The return of the Stylus?

Posted by Mister Mobility

Back in April 2010, I wrote an article titled, What is wrong with using a stylus?, in which I examined the losses of ditching the use of a stylus on our modern mobile devices.

In that article, I said:

We lost handwriting recognition when we threw away the stylus. We lost some measure of accuracy once the onscreen item is small in size.


But is the idea of using a stylus on a smartphone without any merits whatsoever? Is the stylus really that bad – afterall we are used to using pens in everyday scenarios. Even some iPhone users have had to purchase a stylus eventually for use (God forbid!) with their Cuppertino toys. Perhaps the sylus is not such a black sheep?

The discussion that proceeded from that article was interesting. Some felt that the stylus was antiquated (of course, by ignoring the many scenarios in which stylus use would be beneficial). Apparently, some of us have forgatten that modern computing is not only about typing, pinching, and zooming.

Others saw scenarios in which stylus use was beneficial.

Enter: HTC Flyer tablet
GSMArena reports that HTC’s first attempt at a tablet, the Flyer has a stylus as an accessory. Oh, its a 7-inch capacitive device all right, but the stylus works with it, along with some extra multimedia functionality, allowing users to annotate, draw and highlight on text, websites and images.

How accurate would a graphics job done on a tablet be if the artist used only his fingers? From the news report:

Yep, you read correctly kids. To many, a stylus might seem like an antiquated feature left over from the days when the resistive touchscreen devices reigned supreme, but the Flyer’s stylus offers far greater versatility than any before it. Alongside having greater control over annotations and the ability to jot down a quick note or two, the addition of stylus input could readily become a useful new tool for the digital artist. The iPad, for example, offers a whole host of apps devoted to drawing and painting but the limiting factor is ultimately the user’s fingers. Finger input is unlikely to be as accurate as a stylus and with the Flyer, a whole new generation of mobile artists could emerge out of the woodwork.

I think that HTC has hit a sweet spot here that other manufacturers are certain to copy. And now, graphics designers, artists, architects and a whole number of other professionals and hobbyists can leave their netbooks and notebooks at home and embrace tablets.

If this is the return of the stylus, tablets just got closer to PCs in terms of functionality and versatility.

  1. {
    And now, graphics designers, artists, architects and a whole number of other professionals and hobbyists can leave their netbooks and notebooks at home and embrace tablets.

    Trying hard to stretch my febrile imagination to see why I may want to do ‘serious work’ on a tablet- and failing!

    The Nokia 5800 I use came with two (2) styli (styluses?).Predictably I eventually lost the two of them.

    Since necessity is the FATHER of invention, I have been able to engage my creative juices by using the small plastic from a ‘stick sweet’. It works well.

    I generally find that a stylus is inconvenient I have therefore become deft (adept) at using the back of my index_fingernail in place of a stylus! You need to see me swYpe with that nail!.It also works like ‘juju’!

    For applications where lots of accuracy is not necessary, I do not bother with the stylus.

    Thankfully, most of the apps I use do not require that level of laser-point onscreen accuracy.

    One final thing about styluses : I find that the one supplied with the Nokia 5800 eventually scratches the glass, thus affecting the legibility. I hope gorilla-glassed devices are scratch-proof In addition to being unbreakable?

    When I eventually purchase a new touchscreen device, I shall use the stylus (if supplied) only when I do not have a choice.

    The applications that I am forced to use a stylus with are generally drawing apps.

  2. EyeBeeKay,

    Your doubts as to why you would need to do serious work on a tablet is similar to those doubting why they would need their phones for taking pictures.

    Its the same way some people wonder why anyone would need to edit a Word document on a smartphone.

    The answer is easy – its the tool you have on you most of the time. The portability means that its likely to be the tool that is there at the point of inspiration or need.

  3. ‘The portability means that its likelyto be the tool that is there at the point of inspiration or need..

    True talk on the inspirational bit. Inspiration cam come anytime and anywhere.


    For other NON-inspirational SERIOUS work, I am atoll a Thomas -with a big ‘T’..

  4. I last used a stylus while still with my sonyericsson x1. But since then, I don’t think I wanna have a phone coming with it sef. I don’t need the straight weight. While using the x1, I hardly hardly make use of it. Though the keyboard got bad and i had to rely on the touch screen, I just installed a more finger friendly virtual keyboard and moved on with my fingers. The stock virtual keyboard will definitely be in need of a stylus because of its small size but it’s mowt times too slow for me. I know that introducing the stylus will be beneficial to some people but not for me. My sgs keyboard is quite finger friendly enough. May be in the course of my geographical career I may need to download one or two android apps that will allow mapping landforms and drawing out physical entities, the stylus may become relevant.

  5. I still feel a stylus is outdated. Perhaps a use as pointed above is in arts and precise architecture; but that’s where it ends. Typing on a resistive touchscreen, like that on vmthe NOkia 5230; shows clearly that using your finger is much faster than a stylus. Another point of interest is that using your fingers feel so natural. I have since left my stylus of my 5230 for over a month on my office table and have felt no compulsion to pick it up.

    What HTC is doing with Flyer may be like they are trying to play on users’ nostalgia. But I bet you that the stylus will not garner them more sales. At best it would only be a fanfaronade! the stylus is dated. And if the HTC Flyer is successful; it shall not be on account of it’s stylus but other more compelling features. The stylus has outlived it’s days. And perhaps belongs to the museum!

  6. When it comes to navigating on a touch screen device (with reasonable screen size) you can never go wrong with your fingers.

    A stylus is like using folk to eat “eba”, it can never be really fluid.

    If a stylus is used the way HTC is using it on the Flyer, then it could be useful (i.e for making all those drawing and marking sites).

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