The Kiano 4 is a unique accessory offering solace from one of the less common complaints about Apple’s iPhone 4: the lack of a physical keyboard.
Those that think the accuracy and comfort that physical buttons lend to a smartphone might be disappointed to find that the Kiano 4 has a few shortcomings that could keep them tapping on virtual keypads for the foreseeable future…
Doubling as a handy protective case, the Kiano 4 flies in the face of touchscreen lovers by offering a slide out five-row keypad from the rear of the device, hooked up to work on the iPhone 4 using Bluetooth connectivity.
Looking at the Kiano 4’s aesthetics, the glossy form and (relatively) slender design is impressive. However, the sliding mechanism – from new to well worn in - is accompanied by a slight scraping noise that one swears is the keys being rubbed against the rear of the unit.
Considering that it houses a fully-formed backlit keyboard, complete with half-sized numerical buttons and a long-lasting battery, the Kiano’s (dimensions 117.3mm x 60.7mm x 15.3mm) remains fairly slender.
On the topic of the battery, the Kiano 4 comes equipped with a clever Y-shaped USB splitter, enabling both the phone and the keyboard to be charged simultaneously from a single port.
You will certainly need it as the Kiano is a bit of a battery hog (5.5 hours of standby), with the need for Bluetooth pairing to be activated for each use as well as the optionally backlit keys causing a bit of an unnecessary drain on mobile and accessory alike.
Whilst the Kiano 4 has the look and feel of a quality device, it does admittedly break the clean symmetry of the iPhone 4’s front and rear, all the while adding significant heft (78 grams) to it.
An asset to the distribution of balance when holding the iPhone in landscape to tap out a message, the slight – yet significant - additional bulk makes for an altogether less portable device in the pocket.
The unfortunate thing is that the Kiano 4 smacks of a concerted effort to condense and compact a keyboard into an iPhone at every turn, but it in turn loses out in terms of ease of use in the same breath. The keyboard errs on the small side, and the effort to add numerical and Shift buttons to have a full selection of keys only results in the whole thing becoming a tad cramped.
The keys have relatively little travel in them, and the speed that is gained from having physical buttons is offset by having to tap them gingerly to maintain accuracy and avoid misspells.
Needless to say, there are some features – Google Maps, for example – that simply do not possess a dedicated landscape view and force the Kiano’s keys to be relegated in favour of the touch display.
It is these brief situations of incompatibility that provide a harsh reminder that the Kiano 4 is a loosely supported Bluetooth accessory rather than dovetailing into the finely honed user experience of the iPhone 4.
Factoring in the cost of the device – around $100 – and the negatives stack against the Kiano 4 too heavily to heartily recommend it.
Whilst a physical keyboard would be a nice addition to the iPhone, one that is fairly heavy, frequently requires charging and with buttons too unwieldy for swift texting and knocking out a mail just is not the answer.