What Apple Should Have Launched Instead of the iPad (Or why Apple should beg for help from Kyocera)

The Kyocera 6035 with Stowaway Keyboard


Okay, fine, the iPad is neat. I’m not even going to bash it here. But, if Apple really wanted a killer device, it would have launched my idea — the iPhone power keyboard.

Lets face it, the two worst things about the iPhone are a) its “virtual keyboard” and b) its shitty battery life. If Apple could solve those problems, the iPhone might become a netbook killer.

I’m really not suggesting anything radical. Back in 2001, I had a Kyocera 6035 — one of the first smart phones. It ran on the Palm OS, was the size of a shoe, had a battery that would last for a week, and used the only input system worse than the Apple virtual keyboard — the stylus and shorthand stroke “graffiti” system. Accordingly, while the 6035 was awesome for its ability to keep me email connected, I found that I would usually just call the person back, or receive an email and then run to a computer to reply.

Ah… but enter the fold up keyboard.

Stowaway made a keyboard that folded in fourths, was about four inches square, and gave you a full QWERTY keyboard, with as much (if not better) tactile response as a modern Apple chiclet keyboard. Not only that, the device came with a little stand connector, so your 6035 stood up straight when you had the keyboard attached. For most trips, I just stopped carrying my laptop – as the 6035 and the stowaway did the job. Sure the phone was ridiculously large, the web browsing was primitive at best (but so were websites at the time), and the connection speed was super slow. But, I could look at my phone, check my email, and then if I had to do a long reply (or even draft a longer document), I could just open my briefcase, unfold the keyboard, pop the 6035 into the thing, and bust it out. The battery, as I said, lasted forever. But, you could also pop open the back and swap out the battery, so I always carried two batteries in my briefcase along with the keyboard.

In 2004, Kyocera came out with a color version of the 6035 – the 7135. This gave us a brighter (color) screen and an SD expansion card slot. Unfortunately, the battery life left a little to be desired, but since Kyocera kept the user-changeable battery thing, I just bought three batteries. I can’t remember ever needing to use the third, but I’m paranoid about loss of power. To round out the perfection, my Stowaway keyboard worked with it, once I paid $15 for an adapter cable.

I won’t even bother to bitch about the fact that Apple won’t let you change your own battery. That complaint clearly will never resonate at a tone that Apple can hear, and would require a complete redesign of the iPhone. But, what about the keyboard?

There has been plenty of bitching for a bluetooth keyboard. Ryan Faas says that Bluetooth keyboard support for the iPhone would be a “game changer.”

I call bullshit.

Why in the name of the FSM would anyone want a bluetooth keyboard for their iPhone? Yeah, that would be awesome. The iPhone already sucks more energy than a vampire girlfriend who hates her father and just ran out of prozac. Now these wide-rimmed glasses wearing 120 lb hipster idiots want to turn on the bluetooth in the iPhone, adding to its power suckage, and then also carry around another device with — you guessed it, more batteries?

Stupid.

What would be better? Go find Kyocera and Stowaway and ask them for help. Imagine a Stowaway keyboard, with a goddamned WIRE and a STAND (so the iPhone is FACING you when you type, not lying flat on the table. That would be cool enough, but imagine this…. since you’re carrying a keyboard anyhow, why not make the keyboard with a battery port.

Wait, didn’t I just complain about carrying more batteries?

Yeah, I did… but see in MY keyboard, the batteries would be there to CHARGE THE iPhone while you work! And, the thing might even come with a battery eliminator plug that would … wait for it… use a connector that you ALREADY HAVE, like the iPhone cable.

If we had that, I could probably get by without my laptop on at least 75% of my business trips. What would that mean? No more taking the laptop out of the carrying case for the TSAtards, elimination of another couple of pounds of stuff, maybe even eliminating the need to take an overhead bin on a plane!

And of course, while Apple is at it, maybe they could ask Kyocera how they managed to put an expansion card slot in the 7135.

8 Responses to What Apple Should Have Launched Instead of the iPad (Or why Apple should beg for help from Kyocera)

  1. Rogier says:

    Hey Mark:

    2001 called and says it misses you.

    So anyway, you kept your iPhone and have made peace with it? I thought you told us a year and a half ago that it was a terrible POS and you couldn’t wait to return it?

    Me, I’d rather not type on ANY keyboard that uses a three-inch screen for its output. How about an iPad then? Awesome battery life (12 hours on average so far), and it works with a standard Bluetooth keyboard. Want a tethered keyboard? With a stand for the iPad. http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC533LL/A Yours for the low low price $69 w/ free shipping.

  2. Actually … no…. I got rid of my iPhone and got a Blackberry Bold.

    But then, I started working for a company that issued me an iPhone, so I carry BOTH! I carry the iPhone for them, and the Blackberry for me.

    I was thinking about the iPad, but it seems that if I want to carry that, I may as well just carry a macbook air and have a real computer in my bag, no? And I’m not saying that working on a 3″ screen is ideal — but it is good enough when you’re just shooting over to some godforsaken town for a day for a meeting — no need to lug the laptop if you can actually produce something.

    Apple makes that keyboard for the iPad, why not make one that works for the iPhone???

  3. charles platt says:

    Apple (or its enabler, Jobs) has disliked keyboards since the first Mac, which omitted a Control key and a numeric keypad. I seem to remember it even omitted cursor keys, initially. In fact Jobs has a history of omitting as many features as possible. He still hasn’t recognized the utility of a two-button mouse with a real scroll wheel, for instance.

    The list of things that were left out of the iPad is longer than the list of things that were put in. USB port, digital camera, webcam, multitasking, firewire port, digital video port, replacable battery.

    I remember the brief period where PowerComputing was licensed by Apple to sell a desktop computer with the Mac OS. PowerComputing promptly included all the extra features, as standard, which the real Macs did not include (such as serial ports) or offered only as extra-cost options. So…Apple refused to renew the license for the OS, and put PowerComputing out of business.

    At that time it was pretty clear that Apple had an abusive relationship with its customers, and since I was always told that the first thing a battered spouse should do is leave, I left.

  4. I understand that “battered spouse syndrome” feeling about Apple. I love their OS, and I’ve decided that the down time that comes from working with a windows machine is not worth changing platforms. At my last firm, I had a submatter in my billing just for computer down time. I no longer have that now that I am mac only.

    But you’re right about Jobs and co thinking that we don’t need features that we truly do.

    If the iPad had a webcam, I would have bought one for us and one for my grandfather, as nothing more than a video phone so that he could have a simple device to see the baby on.

    As far as the apple mouse goes, you are right … but you oughta check out the new one with multitouch. Awesome.

  5. Rogier says:

    The iPad would be well-served by several additions, including a mini-USB port, a web cam, a built-in card reader, and Flash support. And yet, it’s a pretty awesome device already. It doesn’t feel hobbled. And I knew about the limitations going in.

    It is an excellent movie viewer, music player, news reader, e-mail machine, and personal-presentation tool. It’s also a wonderful game pad — my kids love it even more than I do.

    Months before the iPad’s announcement, the speculation was that Apple was going to launch a tablet that would cost $700 – $1,000. At $500, the same price as the iPhone when IT was released a few years ago, the iPad is pretty much a steal, and it shows how Moore’s Law is still in effect. Subsequent versions will have more features and enhanced functionality, I’d bet, so if you need a web cam, just wait till v2 or v3.

    It’s not that the complaints about what isn’t included are invalid, it’s that they kinda miss the point. It’s like reading about a Tesla roadster and then opining that it should have more luggage space, a cigarette lighter, and an exhaust.

    And Charles, Marc took the words out of my mouth with the mouse comment. Macs have had two-button functionality for years — that is, when you click on the right side, you get a contextual menu, and on the left side, you get the “normal” mouse click. My previous Apple mice had physical scroll wheels, and the new “magic mouse” is its OWN scroll wheel — just drag your finger across the top surface and there you go.

    I find Apple annoying on many levels (the prissiness of banning adult-themed material in its app store, the company’s closed-platform ethos, the shameless hype in referring to its own products as “magic” and “revolutionary,” Steve’s job inability to take criticism without resorting to petty retaliation, the moneygrubbing atrocity that is the new iAd venture). And yet, it seems to me, you still have to give Apple — Jobs especially — credit for creating products that are often standouts in innovation, design, and user-friendliness. Apple has launched its share of clunkers and lemons (the Newton, the QuickTake camera), but it will be remembered, I would guess, for the gamechangers — including the Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone, and (probably, too soon to tell) the iPad.

  6. Aaron says:

    I wish my dad could remember where he got it, but he found a Duracell rechargeable lithium battery that connects directly into any usb port, which means you can use your Ipod-computer line to act as an extra battery.

  7. tim says:

    I’ve been running iPhone OS 4.0 on my phone for a few days. Bluetooth keyboard support is there. While reading this rant – I paired one of my bluetooth keyboards with it and responded to an e-mail. So you will get your bluetooth support by summer.

    On that same note – I’ve been carrying blackberries around for about a decade now. I have a special Hate for their physical keyboards. Actually any physical keyboard on a mobile device. The form factor just doesn’t work. The iPhones virtual keyboard is the first keyboard (physical or virtual) that I don’t bitch about using.

    [ignoring the irrational Apple bashing in the rest of the thread]

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