Lawyer with an iPad - Bluetooth Keyboard Case
After testing the Clamcase - a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard case for my new iPad - I plan to use the case only periodically, for special use situations. It will not be part of my daily commute. If you are going to be sitting down with a place to set the case (your lap or a desk), and if you will be typing heavily, then snap your iPad into the Clamcase and hit the road. If you won't be doing heavy drafting, leave it behind.
As someone who spends 2+ hours commuting each day - and having found that on most days I can rely on my iPad and don't need a laptop - I had high expectations for the Clamcase. I selected it based on general reviews, and because I felt that I would be best suited for a "laptop-style" keyboard. (See this Macworld article for a primer on the differences between folio, laptop, shell and other case/keyboard styles and options in the iPad Bluetooth keyboard arena).
Although I list specific complaints below, overall I am a big fan of its design. I don't think there is a "better" case out there for me. I believe my frustrations with the Clamcase are systemic to all Bluetooth keyboard/cases, not with the Clamcase itself.
Typing is great. Scratch that; typing is fantastic
- While the keyboard is uncomfortably small at first, I was touch-typing at more than acceptable speeds in less than five minutes.
- It was stunning to have the full iPad screen on which to compose an e-mail or edit a document. Normally, the on-screen keyboard takes up half of the iPad’s real estate (by my non-scientific count it hides 16 of the available 33 lines of an e-mail). Being able to see twice as much of an e-mail or document was eye-opening and made drafting and editing much easier.
Unfortunately, that's it for the pros. While there are some other nice features (special function keys, etc.), they are not make-or-break. The value here is 98% about the improved ability to type compared to using the iPad itself. I can type faster and more easily, and I can type "more." The ability to see twice as much of what I'm editing translates into being able to compose longer, more coherent drafts.
- Apparently, when paired to any Bluetooth keyboard, iPad autocorrect functionality is disabled. Even after using the case for days now, I find this to be extremely disruptive. The iPad trained me not to capitalize the first word of a sentence or insert the apostrophe in most words because those things are difficult to do when typing natively on the iPad and because the iPad fixes them for me automatically. Losing this functionality is frustrating not because I have to account for these issues as a typist (I do naturally when composing in Word), but rather because my brain has "learned" to type differently on the iPad. As I will continue to take advantage of the autocorrect functionality when I'm not using the case, it's very disruptive to have to remember to type "properly" when using the case.
- Using the iPad while in the case for anything other than composing notes or e-mails is awkward at best, and borders on frustrating:
- The keyboard doesn't offer any app control functionality, so you have to use the iPad's touchscreen for basically everything except composing. This is awkward when the iPad is opened like a laptop in front of you. So an attorney doing document review instead of editing is unlikely to realize any benefit from the case.
- One of the Clamcase's selling points is the various positions in which you can open it (keyboard, touchscreen, desktop and tablet positions). When I'm not typing, I prefer to use the tablet position, as shown in this picture. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work: the right edge of the plastic cover is actually sharp, and holding the case as pictured actually hurts. You can hold it with just your left hand (the left edge is where the case's hinge lives, and it's not sharp), but while the Clamcase is light (1.6lb), it's not that light, and holding it in one hand while trying to read something or manipulate the touchscreen with your other hand isn't particularly easy.
And that's it. I love it for typing. I don't really like it for anything else. So unless I am leaving the office with a plan to do extensive drafting or editing while I am out, I think the Clamcase is going to remain on the shelf.