An Affordable, Versatile Bluetooth Keyboard for Any Mobile Device

When I shopped recently for a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad Air 2, I felt like Goldilocks in search of that one that would fit just right. I wanted a keyboard that would be natural to type on and easy to use and that didn’t cost a lot. The one I finally picked may seem like an unlikely choice but I haven’t regretted it for a moment.

There is a wide variety among iPad keyboards. Many come as either keyboard cases or keyboard folios. These are protective covers of varying thicknesses into which you insert the iPad. With most of them, open the cover and the iPad powers on. Shut it and the iPad powers off.

I did not want this style for a few reasons. One is simply the added thickness. Why get a svelte iPad only to bulk it up? Another is that it isn’t always easy to detach the iPad from the case. When you want to use the iPad without the keyboard, you either have to detach it or hold it with the bulkier cover attached. While most of these will flip in a way that hides the keyboard, not all of them do.

Still another problem with these is that they can be pricey.  Two of the top-reviewed cases — the Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case and the ZAGG Slim Book Case — each retail for $129.99. Another that both gets good reviews and is affordable is the Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover.

The one I finally settled on came from an unlikely source, Microsoft.  Who’d a thunk I’d be using a Microsoft keyboard with my Apple iPad? But as it turns out, I love it.

It is called the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard and it actually works with almost any mobile device — iPad, iPhone, Android devices and Windows tablets.

Although tablet keyboards are always smaller than computer keyboards, this one feels close to full sized. (It is 9.25 inches wide.) The unit feels solid and the chicklet-style keys have a good tactile feel and good action. A switch on the keyboard lets you toggle from device to device. I’ve tested it with my iPad, my iPhone and an Android tablet, without a glitch.

Microsoft says that the keyboard’s USB-rechargeable battery lasts six months on a single charge. I charged it when I first received it three months ago and have not had to charge it again since.

I like that the keyboard does not attach to the iPad. It is a standalone unit, about 9.5 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches when closed. Open the cover, it turns on, close it, it turns off. Once I paired it with my iPad, I have never had an issue connecting.

The cover has an integrated stand — a slot, really — that lets you position an iPad at two viewing angles. I find one is perfect for the desktop and the other for using it on my lap.The cover is attached to the keyboard magnetically and can be detached if you prefer more space between the keyboard and the iPad.

Along the top of the keyboard are function keys for controlling volume, bringing up a search bar and turning off the screen. A “Cmd” key on the bottom enables keyboard shortcuts, functioning as the Command key in iOS and the Control key in Windows and Android.

The exterior of the keyboard has a rubberized surface which keeps it from sliding. That’s a good thing, but something about the surface also makes it a dust magnet. I’ve found that wiping the cover with a damp sponge removes the dust.

There are two minor negatives to this keyboard. One is that it is not backlit, as are both the Belkin and ZAGG mentioned above. The other is that it is two pieces you need to carry — the keyboard and the device. That is not an issue for me, because I just throw both in my backpack. But if you are going to a meeting without a backpack or briefcase, it is a bit clumsy to carry the two pieces.

This keyboard retails for $79.95. I purchased it for $50 on Amazon, where it is currently listed for just under $54.