7 finger-friendly keyboards for tablets and phones

These portable keyboards can help you get work done when you’re on the go.

  • Jorno Folding Bluetooth Keyboard

  • Logitech K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard

    $79.99 MSRP $79.99
    on Logitech
  • Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

  • Mechanical Keyboard Case for iPad Pro (12.9 inch)

  • Targus VersaType with Power Bank

  • ZAGG Limitless Keyboard

  • USB Typewriter Conversion Kit

    $99.00 MSRP $99.00
    on USB Typewriter
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New devices for touch typists

Onscreen keyboards are fine for quick texts and on-the-go Google searches, but if you need to do some serious composing, thumb-typing can get old really quickly. For any kind of extended typing, you need a real keyboard -- one that can make typing more comfortable, faster and, above all, more accurate.

While there have been mobile keyboards available for years, the latest generation of lightweight, carry-along keyboards make it even easier to do your work using your phone or tablet. The best of these offer a complete range of keys, quickly connect via Bluetooth and have a stand to prop up the device so any flat surface -- from an airline tray table to a picnic table -- can become an impromptu desk.

There are also some that don't pretend to portability, but can convert your mobile device into a fully-functional desktop system.

Whether you are an iPad/iPhone fan or an Android aficionado, one of these seven keyboards can make typing a lot easier on your fingers.

jorno keyboard fixed
  • Jorno Folding Bluetooth Keyboard

Jorno Keyboard

Unlike most other fold-open keyboards, Cervantes Mobile's Jorno has three (instead of two) sections -- the two end sections fold to meet over the middle. This means the device is very small when folded, yet when open it yields a full keyboard that measures 0.25 x 9.9 x 3.5 in.; it weighs a travel-friendly 6.6 oz.

The Journo includes 64 keys, including a single (not split) space bar. Unlike some of the other units in this roundup, all of the letter keys are the same size. It connects via Bluetooth 3.0, is compatible with any Bluetooth device, and is powered by an internal battery pack that should last for at least six months, according to the company.

Last but certainly not least, the keyboard's innovative removable cover folds into a sturdy stand for holding a phone or tablet while you type, play games or watch videos.

logitech k780 multi device keyboard side

Logitech K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard

At 0.9 x 14.8 x 6.2 in. and weighing 1.2 lb., Logitech’s new K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard can hardly be called mobile. Still, the K780 should have a place on your desk, kitchen counter or night table because the keyboard’s 98 raised round keys are easy on the fingers, include an embedded numeric keypad and volume and multimedia controls.

The keyboard’s Bluetooth system can be set up to link with three separate devices -- it’s compatible with Mac OS, Windows, iOS and Android -- so you can quickly switch between your phone, your tablet and your laptop. Able to accommodate everything from a small smartphone to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the K780’s trough holds devices at a 55-degree angle, keeping them easy to read. Powered by a pair of AAA batteries, the keyboard includes a tiny USB Bluetooth adapter for connecting to Bluetooth-challenged desktop computers.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard fixed
  • Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

Microsoft's Universal Foldable Keyboard does a nice magic trick: Folded up, it's only 0.5 x 4.9 x 5.8 in. and weighs 6 oz., but open its single hinge and you've got an 11.6-in.-long keyboard.

Once you've paired it with a phone or tablet, the 75-key device automatically connects via Bluetooth 4.0 when opened and disconnects when closed. You can easily move between two systems as well; the keyboard works with Windows computers and phones as well as Android, iOS and Mac systems.

The keyboard does have couple of quirks, like a split space bar and enlarged "T," "G," "H" and "N" keys -- the result of the diagonal stacking of the keys and the hinge, which sits at a right angle. It takes some getting used to, but I had no real problems with it. In addition, unlike some other mobile keyboards, it lacks a place to prop up a phone or tablet.

However, when folded, the Universal Foldable Keyboard is about the size of a paperback book, making it the perfect travel companion for the touch typist who wants to work on a mechanical keyboard.

Razer Mechanical Keyboard Case fixed
  • Mechanical Keyboard Case for iPad Pro (12.9 inch)

Razer Mechanical Keyboard Case

Razer is better known for its gaming keyboards and mice, but the company's Mechanical Keyboard Case can transform a 12.9-in. iPad Pro into the equivalent of a traditional notebook with a full keyboard.

The 1.7-lb. case is less than half an inch thick, but uses an ingenious low-profile mechanical key design that mimics the feel of a full height desktop keyboard. It has 80 backlit keys for nighttime fun and games, and connects via Bluetooth 3.0. Using the case's adjustable kickstand, your tablet can be set at a wide variety of angles.

The iPad Pro snaps into the Mechanical Keyboard Case's lid portion, which connects to the keyboard magnetically. At any time, you can pull the two apart, so you can put the keyboard itself on your lap while keeping the tablet (held up by the kickstand) on the table.

Since Razer's case adds almost two pounds to the weight of your tablet, it's not for users who need to keep things light, but it could be very useful for mechanical keyboard fans.

Targus VersaType with Power Bank fixed
  • Targus VersaType with Power Bank

Targus VersaType with Power Bank

Targus' VersaType with Power Bank keyboard does triple duty: As a keyboard, as a hard shell case that can protect your tablet from damage, and as a 1,500mAh battery that can partially recharge the iPad. (Otherwise, the battery will keep the keyboard going for a year of typical use.)

With 79 backlit keys, the VersaType keyboard is perfect for red-eye flights and late-night gaming sessions. The iPad slips into the case's lid, while the backlit keyboard folds up to protect the front of the tablet. This not only protects your device from up to four-foot drops, but turns your iPad into the equivalent of a convertible notebook. And the hinge attaching the lid to the keyboard pivots around, so you can use it as a stand as well.

The VersaType is compatible with a 9.7-in. iPad Pro, iPad Air or iPad Air 2. At over 2 lb. -- twice the weight of an iPad -- it's a lot to carry around, but the VersaType with PowerBank cover can not only prevent accidental damage but in a pinch will power your pad.

zagg limitless black fixed
  • ZAGG Limitless Keyboard

Zagg Limitless

The Zagg Limitless is one of the most OS-agnostic keyboards around -- and can be set up to connect with as many as three different systems via Bluetooth.

It has been designed to accommodate most iPhones and iPads (with the exception of the 12.9-in. iPad Pro), as well as Windows and Android phones and tablets. At 0.5 x 7.8 x 11.8 in. and 19 oz., the black and silver Limitless keyboard provides a sturdy place to hold your phone and tablet via a slot above the top keys. You quickly move between them using three function keys.

Zagg offers two separate models for its 78-key keyboard: a basic non-backlit model for $70 and a backlit model for $80. You can even control the color and intensity of the lighting with the choice of seven shades and three brightness levels.

USB Typewriter fixed
USB Typewriter

USB Typewriter Bluetooth USB Conversion Kit

Okay, it isn't portable. But if you're looking for something out of the ordinary for your desk, the Bluetooth USB Typewriter Conversion Kit can turn an old but snazzy-looking typewriter into a Bluetooth keyboard and stand.

Compatible with Windows PCs, Macs and Linux systems, along with Android and iOS devices, the kit can retrofit any of hundreds of typewriter models. The company's unique circuit board translates the typing motion into letter, number and symbol commands that are wirelessly sent to your tablet or phone. The phone or tablet sits on the rollers and the carriage return mimics the Enter key.

One of the neat things about this is that it's still a working typewriter -- even while it's recording your digital input. So you can put the mobile device aside, roll in a sheet of paper and type away while saving everything on an SD card.

If you don't feel up to a do-it-yourself project, a completed Bluetooth typewriter costs between $1,200 and $1,500.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.