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October 21, 2013

The One2Touch Softpad S1 NFC keyboard

If you have ever tried to do any real work on a touch screen device, you know how frustrating text entry can be. Having a mini-computer in your pocket is mighty convenient, and applications to edit things like presentations and documents are good enough for limited use on Android, but the limiting factor, for me at least, is trying to type on a piece of glass.

I wouldn't recommend any Android device for a dedicated office computer, but for traveling and those unexpected times where you need to get something done, the One2Touch Softpad NFC keyboard is a really interesting gadget.

It's compact enough to just toss into any travel bag or briefcase when folded and secured with the included silicone band. When unfolded, your Android device rests between the split working areas, and because it works in portrait or landscape there's enough room for a long list of devices. Once in place and connected, it acts like a keyboard is supposed to act. All typing and text — including symbols, numbers and dedicated Android functions like search and home — work as advertised, and while the split keyboard will take some getting used to, it's easier and far more functional that trying to peck out things with an on-screen keyboard.

Setting up the Softpad is nice and easy. You'll need an Android device that has NFC, of course, and access to Google Play. Make sure the batteries in the keyboard are correctly inserted and aligned properly, and NFC is on and enabled on your Android device, then touch the two NFC hotspots together.

You're directed to Google Play to install the correct software, which includes a simple routine to get things enabled and ready to go. All you have to do is tell the system that you allow the software to act as a keyboard, then choose it as a default input option. You're walked through the entire procedure, so there's no guessing involved and no need to jump back and forth between a browser window to follow complicated directions. It just works.

Once properly "paired" and set up, simply placing your Android in position turns things on and you're instantly connected to the Softpad for quick and easy use.

For most of us, most of the time, this is something we would hardly ever use. I admit it. But I can envision a tired traveler, forced to work on something in Google Docs from his or her hotel room, using the Softpad S1 in conjunction with HDMI out to a television.  

This isn't going to make you want to throw your laptop away, but for some people an instant pairing, low-power solution for better typing is well worth the $99 price tag. You can pick one up at Brookstone if you're interested.