Ever since I retired my flip phone, I never thought I'd have to learn a new way to type. But here I am, writing this review using the Tap Strap 2 wearable mouse and keyboard. The Tap Strap seeks to eliminate clunky peripheral hardware; rather, the user slides a set of sleek haptic rings on one hand to navigate and type.
Learning to control the Tap Strap 2 takes patience, though it'’s an amusing experience once you get the hang of it. Plus it supports iOS AirMouse gestures, which positions it as a high-tech iPad accessory. But after a few days of using the Tap Strap in conjunction with an iPad, PC and Apple TV, I'm left wondering who would adopt it in lieu of a QWERTY keyboard.
Tap Strap 2 price and availability
The Tap Strap 2 wearable keyboard and mouse costs $199 and became available on Oct. 8, 2019. As of this writing, there's nothing else on the market comparable to the Tap Strap 2, albeit the original Tap Strap that debuted in early 2018.
What does the Tap Strap 2 work with?
The Tap Strap 2 works with any Bluetooth enabled device, including smartphones and computers. But it offers the most comprehensive compatibility with the iPad. Certain iOS gestures that are not supported by standard computer mice, like swipe navigation, function with the Tap Strap.
You can also use the Tap Strap 2 to control an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV stick and most smart TVs. It supports gesture-controlled inputs for AR/VR, too.
Tap Strap 2 design: Techy brass knuckles
Sliding the Tap Strap 2 on my fingers felt futuristic. The 0.5-ounce device consists of five chrome-topped haptic loops made of skin-safe, rubber-like plastic. Shoelace-like cord connects the adjustable rings, and webs the user's fingers together.
The Tap Strap 2 comes in two sizes; the large version felt a little too big for my fingers, even when properly adjusted. I would recommend the small size Tap Strap 2 for those with petite hands.
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While the pointer, ring, index and pinky loops are identically plain, the bulkier thumb ring is where most of the magic happens. It's topped with a power button, while the exterior side features a sensor and a flattened edge designed to navigate surfaces like a mouse.
Learning to type with Tap Strap 2
Rather than clicking keys on your keyboard, you tap one or more specific fingers on a hard surface while wearing the Tap Strap 2.
The Tap Strap 2 has a "map" for every letter of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, and common punctuation symbols. For example, a lone thumb tap types the letter A. Simultaneously tapping the index and pinky fingers produces the letter S.
The quantity and combination of finger taps are preassigned, but you can create a custom TapMap if you'd like to tailor the Tap Strap to a specific use or alternate language.
It's more complicated than a QWERTY keyboard, but Tap provides a number of resources to help you learn how to use it. The Tap Academy app teaches the Tap Strap map with a method that reminded me of my sixth-grade typing class. It uses repetition and timed goals to make typing with Tap Strap feel more natural.
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The more I worked through lessons, the more fun I had typing with Tap Strap 2. It felt surprisingly rewarding to learn how to type with combinations of taps. After three days of practice, I gained confidence in my tapping abilities and showed off my tapping at the office as if it were my party trick.
Tap Strap 2 AirMouse gestures: Could be smoother
What’s new about Tap Strap 2 is its support for air gestures when using devices like the iPad or iPhone. When you have assistive touch enabled on your iOS device and a Tap Strap 2 connected, you can use Strap's rings to replicate actions as though you're touching the screen.
When I saw a trained Tap Strap 2 user demo the gadget, the proper finger swipes, points and index-to-thumb taps worked well. But even after working on my technique for a few days, I could get the AirMouse to work how I wanted only half the time. Though it's a pretty neat feature for hands-free iPad operation, I wish it were less fickle.
Who is the Tap Strap 2 for?
As I spent time using the Tap Strap, I tried to figure out who might be interested in such a device. It's certainly not practical for someone who spends all day writing and typing like me. With practice you can increase your words per minute with the Tap Strap, but it's still not easier than using a keyboard. It's also not for those with limited dexterity in their fingers.
However, there are circumstances that make Tap Strap 2 a practical device. For one, it presents an accessible typing method because it requires only one hand to operate. Typing on a QWERTY keyboard is commonly a two-handed job, but that doesn't work for everyone.
I could also see dedicated iPad users appreciating the Tap Strap. Its weight and size make it more portable than a Bluetooth keyboard, plus AirMouse could come in handy for giving presentations via Airplay.
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It also eliminates the need for using the on-screen keyboard, which blocks content from being seen on the screen. While using the Tap Strap 2 you get an uninterrupted display, and having the AirMouse means you won't need to touch the screen the whole time you’re using an iPad.
The Tap Strap 2 is more of a conversation starter than a practical QWERTY keyboard alternative. It looks great and is entertaining, but I'm hard-pressed to believe this kind of technology is ready to be adopted by the masses. Especially with its $200 price.
As long as they can afford it, there are select customers who might find a use for the Tap Strap 2 wearable keyboard and mouse. I could see future Tap Strap models gaining momentum from being paired with AR/VR wearables, for example. For now, though, I'll stick with my traditional keyboard and mouse.
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