Using a Bluetooth Keyboard on Android

Two years ago I bought a cheap Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon.it. At €14, it was mostly an impulse buy for exploring mobile typing on the go and in similar settings, such as workstations with reduced desk space.

FREALL 7INKEYBD-BK Bluetooth keyboard
My FREALL 7INKEYBD-BK Bluetooth keyboard.

I initially used the keyboard with the Android tablet and smartphone I had, a 7” Lenovo Tab E7 and a Pixel 2 XL. I later repurposed the keyboard for the devices I replaced those with, a Lenovo Tab M8 HD 8” tablet and a Pixel 4 XL smartphone.

Despite the simplicity of operation, it took me some trial and error to figure out how to pair the keyboard with an Android device and what keystrokes insert the characters I need, such as accented letters when writing in Italian.

Moreover, I realized I never blogged about my experience with the unit. So I’m posting these notes in case you come across the same or similar keyboards.


The keyboard

The keyboard is a cheap, compact, plastic chiclet unit that comes with a small foldable stand for a tablet or phone. To charge the keyboard, I plug it into my Chromebox via the unit’s mini-USB port.

Bluetooth keyboard next to a Lenovo Tab M8 HD 8” tablet
The Bluetooth keyboard next to my Lenovo Tab M8 HD 8” tablet.

The product or packaging have no branding and Android identifies it simply as “Bluetooth Keyboard”. The Amazon listing mentions FREALL as the maker and 7INKEYBD-BK as the model.

The keyboard’s instructions sheet isn’t of great help for learning how to operate it. The sheet is short, incomplete, and inaccurate. But reading the Amazon reviews helped me understand the pairing procedure, and I discovered the rest by pressing keys and experimenting.


Pairing

Although the keyboard works with different mobile and desktop operating systems, I use it only with Android and this is the experience I’m sharing here. To pair the keyboard with an Android device:

  1. turn on the keyboard
  2. on the keyboard, press CONNECT
  3. on Android, turn on Bluetooth and start the pairing flow
  4. on the keyboard, press Fn + Q
  5. on Android, tap the keyboard entry
  6. on the keyboard, type the pairing code Android prompts to enter
  7. on the keyboard, press Enter

After pairing is complete, on your Android device you’ll get a notification prompting you to further configure the keyboard by selecting a language and layout. This step may not be necessary.

From now on, to use the keyboard, enable Bluetooth on Android and turn on the keyboard, which should connect automatically.


Useful shortcuts

The keys pack up to four labels for entering symbols, controlling media playback, or executing commands.

Accessing most of the symbols or functions of a key is often self-explanatory. For example, to type a blue symbol on a key, press that key while holding the modifier key with the blue Fn label.

Typing other characters or executing commands not printed on the keys is harder, so I included below some lists of useful keystrokes.


Symbols

You can directly insert some symbols in the following list by pressing the corresponding keystrokes. To type an accented character, press the keystroke that selects the accent you want and then press the character. For example, to get an e with a grave accent, è, press Alt + ` and then e.

  • Alt + E: é
  • Alt + `: grave accent
  • Alt + U: umlaut
  • Alt + I: ~
  • Alt + S: ß
  • Alt + c: ç
  • Alt + N : ẽ


Android commands and actions

The keyboard accepts the standard Android keyboard shortcuts for external keyboards. I found a few more and listed them below because they’re handy, little known, or frequently used.


Launching apps

To launch one of these apps, here are the required shortcuts:

  • type a search query: Google Search
  • command: Google Assistant
  • command + B: Chrome or default browser
  • command + C: Google Contacts or default contacts app
  • command + E: Gmail
  • command + L: Google Calendar
  • command + S: Google Messages or default messaging app


Actions

The keyboard lets you invoke other Android features or navigation actions. Here are the ones I found:

  • Alt in a text field: emoji selector
  • control + Enter: set focus
  • command + Delete: Back
  • command + Enter: go to the home screen
  • command + N: open notifications shade

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