Hands On with Ryan Seacrest’s BlackBerry-like iPhone Keyboard

So this is what it's like when worlds collide.

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Doug Aamoth / TIME

This is the Typo, a $99 iPhone case with a very BlackBerry-like keyboard. I had the pleasure of monkeying around with it for a few minutes today at the annual Vegas gadget show, CES.

For starters, if you’re a former BlackBerry user who’s defected to the iPhone but find yourself missing your tried-and-true BlackBerry keyboard like high school sweethearts miss each other while away at separate family camps during the summer, this thing is going to be as close as you can get to the good old days.

In fact, the keyboard case – co-backed by none other than Ryan Seacrest himself – is so BlackBerry-like that BlackBerry is suing Typo. Legend has it that Seacrest and friends were fed up with carrying two phones around all the time (“one for typing and correspondence and an iPhone for virtually everything else,” reads the backstory on Typo’s site) and decided to do something about it. Ergo: a BlackBerry keyboard for their iPhones.

The keyboard’s keys look and feel very much like the keys on a BlackBerry keyboard, although the actual typing experience is a bit spongier with the Typo. And keep in mind that the iPhone is noticeably narrower than something like the BlackBerry Bold. Because of that, I found the keys to be positively tiny and the whole experience didn’t feel nearly as solid or satisfactory as using an actual BlackBerry device, but I have pretty big hands and I don’t care for the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard either. After a few oopsies and backspaces, the keys became somewhat easier to strike correctly, but I’m not sure I could see myself using the Typo on a regular basis.

The case covers up the Home button of the iPhone, but the lower-right-most key acts as a Home button so you don’t lose any basic functionality. However if you’re an iPhone 5s owner who uses the fingerprint sensor, you’ll be giving up that feature while you use the Typo.

As for battery life, the case is apparently good for at least a week on a charge and connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth. And the whole getup doesn’t add an obnoxious amount of thickness and bulk to your iPhone, so leaving the case on at all times and moving your phone in and out of your pocket all day shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Although it’s not perfect, the Typo will almost certainly be welcomed with open arms by BlackBerry refugees. If you still have a BlackBerry and are thinking of switching, however, this item might not completely overcome your apprehension about giving up the physical keyboard. For everyone else, the $99 price tag puts it toward the higher end of keyboard cases, but there’s not a whole lot of competition out there right now. And Typo will need to navigate its way through an impending legal gauntlet in order to be able to sell this thing, of course. For what it’s worth, when asked about the lawsuit, a company spokesperson simply said, “We’re not worried about it.”

The Typo is up for preorder now and will begin shipping in February (the site says January, but I was told February, so maybe plan on that just to be on the safe side) barring any legal setbacks.

Typo iPhone Keyboard Case [TypoKeyboards.com]

MORE: Check out TIME Tech’s complete CES coverage