Much has been made about how the iPhone forces you to use a sometimes-clumsy touchscreen for all your text input. What is not widely discussed however is the fact that your iPhone â€“ once it has been upgraded to use iOS 4.0 â€“ can quite happily interface with a Bluetooth keyboard to help you when writing those long emails or documents.
If you’ve bought an iMac in the past couple of years you probably already have a keyboard you can use: Apple’s Wireless Keyboard uses Bluetooth to communicate with your computer and it can do the same with your iPhone.
However you don’t have to have Apple’s keyboard for this to work: Bluetooth keyboards use a standard profile for identifying themselves and connecting with other devices and we were quite able to get the same result by â€“ perish the thought â€“ pairing our iPhone 3GS with a Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Keyboard 7000 that is several years old.
All you need to do is pair the keyboard with your iPhone and you can start typing. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your iPhone; this may seem obvious but disabling Bluetooth is a common way to extend battery life on any device. To do this go to Settings > General > Bluetooth and make sure the slider is set to On.
- You’ll see the ‘Now Discoverable’ notice after a list of paired Bluetooth devices (note that these are the devices your phone knows how to connect to whether or not they are actually connected at the moment).
- Push and hold down the pairing button on your keyboard; on the Apple keyboard this is the round flush button on the right-hand side of the keyboard’s round base and you’ll want to be holding down the Fn key while you hold the button. On our Microsoft keyboard this button is recessed in the back of the unit near the power switch.
- Hold down the button on the device until it changes to pairing mode; this is usually apparent when the status light changes its flashing pattern (the Apple keyboard does two quick flashes then a brief pause then repeats while the MS keyboard alternates differently-coloured lights).
- Watch the screen of your iPhone: initially it will say that it has detected a ‘Keyboard’ whose status is not paired.
- Keep the button held down long enough and the iPhone will pull the
identifier from the device and this information will be displayed in the
list. In our case the identifier was ‘David Braue’s keyboard’ (for the
Apple unit) and ‘Microsoft Wirelessâ€¦’ for the Microsoft unit.
- Tap the name of the new device you’d like to pair. After a few seconds you’ll get a screen saying that the keyboard would like to pair with your iPhone. Type the number the phone gives you on the keyboard then press Enter.
- Voila! The status screen will now say that your keyboard is connected.
- To work with your keyboard just go into your email or other application and type away. Special keys like Option and Shift affect the selection of text just as they do on a Mac and keys like brightness volume muting and audio playback controls are all recognised by the iPhone.
- Note that your iPhone and keyboard will remain paired as long as you leave Bluetooth on. This may be useful because you can enter your pin code off your keyboard when the unit is locked but it will also prevent your desktop computer from connecting to the keyboard until the iPhone is out of range or its Bluetooth is switched off. Get familiar with your iPhone’s Bluetooth controls to manage your keyboard use as effectively as possible.