How setting up iOS devices with a wired USB keyboard is way more efficient for me

When I bought my first iPhone, an iPhone 3GS the first text message I tried to send got a response from a friend saying they couldn’t read it because of so many mistakes in it. It took me 3 weeks before I could type anything mostly legible. I have never liked or been fast at it.

The only time i ever considered jail breaking an iPhone was when I heard you could use Bluetooth keyboards with them; but then my friend Eric asked me to wait, he said I would probably like what was coming out soon. Bluetooth keyboards were usable in iOS 4 beta, when public betas were not yet available, so I joined the developer program to get that feature. That was twelve years ago, and I still always use a Bluetooth keyboard with my iOS devices, and carry one with me in public. Now, the only time i have to type on the touch screen is when I setup a new iOS device, or reset-up an old one, that still annoys me . I’m so slow typing on touch screens that it can take me up to 10 minutes just to type in an email address or password, it usually involves several attempts. When I bought my new iPhone SE 3 earlier this month, I was reminded of this and mentioned it to an Apple Genius when I was at the Apple store. He suggested buying a USB 3 iOS camera adaptor (with power), and my slow experiences of setting up iOS devices came to an end.

The iOS camera adaptor

There are two current versions of the iOS Camera adaptor, the only one we should care about is the USB 3 camera adaptor which includes a USB C port only for power. Without additional power the adaptor will only provide about 100 MA which won’t be able to power a keyboard. The adaptor with power is $10 more at $40, but totally worth it to me. The adaptor with the USB C port for power can provide up to about 500 MA, so you can attach portable SSDs, flash drives, SD card readers, and cameras to your phone with it. Spinning hard-drives require more power and will not work by default. If one plugs any version of the camera adaptor into a powered USB hub, however, and then plugs the spinning hard-drive or any other power-hungry devices into the hub, an iPhone should be able to communicate through the hub with no problems.

preliminary thoughts

I had just gotten my new phone working the way I wanted, so for the test I used my iPad 5th generation that came out in 2017, along with an old Apple USB keyboard that probably was new twenty years ago. I powered the camera adaptor with a USB battery pack, though any USB AC power brick would also work as long as it provided more than 500 MA.

One thing I noticed before erasing the iPad was if I plugged the keyboard in while the iPad was locked, it wouldn’t let me type in the passcode. If I plugged in the keyboard while the iPad was unlocked, then locked it, the iPad would accept the passcode from the wired keyboard when unlocking. This may mean that the keyboard must be plugged in before turning on the iOS device to set it up.

Finally setting up the device

After the iPad was all erased and the keyboard was plugged in through the camera adaptor it came up on the language screen, and once I triple clicked the home button to get VoiceOver talking, in went as smooth as I was hoping for. Typing in email addresses and passwords was a breeze, and I could use all the VO navigational keyboard commands too. The longest stage was initializing the touch ID because of human (my) error. I was very happy with how it went.

The camera adaptor is about 6 inches long with a small hard plastic box on one end. Very portable and easy to grab when I know setting up a new device will be happening. I almost always carry a USB battery with me so that wouldn’t ever be a problem. This hack has made setting up iOS devices many times easier for me, so I wanted to share my experience, hoping to improve experiences of others out there s well.

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