One of the kids’ android tablets mysteriously developed a vexing problem that turned out to be ridiculously hard to fix. The problem: suddenly the tablet has no touchpad keyboard (also the tablet decided to display everything in German). The missing keyboard problem took me over an hour to figure out how to fix, and it seems to be the subject of considerable flailing and gnashing of teeth on the message boards. This episode definitely served to reinforce my growing perception of Android as an abortion on the scale of Windows Vista. You’d think the Google folks would have cleaned up this kind of glitch by now. I’m pretty sure if the iPad OS had a problem that basically bricks the machine in a way that even a factory reset won’t fix, Apple would have fixed it long before version 4.1.

To try to restore the keyboard, my first impulse was naturally to go into Settings => Language => Input => Keyboard & Input Methods, figuring that the keyboard had just gotten turned off. No. Not there. At all. A keyboard was not among the options.

My second impulse was to do a factory reset (Settings => Backup & reset => Personal Data => Factory data reset). This  accomplished exactly nothing, except to wipe out all the installed apps and settings. As I finally figured out after a half hour or so of scouting around in android forums, it turns out that the touchpad keyboard is an app — at least on this tablet, it isn’t part of the OS so a factory reset won’t bring it back once it has been deleted.

Call me crazy, but I thought the idea of a factory reset was that it restores the device to the way it was when it came out of the box. When it came out of the box, the touchpad keyboard worked.

So obviously, what was needed was to reinstall a keyboard app, but — catch 22 — without a keyboard there’s no way to get into PlayStore, so how do you install an app? You can’t even do the PlayStore login without a keypad, much less search for an app. In fact, without a keyboard there’s not even any way to log back in to the wifi, which the factory reset naturally turned off.

Here’s what worked:

  1. On a PC, go to appsapk.com and download the (free) Perfect Keyboard app. (For reasons I don’t fully understand, you can’t download an apk from Google PlayStore onto a PC.)
  2. Copy the Perfect Keyboard apk from the PC to the tablet using a USB cable.
  3. Disconnect the table from the PC, locate the apk on the tablet in an explorer app, and click on it to install it.
  4. Then go back into Settings => Language and Input => Keyboard & Input Methods. The Perfect Keyboard app should appear as an option. Click the check box.

The resource that I found most helpful was this Youtube video on how to install an app on an Android device by USB cable from a PC.

In conclusion: seriously, Google? A version 4.1 operating system that doesn’t include a keyboard in the factory reset?

P.S. The sudden switch to German, I already knew how to fix. The spontaneous  language change is something that seems to happen with Android occasionally, not sure why, but it’s just a minor nuisance. The trick is to navigate the settings menu by position, using another android tablet to figure out where the right tabs are. In this case, for example, go into settings under Language and Input (which is “Sprache & Eingabe” in German), click on the Language tab (“Sprache”) and select English.

 

 

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