KeyCase iPad Folio Deluxe
The tablet case with a built-in keyboard
Review I was all set to praise this clever iPad case with a built in Bluetooth keyboard... and then I saw what the battery life is.
KeyCase's iPad Folio Deluxe: easier typing on your tablet
Not the length of time the keyboard will run on single charge of its battery, but how long the battery will go on being charged and discharged until you need to replace it. It's just three years, according to the spec, and while that's par for the course for your average disposable lithium power cell, this one you can't readily replace when your three or four years are up.
But let's step back a moment. The KeyCase iPad Folio Deluxe  is a leather-wrapped case that not only sheathes the Apple tablet - with gaps in all the right places for ports and buttons - but also works as a stand.
And there's the keyboard, not the highest quality of input devices, perhaps, but nicely covered with a single sheet of silicone to protect it from spills and crumbs, and able to connect to the iPad wirelessly.
The keyboard has been laid out for iPad usage
On the downside, it's a US keyboard and its compact size has required some keys to be moved: the double and single quote mark key is bizarrely down by the cursor arrows, for example. Being rubber-covered, it feels slightly odd, but not unpleasant, to type on. Anyone who has ever used a Sinclair Z88  will know of what I speak.
But it is designed for the iPad - mostly. It's not a generic Bluetooth keyboard making do. It has an Apple Command key, and function keys that call up the virtual keyboard and the iPad's global search screen. It has a handy Home key and controls for the iPad's audio volume and music playback.
The keyboard's battery is charged separately
Any smaller-than-usual keyboard has a slight learning curve, of course, but I found I got going quickly and accurately with this one. It's certainly a decent, if quirky, alternative to the virtual keyboard, especially if you see yourself thrashing out pages of prose at a sitting.
The keyboard has a notch at the back into which you can tuck the panel of the folio on which the iPad is mounted. The angle won't suit everyone, but the area above the keyboard is ribbed, so you can tilt the screen at other angles too.
A large flap tucks over the side of the iPad to keep it in place, but it's a faff to get in and out, so the assumption has to be that you'll keep your tablet in the case. KeyCase loses points for the wee glue overspill that got stuck on my iPad. The Apple device folds down over the keyboard - another reason for the silicone key cover - and another fold, held in place magnetically, shuts the case.
It's less comfortable to use the iPad in tablet fashion when it's in the case
All in all, the Folio has a nice design, and while having the keyboard in there inevitably makes this case thicker than many others, there's not actually a lot in it. It's very comfortable to carry.
You don't need to open it to charge either the iPad or the keyboard, the latter through a micro USB port. KeyCase includes a cable for this, but you'll need your own AC adaptor or computer to supply the juice. You can use the USB charger that comes with the iPad.
Folds up neatly and securely
Alongside said USB jack is a physical on/off switch, preserving the battery if you're not going to be using the keyboard for a time.
But I come back to the battery life. The manual says, "three years", and adds "if they [sic] are short of power, replace them". Yes, but how? A slide-out tray would be the obvious approach, but no, you have to rip out the well-glued keyboard out of the case to get at the hatch on the back. Or, rather, I assume so. I didn't go that far because KeyCase will want it's review unit back.
Now your average Apple fashionista may have long since replaced their Folio by then, or the thing may have come to bits of its own accord, but there's a principle at stake here: products, even accessories, should last. You might, for cost reasons, chuck a printer away when the ink's finished, but you won't do so because the supplier has made it nigh-on impossible to swap in a new cartridge.
For something so obviously knocked up in China, the KeyCase is actually quite good. The language in the "manual" is atrocious - "iPad is in searching Bluetooth keyboard working situation" - but the keyboard isn't bad and provides some handy iPad-specific functions. I'd say £65 is a bit pricey, but not ridiculously so. All things being equal, I'd rate it highly, but its hard to recommend an accessory that may be useless - or damaged after an over-agressive attempt to replace the battery - in three years' time or less. ®
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