NFC technology has been somewhat disappointing in the Android space; while pundits lambasted the iPhone 5 for lacking NFC, Android has since failed to truly capitalize on Apple’s folly by not investing heavily into the technology. As it stands, the NFC ecosystem is mainly made up of NFC enabled tiles and a slowly growing market for Google Wallet NFC payments, but nothing has really put NFC to good use in a way that’s tangible in a more everyday manner. One2Touch and their NFC keypads, however, attempt to do just that by utilizing NFC to let you type with a tactile, mostly complete QWERTY keyboard.Â We’ll be taking a look at One2Touch’s two keypads on offer at the moment, its original Softpad S1 and its newer Softpad C1.
One2Touch’s first NFC keypad was the SoftPad S1. The S1 has a very simplistic design: a NFC pad in the centre flanked by two halves of the QWERTY-esque keyboard. Why do I say QWERTY-esque? Because although the letters are in the correct positions for a QWERTY keyboard, there are a number of keys that are additional or in a different position. The entirety of the S1 is covered in a rubbery plastic that is loosely fitted over its innards. This looseness isn’t poor manufacturing, however, as the keypad needs this extra material to be able to flex into all sorts of positions, but most importantly, fold up into a travel-sized package. Included with the S1 is a One2Touch branded rubber band which can be used to keep the keypad bound when travelling.
In terms of size, the keys of the S1 are small, however, even with my large hands, I didn’t feel too much discomfort typing on the keypad. Owning a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, though, my primary issue with the S1 is the fact that the centre pad where you phone should fit is just a tiny bit too small for the Note 2 in landscape mode. Seeing as most phones are smaller than the Note 2, this probably won’t be an issue, and of course, you can always just use your phone in portrait mode, which might actually work better in general. The actual tactility of the keys, while obviously greater than a touchscreen keyboard, is still very soft with very little feel of when you’ve actually pressed a key or not.
Setting up the SoftPad S1 (and C1) is very simple. All that’s required is to download the One2Touch app, activate NFC on your device, make the NFC keyboard your default and place your device on the NFC pad. It’s a pretty simple affair, though it may take you some trial and error to find the sweet spot where your device with definitely pick up the NFC keyboard, particularly in portrait view.
The SoftPad C1 builds on the S1 strengths, changing up the format so that the two halves of the keyboard are now next to each other, instead opting to have the NFC pad above the keyboard. In addition to this, the NFC has its own little stand which elevates the NFC pad giving you a better viewing angle and doubles as a clip when folding the keypad for travel.
In terms of construction, the C1 is essentially the same as the S1, with the same rubber exterior and the same ability to be folded up for travel purposes. The stand is a nice touch though as typing with the S1 required you to be looking at your phone from directly above; on the C1, the stand does give the viewing angle an improvement, but it still isn’t enough of an angle to stop your neck hurting after a long typing session.
Being almost completely covered in a rubber, the One2Touch keypads are quite durable. Because the keys are all part of the rubber cover, the keys are essentially watertight, so you won’t have to worry about crumbs or water getting into the keyboard while you’re having a snack. Likewise, folded up, the keypads are unlikely to take any damage.
In terms of typing durability, it is actually hard to judge whether the keys beneath the rubber cover will eventually start to wear out; often I found myself tapping the keys a lot harder than I thought I was, but the keypads didn’t show any signs of wearing out during this review.
As travel keyboards, the Softpad S1 and C1 are fantastic; I’ve never seen any other mobile keyboard that offers an almost complete QWERTY set of tactile keys which can also be folded up into something the size of a wallet. As a nifty side note, it’s possible to use the directional keys to navigate your homescreen and in apps, and there is a back button at the top left of the keypad which is a nice touch.
Unfortunately though, the layout of the keyboard is my primary gripe with both keypads.Â While most of the QWERTY layout is there, the layout of the keys (and the additional function keys) is significantly different enough from a PC keyboard that it can feel a bit awkward typing for some time. It’s possible this is actually a limitation of the Android system and it may be possible that if you continued to use the keypads that you would become used to the keyboard layout, particularly if your phone is your primary device.
The tactility of the keypads is also a concern for me. Although the fact that they are soft keys does mean they can be waterproofed and protected, the ability to feel what you’re typing is extremely poor, and as the keyboard is scaled down, typing accuracy is usually affected as well. Along with this is the fact that the keypads are relatively flat (though the C1 does tilt your phone a little). This creates very awkward viewing angles, forcing you to look down at your phone and more often than not I got a sore neck using the keypads. That said, if you are looking for a travel-convenient keyboard for your smartphone, you’re hunting for tactile keyboards and you have NFC capabilities, the One2Touch keypads do put up a great argument for giving you at least some tactile feeling while typing.
The layout of the S1 does actually give it a small advantage over the newer C1; although the C1 is able to tilt up slightly giving you a better viewing angle, this prevents it from being able to support a phone in portrait view. The S1 is able to accommodate a portrait oriented device no problems, as such would be my personal preference between the two keypads, particularly as many phones are unable to rotate the homescreen into landscape by default.
The One2Touch Softpad S1 and C1 are a fantastic idea to utilize NFC pairing with a mostly complete QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately intuitive to adopt as a keyboard and the tactility isn’t quite as close to a PC keyboard’s as we would have liked, but given enough time you will likely come to love the keypads for their versatility and portability. The Softpad S1 is priced at MSRP $49 USD and the Softpad C1 is priced at MSRP $59 USD, which puts both at a decent price for casual users. Though for power-users who need the ultra-portability of these keypads, the fact that it can be tucked away so effectively yet offer so much, will likely make the One2Touch keypads an invaluable choice.
For more information about the One2Touch Softpad S1 and Softpad C1, you can visit their product pages at the links below:
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