Screen overlay attempts to create tactile keyboard for Apple iPhone

4iconcepts' 4iThumbs iPhone 4 keyboard overlay
4iconcepts' 4iThumbs iPhone 4 keyboard overlay
“Hoping to appeal to those who like their iPhones but don’t like typing on them, the 4iThumbs2, from 4iConcepts, places a thin plastic film above the keyboard; ridges on the screen define the area of each virtual key,” Eric A. Taub reports for The New York Times. “The ridges fall between each key, not on top of them. When typing, the ridges help guide your finger into the correct location, rather than slip off to the left or right, which might otherwise result in a word like hello turning into hellp.”

Taub reports, “The overlay is held in place by its own iPhone bumper, similar to the ones supplied by Apple; the overlay and bumper together cost $29.95 at the company’s Web site. You slip the overlay into the bumper frame; when you don’t need it, for example while playing a video game, you slip it out and put it in the frame facing the back of the phone.”

“Unfortunately, the overlay didn’t stay flat on the phone; instead, it buckled up a bit in the center, which meant that each time you pressed a key, the overlay first got pressed against the phone’s screen, adding an unpleasant feel to the underlying hardware. It’s as if the plastic tint on your car’s window no longer adhered tightly to the glass,” Taub reports. “The company says the lack of flatness has mostly been solved in the actual production units, but ‘you will still have some raise on the panel,’ said Gerald Rosengarten, the company’s director.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Kludge for BlackBerry refugees. People who “don’t like typing on iPhones” have rarely or never typed on iPhones or have not yet allowed themselves to let the iPhone do it’s job. Trust the iPhone, don’t fight it. Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

A hardware keyboard is a significant selling point for only one group of customers: those who already own a phone with a hardware keyboard, and that group is a niche. A nice niche, but a niche nonetheless… I type far better on my iPhone than I expected I’d be able to, and that seems to be true for everyone I know who owns one. The only people who struggle with the iPhone keyboard are those who are already accustomed to a hardware smartphone keyboard.John Gruber, June 5, 2009

Related articles:
Antiquate your iPhone – and cover half the screen – with plastic-buttoned slide-on keyboard – September 17, 2009
iPhone typist hits 56 WPM (with video) – February 10, 2010


  1. Actually something like this could be useful for the iPad, much more than the iPhone. I want to touch-type on the iPad, but I can’t since I have no tactile feedback of where my fingers are when I’m typing. Add an overlay like this and I might just be able to ditch the keyboard I keep dragging out when I want to type something longer.

    1. “I have no tactile feedback of where my fingers are when I’m typing.”

      What do you get if you had the tactile feedback? A sense of location?

      Please note these on-screen keyboards or software keyboards are not the usual 1960’s typewriter you are used to; please change your mental model first and try again. Yes you can.

      1. I was shocked how well I can type on the ipad touch style. it’s just a tad thinner than a normal keyboard. But truthfully the location is more important than the feel. Typing is all about muscle memory, so having a feeling of a keyboard might seem to help, but in reality you just need to type more on the iPad then your hands get use to the size and you can type with out looking. Soon you will be typing like Data on Star Trek lol

      2. let the iPad do it’s job. Most of the time, when you miss a key, the rest of the word is close enough for autocorrect to figure it out. The biggest mistake touchscreen users make is trying to type perfectly on it.

        1. Does anyone have any tips for getting the iPhone’s autocorrect feature to work better? On my iPhone, autocorrect generally doesn’t work at all or displays totally inappropriate results.

    2. the app “taptyping” helped my iPad touch typing a LOT. You can start with the free version, but the real teaching happens in the paid version which is totally worth the $5. Think of the typing lessons as a game. In a few days I got a lot, lot, LOT better at touch-typing in the iPad.

  2. Physical keyboard have their place – Some sort of tactile feedback would be great for vision-impaired users (not blind, but low-vision users), as it would allow them to locate their fingers quickly on the keys, and there are more than enough of those types of users to make this profitable.

  3. Re: snarky comments by MDN

    There actually are people who own iPhones who do NOT type on them regularly. Yes – not every iPhone user is teenage text addict. For those who do not type often enough to become really comfortable with the keyboard, something like this would be pretty useful.

    That said – $30 for a little piece of plastic is another case of iRobbery.

  4. Hey, I totally love my iPhone tactile feedback keyboard….. It works super …

    Its called Apple’s wireless keyboard. Use it for my laptop (with an external 24″ screen) and now with my iPhone.

    Just a thought

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