Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Newsletter: The iPhone Productivity Project

Well, I've made it through the first month with the iPhone, and so far we're getting along. I've not been this deep into Fruit Territory in a long, long time. I'm a Windows geek, not an Apple devotee, but I'm willing to adapt. <grin>

Part of the reason for switching to the iPhone at this point was because I needed to use text messaging a lot for my consulting, and the old Windows Mobile phone was dying on me. The iPhone has a nice interface for text messaging, but I keep sending all kinds of odd messages because I "fat-finger" that tiny keyboard.

Computing Before There Were Mice

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when computers did NOT have a mouse driving the interface. In fact was a little over 20 years ago that Windows 3.1 came out, and I knew that computing would change forever. Yes, I know that both Microsoft and Apple had a mouse well before that, but because of the pervasiveness/market share of Windows, the arrival of a decent Windows mouse-driven interface, the culture shifted radically.

To this day, I'm a two-fisted computer user: I regularly use keyboard shortcuts with the mouse to write and move around the interface quickly. In fact I urge my clients to use these shortcuts because they're concentrated where you type with your left hand. I'm taking about the usual Ctrl+S for Save, Ctrl+C for Copy, Ctrl+V for paste, and so on. You'd be surprised how many people do NOT use them!

With all of this background information I am leading up to the punch line: I bought a mini-keyboard for my iPhone. Now before you fall off your chair with laughter, hear me out.

I'm sitting at a desk a lot these days, so text messaging with colleagues and clients means picking up the phone and trying to aim at that tiny keyboard with hands that can easily play octaves on the piano. I was not blessed with dainty fingers, I was blessed with pianist's fingers. So that frustration lead me to conclude that finding some kind of thumb keyboard would be a good idea for me.

I haven't yet bought a hard, protective case for the phone, so the first keyboard I looked at was attached to a hard case. That would make the phone and keyboard function as one item instead of two. I ordered the TK-421 Bluetooth Keyboard/Case from for iPhone 3GS.


This particular keyboard appealed to me because it had a thumb-style size and functionality. The problem was that the keyboard swiveled out from underneath instead of opening like a clamshell. The keyboard itself was lighter than the phone, so it kept falling forward out of my hands. I had a hard time turning the keyboard's Bluetooth on, though pairing happened quite easily. After working with the keyboard for 24 hours or so, I went shopping again.

I found that the keyboard portion was available separately from several vendors, but I just didn't like that keyboard at all, separate or attached. After exhausting all the possibilities in the $35 price range, I decide to move up in size and cost, and I ordered the Verbatim Bluetooth keyboard from

This keyboard is bigger than the phone; in fact the keys are almost full-size with a few exceptions. It comes with its own case, but it's small enough to fit in my purse on the go. What's REALLY fun is that hidden in the keyboard's case is a fold-out stand for the iPhone that holds it in a suitable position for viewing while typing.

Turning the keyboard on is quite easy, pairing with the iPhone is a no-brainer, and with a little concentration, I can type quite quickly for emails, text messages, and writing my book.

Writing My Book on the iPhone

Yes, I am writing a book. Will I write it entirely on the iPhone? Probably not. But, having the keyboard with the iPhone turns it from a text-messaging machine to a mini-computer capable of capturing my chapters without breaking a sweat. I visited the iTunes App Store and found a simple word processing application that cost me US$3.99.

Because I write for the Internet, I'm used to using a text-only word processor. I write more quickly that way anyway since I'm not fiddling with formatting, so having an iPhone word processor that lets me put in bulleted lists and bold text is just fine! It interoperates with Word 2003-2010, so I can sync with my desktop and use the files there.

Typing with the iPhone on an Airplane

If you think that first-class passengers have more room on their tray tables for their laptops, let me correct this notion immediately! Maybe it's just me, but I always seem to end up behind the traveler who has decided to kick back. They recline all the way in celebration of their spacious seat, and whatever hope I had for opening my laptop quickly goes away. But there WOULD be room for my iPhone and this mini-keyboard, even in Coach. Just imagining this wonderful scenario gave me hope of recovering all those lost minutes we spend in transit, without having to boot up the laptop!

For Me It's iPhone Productivity Anywhere

I have a consulting contract now that sometimes has me hanging around waiting for meetings. I didn't dare bring my Toolie business laptop to the consulting location, but I could pull out my iPhone and keyboard and none would be the wiser! I also think about returning to my satellite office (the local Red Robin) to do my planning sessions because I can access my client management website with my iPhone and keyboard. This particular Red Robin doesn't have wireless Internet (yet), but I do get a cell signal, so I can fire up the iPhone and get answers when I need them.

OK, Maybe One More Accessory

I admit that the iPhone screen is pretty small -- not the best for writing, but if I could get the phone up to eye level, that would be really helpful. Apparently a few other people had the same idea, because I found this accessory online.


This iLevel clamp-on stand wouldn't fit in my purse, but it would fit in carry-on luggage quite nicely. And on the treadmill. And on my desk. I haven't bought it yet -- I still feel silly trying to use the iPhone as a mini-computer. But those feelings will probably change as I embrace my iPhone Productivity Project and the possibility of actually getting my book written!

Do you use a keyboard with your iPhone? Tell us about it in your comments below.
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