Stowaway Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Posted June 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor
For most Pocket PCs running Pocket
PC 2002 or 2003 OS with integrated Bluetooth or with a
Socket Bluetooth card. Also supports Symbian Series 60
phones such as the Nokia 3650 and the Sony Ericsson P800
and P900. Does not support Palm OS.
The Think Outside Stowaway folding keyboards
have been the most popular with PDA users. Their near full-sized
notebook keyboard size, good key travel and tactile feedback
won't send you running back to your computer when you need
to write at length. The keyboard folds in half, making for
a highly portable and reasonably durable typing solution.
The Stowaway IR keyboard,
introduced in December 2003 has met with great success. Since
it's wireless and is not dependant on a connector, you don't
have to buy a new keyboard when changing PDAs, and you can
use your PDA's sync port for other things while typing. The
only drawback is that you must maintain line of sight with
IR products and keep the PDA and keyboard close together,
which can be a challenge. Enter the Bluetooth Stowaway which
makes these problems a thing of the past. Bluetooth wireless
technology does not require line of sight and has much greater
range than IR. You can put the PDA anywhere you like and
move it as needed without interrupting the connection to
the keyboard. In fact, range was so good that I placed a Dell
Axim X30 wireless Pocket PC in the next room 15 feet
away and typed away on the Stowaway sitting on my desk! There
is no lag when typing nor does it drop keystrokes.
Since the PDA doesn't need to be close to or
lined up with the keyboard, the stand on the Stowaway Bluetooth
keyboard detaches, so you can prop-up and place the PDA where
you wish. If you prefer, you can of course leave the stand
connected to the keyboard and use them close together. The
stand has a pop-up mechanism which supports the PDA and has
two positions: one for portrait and one for landscape.
The keyboard supports most Pocket PCs with
integrated Bluetooth, such as Bluetooth iPAQs, the Dell Axim
X30 wireless models, Euro Dell Axim X3 with Bluetooth, the
ASUS A620BT and Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket
PCs with Socket's CF and SD Bluetooth
cards. In addition, it supports Symbian Series 60 Bluetooth
phones such as the popular Nokia
3650, and the Sony
Ericsson P800 and P900 smartphones.
It does not support Palm OS unfortunately. We tested it with
the Dell Axim X30, Nokia 3650, Nokia
N-Gage QD and the Sony Ericsson
Design and Materials
The keyboard is nearly identical to the Stowaway
IR keyboard. It's attractive, slick and modern looking with
a two-tone aluminum and gray polycarbonate plastic casing.
It feels sturdy and is stable when opened for use with a
PDA. The design and construction is also very similar to
the Stowaway XT model. The bottom surface of the keyboard
has rubber grip strips to prevent it from walking across
the table while you type or tap the screen with your stylus.
The keyboard comes with two AAA batteries which
should be good for many hours of use. When you connect to
the keyboard, the Stowaway app on the PDA will inform you
of battery status (normal, low, critical).
Above, the keyboard open.
Below, closed for transport and storage.
Closed: 5.47”H x 3.82”W
x .67”D (139 mm x 97 mm x 17 mm)
Open: 10.3” x 5.7” x 0.7” (251
mm x 148 mm x 13 mm)
Weight: 5.75 oz. (179 grams)
To use the keyboard, you'll press a well-integrated
release button on the edge of the unit, and flip it open. It's a
two-section design, rather than the accordion 4 section design of
the original Stowaway, and when fully opened, it locks in place.
This means that you can use it on your lap or other uneven surfaces
because it will stay firmly open and flat.
At top center, there's a pull-out, flip-up stand that
supports your PDA for easy viewing. The stand is strong and the keyboard
latch folds back to support the stand. An adjustable thin metal bar
runs along the bottom of the stand and hold the PDA in place.
The keys are notebook sized and have 18mm travel, making
for a comfy typing experience that requires little if any adjustment.
How did they maintain the full notebook sized keys and spacing
while making the keyboard smaller? The number keys are embedded in
the top row of letter keys, and the Pocket PC-specific keys such
as "New", "Close", "Programs", "Word", "Excel" and
etc. do not have dedicated keys. Instead, you'll hit the blue Fn
(function) key just left of the spacebar in conjunction with the
key you need. The number and Pocket PC function keys are masked
in blue. There's also a green Fn key just to the right of the spacebar
and you'll use that for symbols and page up/page down.
Is using function keys for symbols and numbers cumbersome?
Yes, but that's the price you pay for miniaturization. Other than
slow-downs caused by hunting for function keys, I found I could really
fly while typing on the Stowaway. It's as good as better notebook
keyboards. And happily, keys like the spacebar, shift, backspace
and enter are in their normal locations (some PDA keyboards move
these around). The large selection of keys for common functions and
commands means you'll rarely be forced to pull out your stylus.
Installation and Use
Regardless of platform, you'll first want to pair the
keyboard with your PDA or phone. You can use the keyboard without
pairing, but each time the connection is terminated you'll have to
connect anew rather than simply pressing any keyboard key to reconnect.
To put the keyboard in connection mode (necessary only the first
time you connect and pair it with a PDA or phone), you'll simultaneously
press the Ctrl, blue and green Fn keys. Once you do this, a green
LED on the keyboard will pulse, telling you it's ready to pair. You'll
then use the Think Outside software on your PDA or phone to search
for the keyboard and pair with it (remember to turn Bluetooth on
first). Enter a pairing key on the PDA (numbers only), then type
those same numbers on the keyboard and press its enter key. Your
PDA/phone should then tell you that pairing is complete, and you
can then set keyboard preferences in the driver and enable the keyboard.
Think Outside uses a monolithic driver which supports their IR, Bluetooth
and physical connector keyboards. You'll select which kind of keyboard
you have the first time you launch the keyboard application.
The keyboard power savings feature will turn off the
keyboard after 3 minutes of inactivity, when the device goes beyond
maximum range (stated as 10 meters), when the PDA is turned off or
when the keyboard is closed. To reconnect, press any key on the keyboard.
Do not press Ctrl, blue Fn + green Fn again, as this will put the
keyboard back into new pairing mode. Very simple! If you do choose
not to pair the keyboard and device, you will have to put the keyboard
back into new connection mode every time you wish to connect. I suggest
pairing! If you wish to use the keyboard with more than one device,
note that the keyboard can only maintain one pairing connection.
This means if you've paired it with device A and then device B, when
you want to use the keyboard with device A again, you'll need to
Once you've installed the Pocket PC driver and soft
reset your machine, you'll launch the keyboard application to configure
the keyboard. Once you've configured the keyboard, you'll access
the Keyboard application in the program group to change keyboard
settings as needed or you can tap on the input selector in the taskbar
to select the keyboard applications.
The Keyboard application has four tabs: Config, Hot-Key,
BT and About. In the Config section, you can enable and disable the
keyboard, turn on caps lock and num lock notification, set whether
the keyboard shows a Today Screen Icon, set key repeat and delay
and specify the keyboard layout language. The Hot-Key screen allows
you to assign applications to launch using up to ten function keys.
The BT section is where you'll pair with the keyboard and create
a new connection to the keyboard. In addition to the Keyboard application
settings, the Stowaway software adds the keyboard to the list of
input options on the taskbar (where you choose options such as Letter
Recognizer, Transcriber and etc.).
Symbian Series 60 and Sony Ericsson
The SE P800/P900 software works much the same as the
Pocket PC software described above. You'll select which kind of keyboard
you have, enable the keyboard, pair and set preferences and hot-keys
as you wish. The Symbian Series 60 keyboard app is understandably
a bit more slimmed down. You can pair and enable the keyboard, set
Bluetooth timeout and enable security (pairing) and assign on of
10 Fn keys to any application installed on your phone. It cannot
launch built-in apps such as Messaging or Web, but can launch apps
An excellent keyboard that's easy to type with yet
is light and very compact when folded. Excellent! Bluetooth pairing
is trouble-free and the connection is excellent with no lag or dropped
letters. It may cost more than the IR Stowaway, but you have the
freedom to place the PDA or phone where you wish and in any orientation.
If only there were Palm OS drivers.