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The Trouble with Styluses


This post in part is prompted by thoughts arising from an email I received from Evernote announcing their new Evernote JotScript 2. I purchased the original version and tried very hard to like it but ended up hating it, eventually it stopped working I feel due to build quality and software. If Evernote wants to send me the new one I’d be very happy to offer an unbiased evaluation of it but right now there is no way I’d pay another $75 hoping it some how improved over the original. They can contact me here. This is not a post pointing a finger at Evernote though but styluses in general. Full disclosure, I pay for and love the Evernote services.

I have also tried numerous dumb devices and the Wacom Intuos Stylus 2. The only one so far that I still use is the Jot Script with the clear plastic plate at the end, it offers accurate positioning in relation to the screen and feels natural. I will add that I have two Wacom tablets, the Intuos 2 and 4 Wireless; both of which I simply could not do without when it comes to editing images and designing, so I am very familiar with using a pen as an input device. I even using it when coding rather than a mouse or track pad.

When it comes to the dumb styluses the problem is the large tip which is needed to make enough contact with a touch screen that the device recognizes the input, this is a major flaw for accuracy and natural writing since most of the time you cannot see what you are doing if like me you are left handed.

The Samsung stylus that comes with the galaxy devices have proven to be very accurate and feel natural to me when I tried a friends out. I was impressed with how fast it was and how my writing looked and felt natural at a decent writing speed.

There are patents out there from Apple that point to them at least exploring this space and if rumors are to be believed then we might see one with the mythical iPad Pro, time will tell.

Another problem comes from multi-touch gestures, if you are using a stylus then you need to do a finger shuffle to be able to pinch for example.

Why should developers care or even pay attention?

Well we need to care about these things as we build interfaces and follow guidelines like the Apple HIG. Interface elements for user interaction need a minimum size and that matters when it comes to fingers and the ever growing stylus market. I would even go as far as to recommend testing your applications with at least one or two stylus’ to see how the user experience is.

It seems for now at least the finger is indeed still mightier than the stylus, or at least more accurate and requires less charging or syncing.