I am writing this article because I’ve been asked several times now about this. Not that I don’t want to answer all your questions, but it makes sense to write about it if a considerable amount of people are interested in this feature. Hopefully someone at Microsoft will pick up on the users expecting this feature to become available and adding it to a future Windows Phone update.
I have a spare ThinkOutside Bluetooth keyboard (the intellectual property moved from company to company, it used to be called Targus ThinkOutside, ThinkOutside, iGo ThinkOutside and now Thanko), other friends and acquaintances that also have their WP7 phones have different kinds of Bluetooth keyboards as well… all those keyboards are different sizes but are all intended to be used along with a mobile devices.
Now, WP7 phones come in different sizes and with and/or without physical keyboards, but none of course with a comfortable enough keyboard to be used for extended periods of time. Phones are obviously not intended for this much use at once, but every now and then I am away from my laptop and want to type a few ideas into OneNote or a blog article draft, etc… What WP7 phones do not have (yet) is a Bluetooth profile for keyboards. This profile would enable virtually any Bluetooth keyboard to be used with the phone to type!
Your Windows Phone 7 supports several different profiles, all useful, but ultimately not enough for making everyone happy. Here is a list of what is currently supported:
- Hands Free Profile for hands free operation of your phone. Specifically to place calls and make calls.
- Headset Profile for place and making calls and listening to audio. This profile is supported by phones and other devices such as computers, PDAs, etc.
- Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) for streaming audio from a music player to headphones or speakers. This is an audio streaming only profile.
- Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) for remote controlling a device such as music player, computer using multimedia software DVR, video tuner, amplifier, etc or for being remote controlled by the connecting device.
- Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP) for allowing other devices access the phone book to use the information to be displayed on an external screen. For example when your car’s stereo shows a call from John Doe, it is actually accessing your phone book to get the name matching the phone number for the incoming call.
Unfortunately, there are no profiles implemented for Keyboards (which BTW are some of the most basic Bluetooth profiles). It is called HID profile (for Human Interface Device) and it is normally used for keyboard, mouse, numeric keypad, etc.
If you attempt to connect your WP7 phone with your keyboard, you will see that the phone can detect the keyboard, it may even know what device model it is but don’t get your hopes up… because this is just the plug and play features in Bluetooth doing their work. When you try to pair them you will even be requested to enter a pairing number on your keyboard, but you will then see either an error message or nothing at all followed by a timeout message. This just means that even though you would have been able to pair the devices together, WP7 does not know how to handle a keyboard.
So there you have it… this is why your phone is not able to connect to your Bluetooth keyboard. Just continue tapping on your screen. I was told that one of the updates scheduled for 2011 (there are at least 3 of them scheduled for this year alone) will add support for the HID profile.