The Stylus Problem
The most recent iteration of the iPad was announced last Wednesday. The larger device designed for professionals and to compete with products like the Microsoft surface Pro is being sold with a stylus. The Internet rushed to post this image:
(Bonus video archive)
Steve Jobs hated input devices. I suppose if he had his druthers there would be no external keyboard either. But remember this is the same man who was in no hurry to bring books to the smartphones. The first incarnations of the iPhone had no reading capabilities and you had to jailbreak your phone and install unauthorized applications to use the device for reading.
I think it can be safe to say that Steve Jobs has been wrong in the past and he’s wrong about the stylus. The existence of third-party market providing stylii to the tablet market is proof of that. The Apple Stores have even carried stylii from the inexpensive rubber tipped ones to the pricier Pencil from Paper.
But on Wednesday many pundits, both professional and casual, decried the stylus and said that there had already been a market met by that demand–supplied by third party developers.
I concluded after reading the comments that none of those individuals have ever used a third-party stylus because if they had they would know that there was tremendous room for improvement. JSON did a short review of the Adonit Jot Script Stylus last weekend. I could have written the same review about every stylus I’ve tried which is essentially, it’s a nice idea in theory but it never works.
There are these videos and mocked up pages of how the designers/developers used the stylus with precise lines and impeccable penmanship but in real life I’ve concluded those mocked up pages are the result of alchemy or some other magic. In real life, the stylus are almost worthless for taking notes.
And I’m an avid pen user. Despite my love for technology, I still use a fountain pen. I have a great affection for stationery. I keep my calendar in both print and digital. People like to write things down.
When using the third party stylus, I could write legibly only if I wrote big enough to fill a quarter of the page. The slick feel of metal on metal (hello Jot Script) didn’t give me enough traction to form the letters I wanted and/or the lag meant that the devices couldn’t keep up with how fast I wrote. The rubber tipped devices seemed to drag too much. (I’m not buying those other tips Pogo!) Plus, there’s no such thing as a fine tipped stylus despite claims to the contrary (yes, I’m looking at you Apex).
And yes, before you ask, I bought the apps that are designed to go with these devices. I have so many darn note apps in hopes that I could find one that would work for me.
One of the things I really loved about the Samsung was the precision of its stylus. The thing I didn’t like about it was the flimsy feel of it. I like my pens to have heft and girth. From what I’ve read about the iPad Stylus, I’m hopeful. It could be awful particularly if there’s no palm rejection.
But I’m happy to see Apple producing a stylus because there is so much room for improvement in the market. Even if this iteration of the stylus doesn’t work, hopefully it can spark new innovation in the future.