I have a confession to make: I am functionally illiterate with the typical smartphone's onscreen keyboard, barely able to type my own name. Even for those who are proficient at onscreen typing, though, trying to get actual work done using a tiny onscreen keyboard is an exercise in frustration.
Using a lightweight Bluetooth keyboard that's designed for mobility is a big help here. While there are dozens of mobile Bluetooth keyboards available, the best have keys big enough for adult human fingers, fold up to about the size of a paperback book and weigh roughly half a pound.
I've found out the hard way that not all Bluetooth keyboards work with all smartphones. That's because some current devices support the Serial Port Profile (SPP) Bluetooth profile, while others support the Human Interface Device (HID) profile. The LG Nitro HD phone I used, for instance, will connect with keyboards that use SPP but not those that use HID.
A good option is to get a Bluetooth keyboard that supports both the HID and SPP protocols, such as the $100 Freedom Pro Keyboard from Freedom Input USA. There's a small switch on the keyboard's left side to choose between HID and SPP.
The Freedom Pro keyboard can connect with smartphones running on the Android (up to Version 3.0), iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems, but it requires platform-specific drivers. Setting up the keyboard to work with my Android phone took me about three minutes.
The keyboard weighs 9 oz. and provides 75 keys, as close to a full selection of keys as you're likely to find on a portable keyboard. Some of the keys get shortchanged on size, and because the keyboard folds in the middle, its space bar is split into two smallish keys, which I find annoying. Still, these are typical tradeoffs for a mobile keyboard.
The Freedom Pro keyboard includes a pop-out easel stand that securely holds the phone horizontally or vertically. I comfortably typed long emails, proposals, invoices and more -- all without ever using the phone's on-screen keyboard.
The talking cure?
Another way to get around the limitations of a phone's onscreen keyboard is to take advantage of a voice recognition app. Why type an email or Facebook update when you can simply speak it? Such apps also let you use voice commands to make calls, open apps and perform other basic tasks, saving you a few taps along the way.