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This smart keyboard could be the reason you need to buy a Jolla phone (Updated)

A rear cover with a built-in QWERTY keyboard for the Jolla smartphone is about to become a reality. It’s called the TOHKBD, and it’s an independent project designed to take advantage of the Jolla phone’s unique Other Half smart rear covers, and is now available through a crowd-funding campaign.

Updated on 11-04-2014 by Andy Boxall: Added in details of the Kickstarter campaign, through which you can buy your own TOHKBD.

Kickstarter campaign off to a strong start

tweet from TOHKBD engineer Dirk Van Leersum told us to look out for a crowd-funding campaign soon, and sure enough, the project is now live over at Kickstarter. A wide range of pledges are available, but if you want a fully assembled, polished white TOHKBD, you’ll need to spend 110 euros, which is around $140. Other colors are available for a small amount more.

When we first heard about the campaign, we questioned whether there would be enough interest to fully fund a niche project like this. After being live for just a few hours, it has received more than half of its 55,000 euro target, so it’s off to a very strong start. Cleverly, the team acknowledges not everyone owns a Jolla phone, and is giving away a 100 euro discount voucher for the phone to every TOHKBD backer. It’s a great way to tempt potential backers who’re still on the fence about the phone.

No Bluetooth needed

Jolla TOHKBD DesignThe Kickstarter page also provides more information on the keyboard and case. Initially discussed in a thread on the Maemo forum, the TOHKBD will be built using PLA plastic and then 3D printed. It’ll be offered in several different colors, and thanks to a collaboration with Lastucase, a choice of four different wooden finishes will be provided.

The all-important keyboard will be produced in several different layouts, giving the add-on international appeal, and will be produced from plastic and rubber. It’s claimed the build quality, manufacturing techniques, and the feel will be very close to the Nokia N900’s keyboard. It will also have a backlight, programmable hotkeys, directional keys for gaming, and even the option to select a “stealth” keyboard on which you can etch your own custom layout.

Proving there is real thought behind the TOHKBD, the keyboard section itself is held on to The Other Half case using magnets. This not only means it can be swapped around and used from either side of the phone, but also that it can be removed and left at home when it’s not needed. It’s a great idea.

Related: Our review of the BlackBerry Passport

TOHKBD LayoutBecause the Jolla phone’s Other Half rear covers directly connect with the phone, there is no need for it to use Bluetooth or some other power-consuming system – it will operate just like it came that way from the factory. The promise of a QWERTY keyboard Other Half was often touted when the Jolla phone was first announced.

Jolla’s smartphone launched in Europe at the end of last year, and has gone on to be sold in several other countries around the world, including parts of Asia, and in India. The phone uses a brand-new operating system named Sailfish, but can also run Android applications, downloaded from a third-party app store.

Related: BlackBerry Classic smartphone coming soon

While the majority of smartphones sold today have touchscreen keyboards, there are those who miss the feel of physical keys under their fingertips, and companies such as BlackBerry still produce hardware which caters for them. In an interesting “everything’s connected” way, the addition of the TOHKBD to the Jolla phone recalls the aforementioned Nokia N900 smartphone project. The phone also featured a slide-out keyboard, and ran an operating system with which Sailfish shares DNA.

Updates:

Updated on 10-29-2014 by Andy Boxall: Added in news of an upcoming crowd-funding campaign.

Article originally published on 10-27-2014