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 â€“ 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 â€“Â but compared to a finger or the other stylus, the accuracy is much improved.
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
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
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