If you're looking for clever gadgets, one place to find them is at Kickstarter.
Most of the finance seekers at the site seek modest amounts, but some have raised a million dollars or more, and they'done it very quickly.
One of those more modest projects is a clever idea by Cody and Robert Solomon of SoloMatrix. The enterprising pair have developed a folding keyboard for the iPhone 4 and 4S that's purely mechanical -- no Bluetooth, no port connector, nothing to sap power from the phone.
The gadget, called the Spike TypeSmart keyboard, is part of a case for the phones. The keyboard is the same size as the phone's virtual keyboard when the device is in a vertical position. As you tap Spike's keys, they activate their virtual counterparts beneath the tactile keyboard.
When a phone's full screen needs to be accessed, the keyboard can be flipped up, or as in the premium version of the product, pivoted behind the phone. The keyboard is less than a quarter-inch thick so it folds into the back of the protective case without creating a protrusion that would disrupt the sleekness of the phone, according to the Solomons.
As anyone who has typed on a glass keyboard knows, it's not the best surface for the task. Most people can type faster and more accurately with a tactile keyboard, and Spike lets people do that. It even allows a user to type in their phones wearing gloves, its inventors claim.
The Solomons, who have raised more than $17,000 toward their goal of $75,000, plan to launch two versions of Spike. The Spike 1, which they plan to retail for $35, has the flip-up keyboard. The Spike 2 ($60) has the keyboard with a 360-degree hinge that lets it swing out of sight behind the case.
Contributors to the Solomons' cause will receive their Spikes at discount prices. If you pledge $25, you will get a Spike 1 in black or white. Shipping in the U.S. is free; to Canada, $10. A pledge of $50 will get you a Spike 2.
SoloMatrix also plans to make a version of Spike for later versions of the iPhone when they are released. The company estimates that Spike for the iPhone 5 will be available in January 2013.
While Spike TypeSmart will initially be available for only the iPhone, it's such a good idea, it's hard to imagine these kinds of keyboards not popping up for other phone models, too.