Bluetooth keyboard support for webOS was added in version 2.0, but it wasn’t February that we got our first official webOS keyboard. Well, to be more accurate, we got our first official look at the webOS keyboard. Today, we have one in our hands, and we’ve got to say, it’s nice to have and it works well with the HP TouchPad.
The HP webOS Bluetooth Keyboard is a full-size chicklet-style QWERTY keyboard with a number of webOS function buttons. The top row contains is completely dedicated to webOS, starting out with a notifications button, followed by Just Type search, virtual keyboard toggle, brightness down and brightness up, back, play/pause, and forward, mute, volume down, volume up, and power.
The next four rows are standard QWERTY, and the bottom row gains card view and Symbol buttons. The card view button is funny, in that it actually simulates an upswipe (just like the front button on the TouchPad). So the first press puts the current app into card view, followed by repeating opening and closing of the app launcher. Once you’re in card view, there’s no way to use the keyboard to move between apps or select a new app to come into focus. It’s a limitation of webOS, really.
The keyboard itself is a very slim design, a flat panel no more than a quarter of an inch with the keys on top of it that drops down on the back to wrap around a battery bay and for the rear legs of the keyboard. The chicklet-style keys are quite nice, with a surprising amount of travel for the narrowness of the keyboard. The webOS function keys respond as you’d expect, with the exception of Symbol, which we couldn’t get to actually do anything. Caps Lock and shift work, but the only feedback you have that they’re active comes from the letters you type – the on-screen virtual keyboard (if you’ve so chosen to enable) does not change to reflect your Shift or Caps Lock status, which makes sense since this is just a Bluetooth keyboard. The again, some sort of Caps Lock light on the keyboard would go a long way.
HP quotes eight months of battery life for the keyboard, which seems pretty reasonable for a Bluetooth keyboard. The question is: do you need one for the TouchPad? Like so many of those “do you need X” questions, the answer comes down to your personal preference. If you’re fine with, or prefer to use, the virtual keyboard, then there’s really no reason to invest in the Bluetooth keyboard. If you prefer the surprisingly loud clack of keys and enjoy beaming Bluetooth between your fingers and your TouchPad (or other Bluetooth-enabled devices, go right ahead.
In doing our TouchPad review we made extensive use of the Bluetooth keyboard for an entire day and found that it didn’t add much to the experience. If anything, it may have hindered the experience, because for each action you can perform using the keyboard, there are five others that you’re going to have to reach up to the screen for anyway. Yes, it can get you into card view and open the launcher, but you can’t select an app and launch it. The keyboard may be able to launch into Just Type and pound out your search query with remarkable speed, but you’re still going to have to touch the screen to select that you want to search Wikipedia and not Google.
The HP webOS Bluetooth Keyboard is going to debut at $69.99, a mid-to-high price range for a Bluetooth keyboard, but one that is reflective of the keyboard’s quality. Typing was great on it and the webOS features, while maybe not entirely thought out, are nice to have if needed. If anything, it’s good for typing, and most people would be faster on it than the virtual keyboard, no matter how good that virtual keyboard is.