Every year at CES there are some gadgets that are simply cool, others that are useful, and many that expand on what worked last year, but every so often a new gadget shows up that makes you wonder just what exactly the designers were thinking.
The TrewGrip is one such gadget. This is a 2 to 3 pound smartphone/tablet accessory which adds an oddly placed split querty keyboard not on the front but the backside of the device.
This device is kinda like a souped up version of the Gamevice controller that Wikipad is now showing off, only instead of helping you play games it wants to help you type more emails.
If you're frustrated by typing on a smartphone screen and are willing to put up with arm strain and a lot of funny looks, then this is the gadget for you. It connects to any Android or iOS device via Bluetooth and sports a 10 plus hour battery life (which means that your arms will start cramping long before the battery runs out). It's due out in the last quarter of 2014 with an expected retail of $250 to $350.
I came across the TrewGrip at CES Unveiled Sunday night, and I got a chance to look at and play with the demo units. The final model might look a little different because the design is going to go through at least one iteration before hitting the market, but I think I have a pretty good idea what and how it will work. There's the split keyboard on the back, a handful of keys on the front (thumb accessible), and the front of the Trewgrip also sports little indicator lights that tell you which key is being pressed.
The developers are promising that once you've learned how to use it (this can take 8 to 10 hours), the TrewGrip will add 15 words a minute to your typing speed.
Frankly, I don't understand why the average consumer would want to buy it, and I am probably not the only one to be in the dark on that point. TrewGrip initially tried to fund development via a Kickstarter project, but they were unable to raise more than $23k of the $100,000 they wanted.
If you wanted to look at that as market survey then arguably it says that there isn't much of a market. And the fact that the Kickstarter project for a similar device, the Grippity tablet, is falling short of its funding goals only reinforces that idea.
Sure, there will be a few uses (like on-the-go data entry for conference registrations), but can you picture the average tech geek whipping this out of their bag and walking down the street with it? I can't. TBF, I could see this having more success in the exercise market than in the general gadget market; it would be a great way to build upper arm strength.
This type of reverse keyboard product has been tried before, and Microsoft even funded a research project in 2010 which looked into the idea, but so far as I know none of the models have ever gone to market. But it looks like the TrewGrip could be the exception, so if you want one I would start checking the tech blogs sometime in September.