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History Of The Smartphone Stylus And Why It Is Now Dead

I used to be a lover of the smartphone stylus, that pen-like tool used to stab at and scribble on touchscreens. My first was the Ericsson R380. I also owned a Motorola A008. Fast forward to 2021 and I am no longer a champion of the stylus. As far as I am concerned, the stylus is dead. This afternoon, my friend and fellow blogger, Habeeb, buzzed me to ask if I knew why Infinix had stopped shipping their Note series with a stylus.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it until he asked the question. But thinking of it, it is clear to me that a lot of people did not want it. And the numbers do not lie about that. There is no significant demand for a stylus on modern smartphones. If a lot of people did not want the smartphone stylus or pen, what was the point of incurring and slapping on the extra costs?

Is the stylus pen dead? Mister Mobility believes it is.
Is the smartphone stylus dead? Mister Mobility believes it is.

There is a very narrow use-case scenario for a stylus with a modern smartphone – artistic creatives. Not a lot of people are artists. And so, they do not need a smartphone stylus. Habeeb further went on to asked me if I would buy a phone that has the option of a stylus, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra. My answer was a definite no, and I will tell you why. You see, a long time ago, I came to the conclusion that I no longer need a stylus.

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A smartphone stylus offered improved text entry back in the days when phones mainly had alphanumeric keyboards. And so, when devices like the Ericsson 380 and Motorola Accompli showed up, those of us who needed to do a lot of text entry on our mobile devices gravitated to them.

Motorola Moto G with a smartphone stylus
Motorola Moto G with a smartphone stylus

Why The Smartphone Stylus Is No Longer Needed On Phones

The smartphone stylus and the old school resistive touchscreens met that need for easier text entry back then. The resistive touchscreens in use then did not support the use of fingers. Following after the R380 and A008, touchscreens with stylus became more popular and we saw models like Sony Ericsson P800, P900 and others take centre stage in the smartphone world.

Once QWERTY keyboards showed up, the value proposition for a smartphone stylus dropped. And with the arrival of capacitive touchscreen phones that supported the use of fingers, that value proposition nosedived even further. Samsung is the last standing champion of the stylus pen on smartphones. People may look at the sales of the Galaxy Note series and say that is proof that there is still huge demand for the stylus. And they would be wrong.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 5G__with stylus pen
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 5G with a smartphone stylus

It is so far from the truth. The Galaxy Note series is proof that there is a huge demand for powerful.smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones are some of the most powerful – and they just happen to come with a stylus. Samsung could do away with the smartphone stylus and their Galaxy Note (now discontinued and replaced by the Galaxy S21 Ultra) would still sell like hot cake.

The smartphone stylus as a phone accessory is dead. It has largely outlived its usefulness in today’s world. It will remain in use by a few artistic people who use tablets and iPads for creative purposes. People like artists, designers, and the like. But beyond that, the smartphone stylus is dead to the rest of the mobile world.


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