plans for releasing Clicks in additional colors beyond what’s seen here.

Clicks Technology

The keyboard connects via the iPhone’s Lightning or USB-C port (whichever the iPhone has). It uses iOS’s support for external keyboards, leveraging the human interface devices (HID) protocol. According to Clicks’ FAQ page, the company decided to forego Bluetooth to avoid pairing complications and latency. Users are supposed to still be able to charge their phones, including with wireless chargers, with Clicks connected.

But if you’re hoping to pair a traditional-style phone keyboard with traditional wired headphones, you’re out of luck. The company’s website says Clicks Technology is “working on a solution” to allow the keyboard and wired headphones to work simultaneously, but you have to pick one or the other for now. Clicks also isn’t considered compatible with MagSafe accessories, though the makers hope to change that eventually.

One look at Clicks’ layout, and I already see appeal in there being a Tab key, which the standard integrated iPhone keyboard lacks. Further, the keyboard is also supposed to make it easier to leverage keyboard shortcuts using its Command (CMD) key. Clicks’ makers highlight shortcuts like launching search (CMD + Space), getting to the home screen (CMD + H), and scrolling through web pages with the space key. Clicks claims to support keyboard shortcuts across “many” third-party apps, according to Thursday’s announcement.

Should the keyboard prove to work well and feel good, it could be a clever way to add more screen real estate for some iPhones since users won’t have a touchscreen keyboard hogging screen space at times. However, I’m curious to see how hard it is to hold and navigate a Clicks-equipped iPhone, including going from the physical keyboard to touchscreen as needed, for longer periods.

But Clicks also impacts iPhone battery life, even though the startup claims the effect is minimal.

“When the backlight is turned off, even on a heavy use day, battery usage will typically be less than ~2 percent. If the backlight is on, usage may increase up to another ~2 percent,” Clicks’ FAQ page, which we’ll have to take with a grain of salt, reads. The keyboard’s backlight turns off automatically after 5 seconds of the keyboard not being used and can be disabled. The keyboard also has an off switch.

When asked for further information, Gadway said the keyboard uses about 4.4 mAh when on but not in use.

“The background Wh consumption when the backlight is off is approximately 0.01628 Wh. It’s important to note that Wh is dependent on the voltage the battery uses, therefore we take the average of 3.7V,” he added.

Some might also be disappointed to notice that Clicks lacks a key for emojis, which have become so prominent in today’s culture that some mechanical keyboards and mice have started including integrated emoji buttons. Clicks says the keyboard doesn’t have an emoji button because iOS external keyboards do not currently support the feature. But there are still ways for Clicks users to bring up the emoji menu, including by pressing multiple keys that the keyboard does have.