Review: iPhone stylus shoot out

Some of the more fun iPhone apps hitting the iTunes store these days are the ones like FlipBook and Scribble that let you actually draw on the iPhone’s screen using your finger. Unfortunately, even the thinnest fingers are often not the best tool for drawing on a tiny screen (and my big fat ones are definitely not). Luckily a couple companies have taken notice of the problem and have come up with some touch pen styluses that can work with Apple’s touch screens. ThinkGeek is currently offering 2 touch screen styluses designed for the iPhone/touch, and we’ll take a look at them today.


Above: OK, so maybe you can’t see much difference in these two masterpieces, but the one on the right (made with the Pogo stylus) took me 1/5th the time of the one on the left (made with the less accurate iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus).

First up is the high tech-looking iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus. The $14.99 metal stylus is available in either black or silver, and features a shirt clip and “a hidden SIM eject tool” located at the rear of the pen. Personally I have only removed my SIM once, and that was when I upgraded to a new iPhone, so I am not sure this is a great selling point, but it doesn’t hurt either. Thanks to the metal construction, this stylus feels quite heavy in your hand (noticeably heavier than the average ball point pen or Sharpie) which is either a good or bad thing, depending on your preference.


Above: The iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus looks and feels pretty cool.

The stylus has an angled spring loaded tip with a rubber end which is similar in feel to a hard eraser. The spring actions is meant to make dragging across the screen easier, however we found quite a good deal of pressure needed to be applied to get that spring to bend (although perhaps over time continual use would loosen it a bit).


Above: It actually takes more pressure that you really feel comfortable applying to get that spring tip to bend.

Overall I loved the design and quality of the iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus, and aesthetically between the two styluses it wins hands down, however we found the pen just needed too much pressure to really work well. Drawing with this stylus was a definite chore, as the entire flat surface of the tip must be firmly pressed against the screen in order for the iPhone to register it. I had hoped the angled tip might provide enough contact when drawing to give more of a feel of a real pen, but unless you keep this stylus angled flat to the surface, it will not register. The required amount of pressure means prolonged use of the stylus will likely lead to hand fatigue for many.

Accuracy was also an issue. I found I needed to constantly go back and erase mistakes caused by my not being able to accurately predict where my strokes would land. Additionally, we found the rubber tip actually left smudge marks on the screen, similar to finger use, so those hoping this stylus would keep their iPhones smudge-free should think again.

If you don’t plan on doing much drawing and simply want to use the stylus for daily iPhone app navigation (maybe you are a women with long fingernails, or perhaps you are like Homer Simpson, whose fingers were so fat they needed a special “dialing wand” to place phone calls) but for the aspiring iPhone artist, we’ll have to recommend a “pass” on this.


Above: Lighter, and more expensive, the Pogo stylus lacks the style of the iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus but works much better.

The second iPhone stylus contender is the much lower-tech Pogo iPhone Stylus. Priced at $19.99, the Pogo stylus is made of plastic, and is much lighter than the “iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus”. The tip of the Pogo is is covered in a soft felt-like material as opposed to the rubber tip of the other stylus, and actually claims not only will it not smudge your screen, it will actually clean it! While the Pogo does not have the shirt clip or SIM removal tool, it does come with 2 plastic holding clips designed to fasten the stylus to the side of either your first or 2nd gen iPhone.


Above: The Pogo comes with a snap-on clip to keep you from losing your stylus.

The Pogo stylus is by far the better of the two styluses we tested as far as overall usability and accuracy. First off, compared to the “iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus”, the Pogo stylus hardly takes any pressure at all to get a response from the touch screen, and you can actually imagine yourself working for prolonged periods while holding it. Despite the tip of the stylus being somewhat rounded and soft, I found I was able to get much more accurate line placement that I thought I would. This is not to say you have even close to the control you have with traditional pen and paper – and ideally I would still prefer an even smaller tip (if it would still work), as the pen itself can often obscure your view of your lines – but compared to a finger or the other stylus, the accuracy is much improved.

Conclusion

While the iPhone is certainly not meant to serve as a Wacom tablet replacement (yet), that doesn’t mean you can’t get some pretty interesting artistic results. Thanks to the new graphics-based iPhone apps hitting the iTunes store, the iPhone may actually turn into a fairly robust creative and artistic platform. While I still can’t imagine making a feature-length animated film using the iPhone, I would recommend any would be iPhone-Picassos out there pick up the Pogo stylus as its responsiveness, light weight, and accuracy make it the clear winner here in our shoot out.

[ A couple quick updates based on your questions: ]
First, yes, all tests were done on a “naked” iPhone, no screen protectors. Second, if I were to rate these vs. my finger’s accuracy when drawing on a scale of 1-10, I would say the finger is a 3, the Japanese stylus is a 5.5, and the Pogo is a 7.5.

iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus

Price: $14.99
Pros: Looks cool, has shirt clip, SIM eject tool
Cons: Require too much pressure to use, not all that accurate, rubber tip smudges screen

Pogo iPhone Stylus

Price: $19.99
Pros: Lightweight, reasonably accurate, has iPhone clip to help you not lose it, felt tip does not leave smudges
Cons: A bit expensive for what it is, tip can still obscure your vision a bit when trying to draw precise lines

Comments
22 Responses to “Review: iPhone stylus shoot out”
  1. ArtOfWarfare says:

    Drawing it in my head… yes… yes… YES!

    I’ve designed an awesome stylus!

    I must go an patent it now! (And then more importantly: built and sell it…)

    See, it’s got a semi-transparent tip so it doesn’t obscure vision! And it looks just as stylish as the pogo! Not sure about cleaning the screen though.

  2. Tim says:

    What kind of results did you get trying to jot a quick note? I’d love to be able to have a handwritten note on the iphone that I could send on over to Evernote so I could search later …

  3. dg says:

    Did you test these on a “naked” screen? I’m curious how (if?) they’ll perform with either a soft or hard screen protector in place…

  4. neilford says:

    I had the japanese stylus, which I thought would work, but like you guys, found that it required too much pressure to be of any practical value drawing. I am waiting for a pogo to be delivered. I don’t like the fat tip, but I will hold judgment until I have actually tried it.

  5. Jill says:

    Does it work with a screen protector?

  6. Josh Anon says:

    Just to let everyone know, from now through September 1, when you upload a movie to flipbook.tv, you’ll get a coupon for either 25% or 15% off a Pogo Stylus, depending on if you uploaded it with FlipBook or FlipBook Lite, respectively.

  7. Rus says:

    What material is on the tip? Wouldn’t it be easier, cheaper and quicker to just make one?

  8. Well I’ll be: the iPhone’s gone all Newton on us.

  9. Mr. Reeee says:

    This is the 2nd good review I’ve read for the Pogo stylus.

    I must say, using the iPhone keyboard with a finger is not as much fun as it is frustrating. I spend about 1/2 the time correcting mis-hit letters. A stylus would certainly improve that score, although this looks a bit blunt for my taste.

    I’d love to see Apple team up with WACOM for the iPhone/touch screens!

    The Pogo’s stylus storage solution is pretty weak. A true kludge!

    I’d also be curious to see how well it works with a screen protector.

  10. Pogo user says:

    Pogo works OK with a screen protector. I noted that the material on the tip is the same conductive black foam pad we used in the past to store DIMM IC’s on. So an aluminum tube, wadded up foam and super glue is all you need. Maybe a small wooden dowel covered in foam would stiffen the tip though. Seems easy to make, but must be electrically conductive to the hand. And the opposite hand to the iPhone/iPod. It has to complete the circuit to be effective.

  11. Hmm says:

    Are there any other competitors out there that cost a LOT less? $20 is quite steep.

  12. make your own says:

    to make your own stylus:
    Get whatvlever size pen you want
    Lightly wet the middle of the cleaning cloth you got with your iPhone.
    Put the wet part over the tip of the pen
    Hold together with a rubber band
    It will work pretty well
    Only lightly add water every so often as you need it

  13. Chris says:

    Ewwwwww, I can just see people licking the tip of their custom made stylus like they used to do with pencils.

  14. Tang says:

    I actually purchased the iPhone Japanese Touch Pen Stylus while standing in line because I have big fingers and was use to styluses anyway (coming from Windows Mobile phone).

    I’m not sure how the pen got a 5/10 in the first place. It must be for looks only. I was the worst experiences I’ve ever had with a stylus. My fingers are more accrurate and usuable than this pen. Don’t watse your money.

  15. TDB says:

    I have a hard screen protector that came w/ my case and I have found that the Pogo stylus is often very difficult to use on it (a finger works w/ almost no pressure though). It takes quite a bit of pressure and angle changes to get the iphone to recognize the Pogo stylus. I usually just give up and go back to using my fingers after a few minutes. The plastic stylus holders do not work if you put a case on your phone either (at the price of the phone there is no way I am going w/o a case!).

  16. k7n4n5t3w4rt says:

    Has anyone tried out the TapRight stylus for drawing? It looks promising as they seem to have put some effort into making the tip more precise. I can’t find any images or YouTube vids of it though and it’s pretty pricey (especially in Australian dollars).

  17. I have been trying to find the English benningtonnet flexible stylus and wonder if it is any better than the Japanese one you reviewed

  18. eddie says:

    I just ran across a youtube video for a stylus with a clear tip. looks great so i ordered it on ebay.

  19. Harold says:

    Pogo user is almost right. I tried a piece of the foam in my hand with NO contact with the case with my other hand and it works. My Touch is in a leather case. Will be doing some testing to see how small the foam piece can be and remain usable.

  20. John says:

    teh Dagi looks awesome, with the transparent tip. The only problem is he needs a US distributer…

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