Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mobee's Magic Numpad fills the numeric keypad void (Review)

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
By Jason D. O'Grady | November 3, 2011, 9:00am PDT

Summary: Mobee’s Magic Numpad is a cling that attaches to Apple’s Magic Trackpad and turns it into a customizable numeric keyboard. Now that’s ingenuity.

Being someone that types for a living, I’m critical of keyboards. Like most people, once I get accustomed to a keyboard, I want it to stay the same forever.

When the newfangled aluminum iMac keyboard morphed into the MacBook keyboard in 2007 I was forced to adopt it because a MacBook was my primary computer. The first few months were awful and I hated the flat-top, low-throw keys calling Apple’s chiclet keyboard atrocious. But, after a while I came around and eventually switched all my external keyboards to the new design. I love the consistency when switching between MacBook and external keyboards.

As I noted at the time, the key layout of the Apple Wireless Keyboard is an exact lift of the keyboard layout from the MacBook — right down to the function key in the lower left. While I complained at the time that Apple was merely trying to maximize profits by using the exact component that ships in the MacBooks in their wireless keyboard, I now look at this as a positive, rather than a negative. I now love that the Apple Wireless Keyboard is an “exact lift” of the MacBook keyboard design.

One of the complaints from my 2007 review of the new Apple keyboard that still stands is about Apple’s lack of an extended wireless keyboard.

I can’t believe that Apple dropped the numeric keypad and the arrow keys from the new stumpy wireless keyboard. What’s up with that? They’re on the USB version. I can understand making a smallish wireless keyboard for travel (and home entertainment systems) but they should also make a full size wireless keyboard to replace the previously shipping model. Apple claims that it’s a “third party opportunity.”

A brief history is probably in order.

The Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (Model A1243, below) was introduced in 2007 with 109 keys in an extended solid aluminum enclosure. It connects via USB and comes with a full numeric keypad, arrow keys and function, delete, home and end keys.


Early 2009 iMacs shipped with a new shorter version of the wired keyboard (Model A1242, below) which omitted the numeric keypad and extra keys but still used USB.


The Apple Wireless Keyboard (Model A1255) was launched in 2007 alongside the Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (Model A1243, top). It received a minor update in late 2009 (Model A1314) switching to two AA batteries (instead of three) and moving the Bluetooth window to the center of the keyboard’s bottom.

Apple's Model A1314 wireless keyboard

Keyboards are very personal items, and people have lots of opinions about them. If you’re into such things, you need to read the wonderful history of Apple keyboards on Wikipedia.

It perplexes me to this day why Apple won’t make a wireless keyboard with a numerical keypad. It’s undoubtedly the victim of some boardroom cost/benefit analysis (like the way Steve axed Apple’s printer division when he came back to Apple), but I can’t help to think that Apple’s leaving money on the table. But as I noted in 2007, Apple has made it a third-party opportunity.

The folks at Mobee Technology were quick to fill the void with the Magic Numpad ($29.90) a unique cling that attaches to Apple’s Magic Trackpad ($69) combined with a custom OS X application that maps areas of the Magic Trackpad to certain keys.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to replace a real numeric keypad for hardcore number geeks (I’m talking to you, CPA’s!) but it’s more than serviceable and actually works better than I expected. Pictured above is the NUM20 cling, the closest facsimile to the Apple extended keyboard, Mobee also includes two other clings (for a total of three) in the package.

The software works well and makes it easy to switch between trackpad and numpad mode, but one of my favorite features (after the customizable keys) is Calculator Mode which calls up the OS X calculator and allows you to rip away. If you miss the numeric keypad on your wireless keyboard the Magic Numpad is definitely worth a look.

Update: Obligatory YouTube demo video:

Jason O'Grady+ is a journalist and author specializing in mobile technology. He has published six books on Apple and mobile gadgets and his PowerPage blog has been publishing for over 15 years.

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