Windows Mobile has supported Bluetooth keyboards for ages now, and Windows Mobile 5 introduced a standard Bluetooth HID profile, making it easier than ever to connect.
With Windows Mobile devices moving ever further from built-in keyboards the gadget has however become increasingly desirable. We have been given the opportunity to try the Freedom Pro Bluetooth keyboard with our HTC HD2, and are using this opportunity to report on our experience.
The Freedom Pro keyboard is powered by 2 AAA batteries (included) and also ships with a nice leather slipcase which appears rather sturdy. Unfortunately even when folded and stored in the case the combination is pretty large, certainly not trouser pocketable, but would fit in a large coat pocket or purse.
The keyboard, as can be seen from the picture above, is a full 5 row keyboard with clicky, responsive keys, and the keyboard appears to be about 90% size. Non-touch typers may however be annoyed by the split spacebar, which is really the only factor which gives away the split keyboard when lying on a flat surface. Another annoyance is the non-standard position of the delete key, which moves to the lower left rather than top right of the keyboard.
Included in a small hidden slot is a pretty nice stand, which will keep an HTC HD2 steady in both portrait and landscape mode, which given the HTC HD2â€™s aversion to landscape mode is a useful ability.
The keyboard has a more than generous collection of special function keys, such as to launch the web browser or e-mail. It even has keys to start and end a telephone call.
Unfortunately the problems start when this keyboard is paired with a HTC HD2. Due to using the Broadcom Bluetooth stack the drivers (which can be installed over the air directly to the device) do not work, meaning while the device pairs easily using the HID profile, most of the special keys do not do anything.
That is unfortunately not the end of the problems with the keyboard. The latch which keeps the keyboard stably unfolded is unfortunately itself not stable, and the whole device still flaps when unsupported.
The biggest issue however is with the HTC HD2 and Windows Mobile 6.5. The OS has been redesigned to primarily support touch, meaning in normal use, even with the keyboard, one ends up needing to constantly touch the screen to select menu its and so forth, an issue accentuated by the inability to install the drivers.
The keyboard paired easily with my laptop and PS3, and in fact now find main duty in the PS3 where its about 1000% better than using the controller to enter text in Playstation Home.
In the pro column, battery life is great (up to 60 hours of use), pairing is very easy to initiate, and the connection never dropped. The device however appears able to only maintain one pairing at a time, so users can forget easily sharing it between a number of devices without constantly having to re-pair.
They Freedom Pro Bluetooth keyboard is a good device, but its size, lack of great OS support and difficulty with drivers on modern HTC devices unfortunately does not make it suitable for regular use with the HTC HD2. A smaller keyboard that confines itself to only the actual supported keys (basically no function keys of any kind) would be a better buy.