There is a growing amount of keyboard case hybrids surfacing to enable iPhone 4 users the full enjoyment of how it really feels to type on an actual real keyboard rather than on that tactile-less virtual on-screen keyboard. With a few attempts worth mentioning like Nuu's MiniKey and BoxWave's infamous Keyboard Buddy, there hasn't been a keyboard case that matched the iPhone 4's slim good looks. iNature wanted to change all of that with its Kiano 4 and rightfully so. Although it isn't quite The One, the Kiano 4 really wants to find a place in your pants and it will literally do anything to get in there. We mean it. Is it worthy enough? Find out after the jump!
Before we get into talking about the Kiano 4, let's take a look at what you get in the box. Included are a micro-USB charging cable, an odd pointy plastic pick that is intended to help you remove your iPhone 4 from within the Kiano 4 case as well as to power on the Kiano 4. More on that later on. iNature was generous enough to include a very useful Y-shaped USB mini hub of sorts that adds 2 USB inputs without taking up what might be your last USB port when charging up the Kiano 4. As it turns out though, you won't be able to sync your iPhone 4 or any other iDevice for that matter if you use this USB adapter hub unfortunately. Not very useful after all.
The Kiano 4 will set you back a whopping $99 making it the most expensive keyboard case for the iPhone 4 we've ever seen. Comparing the Kiano 4 against the MiniKey we reviewed not too long ago, shows a major different in both appearance and functionality. The Kiano 4 uses more expensive materials and instead of entirely consisting of plastic, the entire back side is made from a glass-like material while the keyboard tray is surrounded by a metal frame for extra sturdiness giving off a very elegant and shiny look that closely resembles that of the iPhone 4. If I had to pick between the Kiano 4 and the MiniKey based on overall looks, I would have to go with the Kiano 4 without a doubt. A much less bulky overall form factor is also a more attractive point.
Putting aside the solid build quality, the Kiano 4 most prides itself with its super slim slide out keyboard that sports an insane thickness of only 3.5mm. That's how thick your headphone's bare 3.5mm audio plug. Most impressive to say the least and possibly the sleekest looking slide-out keyboard to ever be fitted into a case. As you can see, the Kiano 4 comes in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla never looked this good. Well at least that's until you open up that Haagen-Dazs. Enough silly talk, how about some keyboardness performance.
Right off the bat, the keys feel pretty much ridiculous to type on. Tiny isn't enough to describe them. The entire keyboard feels like a cheap sticker-style keyboard you really wouldn't expect at the $99 price range. Remember when I said this little keyboard case will do anything so that you bring it home without and carry it in your pants pocket? Yeah it was something like that, I think. Well, it looks like iNature really had to sacrifice a whole lot in order to cramp a QWERTY keyboard complete with a dedicated row of numbers into a slim case such as the Kiano 4. Not only that, but iNature didn't even bother including a normal on/off button and instead there's this tiny socket board switch you need to use the supplied plastic pick to power the unit on or off.
Oddly enough, I haven't really had any trouble typing on the Kiano 4's keyboard and while the keys felt cheap and "stickery", I never made a mistake or missed a key. Though I can see people with chubby thumbs having a hard time especially with the even smaller row of number keys at the top which are even harder to reach. I would have liked to see the keyboard unlock the iPhone 4 while sliding out like on the MiniKey, however pressing any key will unlock it. Of course one of the big advantages of using a Bluetooth keyboard such as this one is that it opens up more screen real estate for you to type on and visually see more of what you're typing, and you can always call back the on-screen virtual keyboard with the dedicated hot key amongst a few others.
And that's not all. Battery life is downright terrible. After I put both of the Kiano 4s iNature has sent us over, I noticed a both lifeless after only a day of light use. You'll see yourself having to charge both your iPhone 4 and the Kiano 4 separately each day which is very inconvenient.
Sadly, the list of bad goes further down. I never felt this uncomfortable to hold my iPhone 4 until I started using the Kiano 4. Holding this keyboard case feels like holding a rough blocky brick. The entire metal frame of the keyboard tray digs into your skin making you wish you've never dropped $100 on it. Maybe high quality materials that look nice isn't enough to make a comfortable case to hold. Nuu did an amazing job with the MiniKey for example. Holding the MiniKey feels like touching Kim Kardashian's rounded bottom. Not that I personally know, but you get the idea. Typing on the Kiano 4 seems really awkward and again, not comfortable. With that being said, it looks very good. Even while the this is such a slim keyboard, it doesn't feel flimsy at all and actually quite solid until you touch the keys that is.
If that wasn't enough, how about some backlit capabilities? Yes, such a slim keyboard packs an impressive backlit keys which are very visible and make it clear to read each key in dark conditions. I did notice that on the black keyboard the keys are more precisely lit while on the white keyboard the keys have a strong light bleeding issue.
Having a simple back snap-on style design, the Kiano 4 will offer the most minimal of protection for your iPhone 4 like any other similar keyboard case. Don't expect any front screen protection as well. Cutouts on the other side are all perfect and allow for an easy access to all ports and buttons and even allow for most third party accessories.
In conclusion, this shouldn't be on your list of your next keyboard case to get. The Kiano 4 looks better than most of its kind, but unfortunately falls horribly short of practicality consider other similar offerings at much more fitting price tags. It's a big shame because I really wanted to have the Kiano 4 as my daily keyboard case. I would rather stick to the good old virtual keyboard for now. Hopefully iNature delivers its best performing keyboard case for the next gen iPhone.