A charming keyboard for 2024 that’s relying on more than just nostalgia

The original iPhone convinced me (and many others) that typing on touchscreens was the future. So the last thing I expected to test out during CES 2024 here in Las Vegas was a mobile accessory that’s trying to bring back the physical keyboard. And, while I wanted to dismiss Clicks as a thing for people who can’t let go of yesteryear, what I found was a gadget that’s solving some modern problems by taking cues from the past.

Clicks’ design couldn’t be simpler. It’s a silicone case (Clicks’ website actually says it’s Liquid Silicon, but I think that’s a typo) with a physical keyboard bolted on the bottom. There’s a small vegan leather accent on the back, little bumps to accommodate buttons and switches, and a passthrough connector at the bottom (either Lightning or USB-C depending on your device). At launch, Clicks will be available for three devices starting at $139: the iPhone 14 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The first problem that Clicks tries to address is giving you back your screen space, because when you don’t need to display a virtual keyboard at the bottom all the time, suddenly things feel a lot roomier. And Clicks accomplishes this with flying colors. But personally, with the increasing size of phones (especially new-fangled foldables), this has never really been an issue for me. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a problem for others so it’s nice to see Clicks providing people with alternatives to typing on glass.

Another big goal for Clicks is optimizing your device by providing tons of shortcuts, which to me is much more appealing. It almost gives your phone the type of speed and productivity you enjoy on a laptop. You can press CMD+H to go home, tap the Spacebar to scroll in Safari, hit CMD+Space to open up Spotlight search and so much more. Some commands even work in third-party apps like Instagram, which is just really handy. And after seeing Apple add a single Action key on the iPhone 15 Pro, my head is already swimming with the possibilities of having 30+ customizable shortcuts.

Finally, there’s the simple joy of having physical keys to wail away on. While you don’t get mechanical switches like on a desktop keyboard (Clicks features rubber domes), the tiny nickel-plated keycaps feel solid and offer a nice tactile bump with each press. You also get some handy backlighting so you don’t have to suffer in dark rooms. The one issue is that after years of typing on screens, I’m not entirely sure I want to go back. And that probably goes double for anyone who prefers swipe-based entry methods.

After years of typing on glass, just banging out a short text using Clicks felt lethargic. And even with their circular design which leaves ample space in between the keys, I found myself fumbling. But then old habits started coming back and I can easily see how those yearning for their old Blackberrys, Sidekicks, or Motorola Envys might be enchanted.

Now that I’ve used it, I can’t deny that there’s something endearing about Clicks. But when it comes to getting more use out of a device, I lean more towards foldable phones or simply bigger screens. Plus, there are a few other minor issues, like iPhones not being able to handle charging and data over USB-C at the same time, which could be an issue for anyone who relies on wired CarPlay while using Clicks. Also by tacking a keyboard onto the bottom of an iPhone, which already have extra long 19.5:9 aspect ratios, you may feel like you’re lugging around a stack of rulers. And if you have an Android handset, you’re just plain out of luck (at least for now). But there’s no doubt that Clicks is a charming device, especially those flashy yellow and blue/pink models.

Clicks will be available starting on February 1 for the iPhone 14 Pro with the other models following sometime later this spring.

We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

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