Someone with a formidable knowledge of iPhone hardware has managed to attach a working external keyboard to his 3G iPhone. For those inclined, there are some technical explanations here and here, though the translation renders them difficult to understand.
It would appear that at present this is primarily a proof of concept, and doesn’t perform any real functionality. It’s achieved by using a piece of Ruby code running on the iPhone which allows it to connect to a Palm keyboard through a custom cable. It doesn’t integrate with the iPhone on a low level, and isn’t able to be used in any applications other than the Ruby app it interfaces to.
Here are a few pictures of the device in action, and the electronics connecting it all together:
While this is still a very long way from having a real, functional external keyboard, it does create debate over the demand for an accessory such as this. I’ve mentioned before that I think an external keyboard could contribute significantly to the iPhone being a viable laptop replacement.
Unfortunately, to see support for something like this throughout the iPhone software, it will require Apple to be on-board with the idea and happy to allow an interface such as this to be built. I don’t foresee this as being a likely situation in the near future simply because it could be seen as a sign that Apple is recognizing the software keyboard on the iPhone isn’t good enough.
What are your thoughts? Would you use an external keyboard?