18

Sep

What are the best styluses for your smartphones & tablets


Fig-1

Fig-1

The stylus is making a big come back now that many folks have large screen smartphones as well as tablets. What was once popular over a decade ago with the PDAs coming from Palm and other manufacturers their uses cannot be underestimated. Take for example the Galaxy Note with it’s S-Pen which shipped out an impressive 10 million units within a year since its launch last year.

 

Although the finger is a nice tool to do quick operations, it has several disadvantages in that it can smudge the screen and for a smaller screen such as the smartphones, quick typing can be awkward. It’s no wonder the screen size for smartphones are growing bigger and bigger and only highlighted by the bigger screen iPhone 5 that was launched recently. Styluses typically vary anywhere from $5 to as much as $40 and some even more than that. So what is it that makes a stylus worth that much or that little for that matter, are you always getting good value for money?

 

Let me first tell you that you should always pick a stylus that will do the exact job you want it to do. Don’t just go for looks, aesthetics and beauty if at the end of the day you are going to use it a few times to operate a few documents or send out emails. Remember too, if you go for a costly weighty stylus that feels really good in the hand, you may need to carry that weight with you in your handbag etc. Another aspect of a stylus is, if you want to do a lot of hand writing, a rubber tipped stylus may weigh you down by the resistance it offers against the glass.

 

However, there are important pointers that you need to be aware of when you want to select a good stylus:-

  1. Responsiveness (Sensitivity)
    This is probably the most important factor when selecting a stylus. It is no good if you buy a cheap stylus and having to poke or press hard in order for it to do any kind of work. Although the many rubber tipped capacitance stylus will not measure up to the manufacturer styled styluses for sensitivity there can be many variations in the sensitivities of each. It is important to try out the stylus that best works for you and to take it through its paces in all the aspects of work you intend doing on your tablet or phone.
  2. Length of stylus
    You may think a short stylus will meet your needs, but you will find eventually that are wishing for a just bit longer stylus. Be sure to pick a stylus that is comfortable for you to use in the long term.
  3. Wear & Tear
    Although there are no known reports on the longevity of a stylus, you can generally get a pretty good idea by examining the tip end and checking is quality of manufacture. An close observation of the tip and the way its fixed to the shaft will reveal to you the overall quality that can be missed by an untrained eye.
  4. Stow Away
    This is something that many people forget when they buy a stylus. One of the advantage of a stylus that already comes with a phone or tablet, is that they can be stowed away easily without having to fumble around your living room looking for the darn thing. Some manufactures have created innovative ways to solve this problem such as attaching to the magnetic case or even providing a ring to tie it to your keychain.
  5. Don’t blame the Stylus
    Many of you will think that the stylus is unresponsive but this could be due to the capacitance screen of your device. Remember not all capacitive screens are made equal, you will remember in the early generation of iPhones the sensitivity around the corners was lacking and one had to repeatedly strike the screen to get a response. Before you blame the stylus, try to see how well it performs with your fingers and you may find that the device is not as sensitive as it could be in certain parts of the screen. Thankfully this is improving tremendously with current generation of devices and I will report on this technology in a future post.

 

For the purpose of this post, since your primary aim is to draw and paint using the fantastic Paintology app, I will let you in with some secrets. None of the styluses that I mentioned above actually works well with drawing and painting and believe me I have tried many styluses. The ideal stylus that cannot be beat are the ones that come with the device itself such as the Galaxy Note with its S-pen and a few others. These styluses have built in electrical transducers that generate an amplified signal around the area of the capacitance screen. This means that the smallest detail can be put down using this kind of styluses over the normal passive styluses. If you need proof, simply go to sections of the site where I have presented drawings on the Galaxy Note and try and replicate the level of details that I have done on a 5.3 inch screen! There is absolutely no other passive styluses that will get you this kind of details. The advantage of the S-pen for the Galaxy Note is that it has a small plastic tip which makes it easy to glide across the screen effortlessly and quickly.

 

Fig-2

Fig-2

The thought of a rubber tipped stylus didn’t really work with me since I always felt that resistance would impede the flow over the drawing area making it tasking to draw. If you have painted with acrylics and watercolor using a brush, you will know what I mean. This point was proved when I tried drawing the ‘Apple and Fruits’ picture that you will find on this site. I quickly abandoned the rubber tipped stylus and resorted to the very home made one. I am happy to say that I have taken my home-made stylus through its paces and it has truly lived up to it’s promise. Fig. 2 shows the picture of the custom made stylus. The drawing and painting especially on a tablet is effortless and beats many other styluses out there. I will give you specific instructions on how to make this stylus in a future post, but in the meantime, if you have limited time and want to get going, you can purchase this stylus from my ebay listing, only $2.99 with free shipping.

 

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