While the iPad’s on-screen keyboard works pretty well for a virtual keyboard, it’s not ideal for everyone. Enter Keyboard Upgrader, an app by G.P. Imports that promises a modifiable virtual keyboard so you can split, re-size, and re-position the keyboard any way you want to optimize your iPad typing experience. For $.99, this doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all, does it? Unfortunately, we found that while the concept of Keyboard Upgrade is a good one, it fails in execution in many, many ways.
When you open the app, you’re presented with a blank screen and a smaller version of the iPad’s virtual keyboard at the bottom. Tapping on and dragging the keyboard reveals that it’s actually cut in half and you can drag, re-size, and re-position these halves as you see fit. Unfortunately, every time you touch a virtual key as you re-size and move these halves around, a character registers in the text entry area above. So, once you get the keyboard pieces the way you want them, you need to tap on the Erase button at the top to clear the screen. This app definitely needs a “position keyboard” mode that ignores entry so you don’t need to do this.
If you’ve found the perfect position for the keyboard halves that you always want to use, you can’t save it, unfortunately. You need to re-position the keyboard every single time you open the app since it doesn’t save your keyboard’s position when you leave the app.
As touch typists intimately familiar with physical keyboards, the iPad’s virtual keyboard slows us down since it clearly offers no tactile feedback, but it’s not that bad since we pretty much already know where everything is from years of practice with regular keyboards. To help make up for the lack of tactile feedback, the iPad’s iPhone OS incorporates a feature that tries to guess what you’re typing intelligently even when you’re not hitting the intended keys dead on. Also, it offers word completion and spelling corrections as needed. The keyboard in Keyboard Upgrade does not offer these features at all. No spelling correction, no guessing. Nothing. We found typing on it after using the iPad’s regular keyboard in other apps to be an exercise in frustration without these key iPhone OS features.
Also, the keyboard is a little glitchy. The portion of the space bar on the right half of the keyboard appears to register touches by lighting up a little where your finger makes contact with it, but it doesn’t enter a space and only the portion of the space bar on the left side works. This is very inconvenient, particularly for typists taught to hit the space bar with your right thumb. And you know that handy feature in the iPhone OS that enters a period and capitalizes the next letter you type when you hit the space bar twice? Well, that doesn’t work in Keyboard Upgrade either.
If you want to delete an entire sentence in another app using the iPad’s regular keyboard, you just need to keep pressing the delete key and it will keep deleting until you let go. Not so in Keyboard Upgrade – it deletes one letter with every touch and maintaining pressure on the key does absolutely nothing more, requiring numerous taps to delete large sections of text.
Want to go back and edit something you typed earlier? Well, you can’t do that either. The app does not support the ability to tap on a section of text to re-position the “cursor” and it does not support the native copy and paste function. To copy and paste what you’ve typed, you need to use the Copy button at the top and then paste it later into the other app where you want to place that text.
We’re not done yet. Tapping on the shift button just once enables Caps Lock. This almost makes us thinks that the developers of this app like to yell virtually quite a lot.
If you happen to leave the app before using the Copy or Email buttons to make use of the text you just typed in another app and then go back to the app later to pick up where you left off, you can’t. Text entered is not saved on exit.
That’s a long list of flaws and we were frankly surprised by how painful this app is to use. Again, we think the concept of this app is interesting and it could be quite useful to a lot of people who need a little more customization for text entry over the iPad’s standard keyboard. But Keyboard Upgrade has so many problems that we can’t justify the $.99 to buy it or even see how it could be useful over the iPad’s standard keyboard for most users. In fact, it makes entering text even harder and the last thing we want to do is pay money to someone else to make that happen. We can only hope the developer makes a lot of changes to improve this app in future updates.