BlackBerry is one of the last remaining manufacturers that is still making devices with physical QWERTY keyboards. On tablets one can’t expect such keyboards to work which is why dynamic software keyboards are commonplace on these devices. What if there was an external solution that could enable the user to feel and tap on the tablet with physical buttons? This is where Phorm steps in. It is a case for the iPad mini that can grow a physical keyboard of sorts on demand.
No Phorm doesn’t employ magic or sorcery. Its actually very simple. The case envelops an iPad mini like any conventional case would and users are also required to apply a special transparent film on the display, which also serves as a screen protector.
There is a slider on Phorm’s back when can be used to grow these physical buttons. When the slider is moved invisible microfluidic channels in the transparent film expand certain areas of the screen which make it seem like a physical keyboard has popped up on the display itself.
This is a purely physical process so Phorm doesn’t draw power from the battery or require software to function. If you feel like having a physical feel of the keyboard when typing on the iPad mini, just move the slider on Phorm, and a keyboard will appear.
Don’t expect “clicky” feedback, the sort you would experience on a BlackBerry, since basically what the fluids do is provide a guide for fingers that take them to optimal touch zones on the device’s keyboard.
Currently the case is available only for iPad mini. Retail is $149 but customers who pre-order can get it for $99. Next the company behind Phorm will come out with a similar case for iPhone 6 Plus before turning its attention towards the iPad Air. Shipments for the iPad mini models are expected to begin this summer.