Ever strolled casually onto a plane with just a fanny pack or purse, instead of a bulging backpack that accidentally whacks business-class passengers in the face as you trek toward your distant coach seat? This is the pleasure of traveling minus a laptop, and I discovered it this past summer when I left mine at home on a trip to Greece and instead packed a slim folding smartphone keyboard.
I came across the nifty Geyes Folding Keyboard after purchasing cheap flights to Athens with a single-item carry-on limit. Unfortunately, I’m the kind of person who goes on vacation under the tragic pretense that they’re at any moment going to finally “do some writing,” and having QWERTY capabilities feels essential to me and my delusions. When packing an entire MacBook became out of the question, I needed a more streamlined alternative.
About two-thirds the size of a standard keyboard, the Geyes connects to your phone via Bluetooth. It has a kickstand that allows you to prop up your smartphone horizontally and use it as a small screen, a setup that reminds me of an old-school spy gadget. The aesthetic is decidedly non-Apple, with plasticky black keys like a ’00s Dell. Weighing just seven ounces, it folds up into a slim nondescript rectangle that can easily slide into a tote bag or between packing cubes.
Portability is its primary feature, but I also actively enjoy typing on this thing. While far fancier and pricier smartphone keyboards exist (this one’s only $34), many of them lack compressible keys. I love to feel that satisfying click-clack when I type, and this keyboard is plenty responsive, especially once your hands have adjusted to its reduced size — for me, this took an hour or so of use. On the higher-tech end of things, the keyboard’s Bluetooth function is intuitive, and actually far less capricious than the connectivity on my expensive headphones. Battery life lasts weeks on end, and 100 days on standby, meaning you don’t even have to pack a charging cable on most trips. (A word of caution: This system isn’t functional enough for fully fledged digital nomads who need to accomplish complex tasks on a daily basis. Smartphones are pretty smart these days, but they’re still phones.)
A smartphone keyboard has applications beyond travel. I also use mine as an anti-procrastination tool at home — you can’t check Instagram if you’re using your phone to type up a Google document. Nor can you start idly browsing the web while writing on one of these, as you might when using a laptop. On vacation, though, it can be truly liberating. In the age of remote work, it’s nice to take a break from big screens when you can. You’ll never get queried by the TSA when carrying one of these, either. As everyone else grumpily and shoelessly extracts their laptops and repacks them on the other side of the X-ray machine, you’re already headed to the gate, with spare time to hit up the airport bar.
My $34 smartphone keyboard
A full-size keyboard for larger hands
A non-clicky-clacky keyboard for quiet typing
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