Here are some notes from my first impressions thus far. And yes, I'm typing this on a TextBlade
Note: Parts of this were typed at various points, some almost immediately after getting it, some after several days of use. I'm posting as-is without further editing, because otherwise I'll never get it up. Thus, some of it is bit stream-of-conscious. I'll write a separate (shorter) thing about my experience after using it full-time for a week in a couple of days, if I can get the time to do so.
First, a little background, because that certainly influences my opinions and experience to date. I am a software developer, I type in Colemak, and I've been using the TextBlade mappings with Karabiner on OS X for probably about 8 months. I've learned to touch type in 4 different layouts across 2 languages over the years, so the idea of adjusting to a new layout and retraining my muscle memory isn't particularly daunting to me personally. I have occasional flare ups of RSI after long days of coding. It's not as bad as it used to be since I switched to Colemak and remapped the symbols with Karabiner, but it's still an issue sometimes. I say all of this because I think I will have an easier time adjusting than many. Also, it has always been my intent to use this as my primary desktop keyboard, not just on a mobile device. And given the hand/wrist health issues, I'm perfectly willing to take "drastic" measures.
Physical & Build
My first thought was "Holy shit, it's tiny!" I knew this, of course, but it's still surprising. Second, build quality feels good, but also hard to describe. On the one hand it feels well built, and doesn't seem like the kind of device that will be easily damaged. On the other hand, it is more flexible than I expected. Given how small the thing is, that should't be a surprise. Anyway, it's not something I'm worried about at all really. However, it is flexible enough that the idea of swapping the keycaps myself makes me a little nervous. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
The keys feel nice, really nice. They make a satisfying "thunk" when you bottom them out. The sound is pleasing to me, quieter and lower than the keyboard I was using previously (Apple wireless desktop keyboard). Really it sounds much better. My desktop keyboard would make a fair bit of "clicky" sound just from the keys rocking around and my fingers lightly touching them. With this, the only real sound is coming from the keys actually being pressed, not your fingers rocking them at rest.
The force curve is different than what I'm used to, and it gives the impression that the keys take less effort to press. I don't know whether or not that's actually the case, but it feels that way. Now that I've typed on it for about a day, I can say that I do prefer the feel of pressing the keys on the TB, compared to my usual keyboard. Update: Now that I've typed on it for several days, when I go back to keyboard on either the desktop or laptop, I make mistakes because I'm not pressing hard enough. The keyboards I'm used to require more immediate force up front... I actually really can't stand it now. The TB feels much nicer after several days, not just different.
So, regarding the physical - small, light, seems flexible, but still durable. Physical key feel is very nice. I have a lot more to say about key feel, but it's as much about muscle memory as the actual keys, so I'll get to that later.
Setup & Pairing
Pairing with a supported device the first time works as you would expect, not any trouble there. However, I primarily wanted to pair with unsupported devices: a 2011 MacMini & 2011 Macbook Air. So, I bought a pair of USB Bluetooth dongles. To make an embarasingly long story short, I did get it to work with my MacMini eventually, and can now jump between that and my iPhone 6. "Jumps" initially confused me a little because I was too impatient to look it up and read. Once you are paired with something, you just hold one of the jump slots for a second and the TB goes into pairing mode again, and you pair with your 2nd device. Then you can use the slots the switch back and forth between devices. I initially unpaired the TB from my phone, then paired with my computer, which was pointless.
Now, on the topic of pairing and bluetooth. The TB works great with my phone thus far - it feels responsive. It is noticeably worse on my desktop, but that is mostly the dongles fault, not the TB. I know this because my mouse intermittently looses connection, and that never used to happen when I used the built-in BT. The effect this has on the TB is pretty bad though: long pauses, keys getting "stuck" and repeating a lot (I mean really a lot, 20+ characters sometimes). This is particularly frustrating when you just hit "delete" and then it just keeps going...
Now, that said, this isn't an issue with the TB, it is just to say that if you need to rely on a dongle to work with your device, it may take some experimentation to get a good one. I bought 2 of the ones I have, and they both have this issue. From that I suspect it's not a defect, and I'm 2 feet away so I'm also sure it's not a range problem.
The key repeat issues I mentioned are frequent enough to make it unusable with this particular dongle. I'm doing it anyway, because it's giving me extra practice
Update The above was all typed before I had set the TB up with my MacBook Air via a dongle. I've just done that, using one of the two adapters that previously did not work well on my desktop - and it's working great with the Air. So, I'm left with the assumption that this is driver problem with my MacMini specifically.
What struck me the most was that after having used it for about 4 hours, it no longer felt small. This is an important point though, it feels small, but it does not feel cramped. I don't have large hands though. In the beginning you will certainly over reach for keys. But after using it for 10 minutes (literally), I went back to my desktop keyboard, and when I tried to hit "delete" I started laughing because it felt like I was reaching halfway across my desk. It will strike you immediately how much extra movement you are accustomed to doing.
It obviously feels very different than any other keyboard you've ever used, but that's part of the point. Something I noticed immediately was how incorrectly I've been hitting certain keys for years. Incompatible muscle memory is easily the biggest source of errors. Some of those errors are because the layout is just different, such as hitting "enter" instead of quotes. But, some of those errors are because I was typing incorrectly to begin with, for example:
- keep mistyping "x", "c", "v" and "b", because I'm used to them being at a different angle, so I never used the "correct" fingers for them
- apparently I always typed "." with my pinky, not my ring finger
With the TB, it's immediately clear that a lot of habits were formed to compensate for the physical layout of the keys, and it will likely take a little time to adjust and use the "correct" fingers.
I also immediately noticed my fingernails. They always bothered me when I typed, But I felt like they interfered more while using the TB. Instead of being just annoying, I think they were actually causing me to make some errors.
Initially I worried that hitting the same physical key for adjacent letters like "t" and "r" would bother me, but in practice I don't notice it all. If I did notice it in the beginning, then I must have adjusted within a few minutes because I just don't think about it now.
I find that I sometimes am still making a string of errors because my hands have drifted away from home row. The physical cues of the keys are a bit more subtle than I expected. I still feel like I need to look at the TB for a half second to get my fingers placed because I'm not used to feel yet. There have been a few moments where I thought I was correct by feel, but then looked down and had a couple of fingers that weren't resting in the wells in the middle of the keys. I don't think this will remain an issue as I get used to it, but initially I kinda wished I had the really obvious bumps in the middle of each key, the way "f" and "j" have on most traditional keyboards.
So, that's about it for now. I do think it was worth the wait, and there really isn't anything else like this. Once I work out the connection issues with my desktop I have no doubt that it will be my primary keyboard. I think some people will have difficulties adjusting. That said, even though it still feels weird, I also keep thinking that this is what typing is supposed to be like. As I go back to my traditional keyboard I keep thinking, "This is what typing is NOT supposed to be like."
Are there any show stoppers gating the release? It's hard for me to say, and it kinda depends on your perspective. The only issues I've had thus far are minor, and known. For example, the iOS keyboard extension can sometimes cause some conflicts with certain features like the media keys. Personally I don't really need the extension hanging around, so this doesn't bother me in the least. However, I'm sure that some are going to want to have access to that, and for them it could be a noticeable issue. Keyboard extensions on iOS are a finicky thing in general, so issues here aren't unique to WayTools, and they are working on improving it. Hopefully our test data will help them do that faster.
I have been using the TB now full time for time for the past couple of days. I get angry going back to the keyboard I was accustomed to just 3 days ago. Even if there are still rough edges for some (not really for me), the pros still vastly outweigh the cons. But again, keep in mind why I want it, and what my use case is... If you are the type that just wants a portable keyboard to type on occasionally with a mobile device - it's great for that, but you may have a harder time getting accustomed and switching back and forth, and that may color your impression and experience. I can say for sure that if you stick with it and can get past the mental readjustment, it's fantastic. So, I want to give it glowing reviews, but on the other, I don't want mislead people into thinking their experience will be as good as mine.
I'll add to this thread with thoughts here and there and answer questions to the extent that I can.