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Review (In GIFs!): Microsoft's Totally Bendy New Keyboard

It's one of the most portable physical keyboards we've seen.

Tyler Pina for Re/code

I have an irrational fear of being away from a physical keyboard for any extended period of time, due to the facts that, 1) I work in the news business, and 2) I’m a sucky touchscreen typist.

Sure, I can tap out an entire story or lengthy email on a touchscreen if I need to, but I really prefer tactile keys.

Enter Microsoft’s new Universal Foldable Keyboard ($99.95), which might just be ideal for the short-business-trip/weekend-getaway scenario. It’s a lightweight, foldable Bluetooth keyboard (did I mention that it’s foldable?) that works with a variety of devices and can easily be stuffed in a bag or even your back pocket.

I’ve been using the keyboard on and off for the past week, and it’s pretty nifty. My use of it has been intermittent mainly because it doesn’t work well with all computing devices, despite its “universal” moniker.

Here’s a series of GIFs that show you how it works:

Tyler Pina for Re/code

It folds, as promised. It folds forward and backward. Closing it powers it off, and lets the world know you’re using a Microsoft keyboard, while folding it backward makes it look like you are carrying around half a keyboard.

When extended, the foldable keyboard measures 11.6 inches by 4.9 inches. It’s less than half an inch thin.

So it’s bendier than a yoga instructor, and also thinner.

Tyler Pina for Re/code

Essentially, this feels like Microsoft’s flat Type Cover keyboard for Surface, reduced in size, minus the touchpad and with a seam down the middle. (It also costs about $30 less than the TypePad keyboard.)

Some of the standard top-row keys are missing, to accommodate the Bluetooth/OS-switching keys. But I don’t feel like my hands are cramped when I’m using it, which is often the case with ultrathin portable keyboards.

I don’t think I would use this as my everyday keyboard, but still, it’s nicely designed.

Tyler Pina for Re/code

It works with Windows tablets and Windows Phone smartphones. It also works with iPhone, iPad and Android devices. But it mostly works with newer OSes and requires Bluetooth 4.0. It’s not full compatible with Mac computers.

To pair with devices, you press down on one of two Bluetooth keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard, then toggle between OSes like I’m doing above.

Right now, as I type this into WordPress on Microsoft Surface 3 using the foldable keyboard, the Surface’s touchscreen keyboard is still popping up on screen, an annoyance that doesn’t happen when I use it with my iPad.

The Verge reviewer Lauren Goode spills water on her mobile device, wipes it off and holds it up. Tyler Pina for Recode

The foldable keyboard also is spill-resistant, which is great for people who spill stuff, like me, or for people who throw their tech accessories into a giant Mary Poppins-like handbag of who-knows-what’s-in-there, which I also do.

Naturally, you might be wondering about battery life. The keyboard has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to three months.

Tyler Pina for Re/code

Microsoft’s foldable keyboard is not the only super-compact solution. There are folding keyboards that roll up like a window shade, and gadgets that project a virtual keyboard from a tiny box onto any flat surface. A company called WayTools has been working on a completely collapsible magnetic keyboard called the TextBlade that’s “similar in size to a couple packs of gum.” (Unfortunately, there have been production delays.)

And if you’re just looking for lightweight portability, and not foldability, there are dozens of keyboard options out there.

But Microsoft’s foldable keyboard is well made and feels like an actual keyboard. Plus, it really does fit in your pocket. Or Tyler’s pocket, at least.

Sweet Microsoft wallet, Tyler.

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