When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone (check fact) he famously said that “if you see a stylus, they blew it”. In typical fashion we now have interpretations over what he was really saying. Are stylus wrong full stop or was he making a slightly different point and there is actually a place for them?
I believe it was the latter and that for some people a stylus will enhance their experience on their iPad.
The Early Smartphones
When you look back at the smart devices around at the time of the first iPhone a stylus was a necessary evil. I remember my friends early android phone where he used the stylus to type in text or switched over to the drop down keyboard. He certainly couldn’t type on the screen as it was just too inaccurate. When Steve talked about styluses this is the use he was talking about.
The iPhone meant that you didn’t need to touch a screen with a stylus (that you’d inevitably lose at some point) and so you no longer needed a stylus. In fact if you had to use a stylus then clearly the device wasn’t up to scratch. That is what Steve was getting at, the iPhone was so accurate you could simple type with your fingers.
In fact, when you look at a drawing app on the iPad this trend continued. You could simply swipe across the screen and you would leave an accurate impression on the screen. The thing is, as great as finger painting is, trying to make the physical adjustment from using a pencil on paper to using your finger takes some adjusting. On top of that, your finger covers a significant area of the screen. If you want to do some precise art work then using your finger just isn’t up to the task. Instead you need a stylus.
But Do People Use Styluses?
This summer I was back visiting my friends in England and a few of them had Samsung Notes of different numbers. As I’m sure you know the Samsung note comes with a stylus, the s-pen. However, a good group had lost or didn’t take their s-pen with them, out of the others who kept their s-pen with them, few actually used it apart from the occasional game of draw something.
I know this is anecdotal evidence but I don’t think it is unique. If you think of a purely sketching perspective, people generally prefer medium or larger sized sketch pads (closer to an iPad mini or iPad size) rather than pocket sketch books. I know there are some users who love their s-pen but in general this is probably the least used function on the Note line (and the larger tablet versions hold a much smaller market share than the phone version)
Designing On The iPad With A Stylus Makes Sense
Having just trashed styluses completely, using a stylus on a tablet like an iPad. Compared with using a wacom device to draw on and having to look at a different screen, drawing and seeing the results where you sketch just makes sense. So far the design apps that have come out are certainly not professional grade but there are apps that are great for initial ideas and mock up. With the new 64 bit and double the previous power A7 it is only a matter of time before a potential professional grade design app comes out.
Styluses Are Niche, And That’s Ok
Even with the current stock for people who are more visual and enjoy sketching there is certainly a place for a stylus on their iPad. Styluses shouldn’t be a requirement or default option for a device but the option for those that want them is very handy. Personally, I’m hoping Santa will bring me one this Christmas.