Physical smartphone keyboards are a niche that just won’t die. BlackBerry and Android OEMs like Motorola, LG, and NEC all have a hand in prolonging the inevitable, but that’s not to say the options are diverse — if you’re the type of person who just can’t type without a tactile QWERTY, you basically have to settle for a cheaper, mid-range smartphone without the bells and whistles of higher-end flagships — or a BlackBerry. Samsung, though, believes it can bridge the gap between camps with a specialized accessory for the newly-announced Galaxy S6 Edge Plus: the “keyboard case.”
Samsung’s keyboard case isn’t the most attractive on the block — its “ergonomic” pad is a nondescript, plasticky, and blocky row of keys with physical multitasking, home, and back buttons — but it’s unique in several respects. Unlike other products in the snap-on keyboard category, the case attaches to the top of the Edge Plus’ screen and overlays its bottom half, registering button presses conductively underneath. When the phone detects the keyboard’s presence, it automatically relegates content to the visible display. That approach isn’t ideal, obviously — you’re effectively losing half of the screen’s real estate — but Samsung says it eliminated the need for batteries and Bluetooth.
Perhaps most novelly, the keyboard case is storable — for all the times you’re not pecking out novellas and manifestos, you can snap it to the Edge Plus’ reverse. You’ll have to contend with the plastic keys when you’re holding the phone normally, but some people might consider that a small price to pay for the flexibility.
Samsung’s keyboard may not be the perfect solution for tactical affectionados — it feels a bit cheap and uneven — but the company could do worse. Pale attempts at BlackBerry mimicry, like the Ryan Seacrest-backed Typo, have so far been the subject of expensive litigation and harsh criticism. The keyboard case seems differentiating enough to avoid following suit.
Samsung didn’t have a release date or pricing to announce, but you can bet the keyboard case will become available around the same time as the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus.