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"It's like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it."

That's the ever-popular comment made by the late Steve Jobs during the question and answer segment of the iPad announcement in April of 2010. Looking back at pre-iPhone touchscreen devices, they weren't exactly chubby finger-friendly and required the more accurate touch of a stylus. This is because displays of yesteryear used a different input method. Instead of the capacitive digitizers made with stubby fingers in mind, OEMs used resistive technology, which was far less accurate.

It was almost overnight that manufacturers stopped making phones with styluses and adopted capacitive touchscreen displays. Jobs spoke and the general public agreed. It must be true. The stylus is passé, dead even.

If Samsung has a say on the issue, however, they want you to believe otherwise. Rewind a week and a half to Super Bowl XLVI. You may recall that during the fourth quarter, they paid a pretty penny to air the longest ad of the Super Bowl for their revolutionary new product.

While we were already upset that "new and revolutionary" was being used to describe something that has already been around for some time, Samsung's Super Bowl ad was immediately mocked, (rightfully) critiqued and pulled limb from limb. It wasn't a terrible ad, but it wasn't great either. The greatest folly was the questionable highlight of the ad: the S Pen. Even at CES in Las Vegas, Samsung made everyone well aware that S Pen was their vision, their big gambit. There were multiple booths where atrists equipped with Galaxy Notes and an S Pen would readily conjure a portrait of you for printing on a t-shirt.

For those unaware, Samsung's S Pen that has been included with the Galaxy Note is a "smart" stylus that comes with its very own SDK. Within TouchWiz, there are included applications, such as S Planner, S Memo and other native applications, that work with the S Pen and allow you to take handwritten notes, screen shots and more. With the SDK, developers can implement S Pen compatibility with their own applications.

Ever since the Super Bowl, it's as if everyone has been bashing styluses (styli?) left and right. "Why would I need or want a stylus?" or "When would I use it and why?" I'm not saying these people don't have a point or that Jobs was totally wrong, but why not? My stubby fingers are only so accurate. Sure, in most situations, a finger will suffice. But have you ever tried to take written notes with a finger? Have you tried to draw on a phone or tablet with your finger? It isn't easy and is extremely unwieldy.

Then I began to wonder: have any of these people even tried the S Pen? And are they really that short sighted?

Old styli were used with resistive display technology, not capacitive digitizers. In other words, you had to apply pressure to use them, making it somewhat uncomfortable and inconvenient. And in most cases you had to use them. They weren't optional. Current, non-smart styli with felt or rubberized tips made for capacitive touch are inaccurate and, really, are hardly better than a finger. And all of this existing knowledge and experience with dated technology has turned the general public into naysayers.

But the S Pen is a different beast. I sat down with Aaron yesterday and was playing around with the S Pen from his Galaxy Note (here's the latest on his 30 day challenge, by the way). I even played with it countless times at CES. It's great and works better than any other stylus I've used in the past several years. I would definitely use it if I had the Note. Probably not very often, but I would use it. When I'm brainstorming, I like to hand draw things to hash out ideas. But I hate wasting paper and not being able to easily erase. The S Pen is a perfect in between solution. It isn't perfect, but it works.

For Samsung, it's a differentiator. Aside from the HTC Flyer, what other Android devices use a smart stylus? None that immediately come to mind. (If Samsung didn't include the S Pen, and instead charged for it like HTC did with the Flyer's Smart Pen, people would complain about that, too.) If they can market this correctly (and by that, I mean not including it in obvious Anti-Apple propaganda), it could be a huge foot in the door for ol' Sammy.

And it's not about me ... or you. The S Pen is about, as Jason Perlow of ZDNet describes, all of those old PalmPilot users who can't let go, all of those niche users who may need a stylus for their profession (artists, doctors who need to sign things, engineers, etc.) or simply for preference.

The stylus took a hiatus, but I have a feeling it will eventually make a comeback, one way or another.

Not everyone will need or use it. But what does it hurt having the option? Some will need and want a stylus for various things. Others won't. Big deal. Complaining about a phone having a stylus is like complaining about a car with a cigarette lighter. It's there for those who want or need it. For those who don't, there is no need in crying.


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85 Reactions to this post

"Do you think a stylus is useful?"


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Ali Redwolf I bought them in bulk once I tried using my fingers on the keyboard on screen for about a week. Got mine at www.thecellphoneshop.com for about $1.30 ea cause I bought 10 at one time. Friends are begging me for them now, so I have been keeping bulk supplies on hand. The reaction when they see how easy it is with the stylus is like an addict seeing "crack" on the coffee table in my living room. lol
Anonymous Yes..why not . I'm using the Galaxy Note for some time now . I just love the stylus.
Thomas Johnson I think a stylus is incredibly useful. I love drawing on my iPod touch, but the lack of an accurate stylus makes it rather difficult. Phones and tablets could become even better artistic powerhouses with support for thin-tipped styluses. (Not like the ones you see for iOS devices with the fat heads on them.)
Jiawei Mao A stylus could be useful,when it"s designed for people like entrepreneur,but it's all limited,kids would never hold a Samsung note and use a stylus play angry birds,so I agree that 3.5 is the universal size for phone
Asher Enciso Can't survive without it for school
Ashley Liu nope.seriously? when am i gonnna pull out my handy-dandy STYLUS when i could just use my finger? lol
Orion Pax IF apple would of came out with a Stylus iphone you all will not be talking shit about it.
Anthony P. Schulz remember the jokes about the ipad being a giant iphone.
Edgar Perret-Gentil Unless it is intended for the commercial end user. The averAge consumer does not need a stylus. It's so palm pilot it brings back basic memories.
Ashanti Secondtonone Mitchell I really love my unlocked galaxy note and I'm not beat one way or another about the stylus I would love the phone even without it.
GladisnFidel Jose Love this feature. Its an option and I'm sure it will help keep my screen smudge free, which I hate having to clean.
Brantley Culbertson for artist or people who like to take notes
Marti Ruiz No es cual cualquier stylus
Wendy Lindop I love the S Pen on the Note, don't see the problem with a feature like that. Most people who 'hate' them either remember them from old resistive screens or can't afford a Note and are jealous.
Eduardo Ordaz its a cool feature. if my mom forgot her notebook and needs to write some notes in class for the exam then she could write notes on the galaxy note and it also saves paper.
Reinis Jansons I like stylus , they help in cold weather. No need to freez hands when outside is like -20 celsius.
C Paul Courtney Too easy to lose.
John Jackson Lol wow. I use a stylus when eating so I dont dirty the screen
Zach Cline It's not just a " phone"
Edward Gonse I think the stylus should have died along with the Palm Treo.
Vincent Paolo Andrada people are just too lazy.. :))
George Isenhart Depends on the phone
Engpa Desamito Because people already have the idea that you can only use your fingers to navigate through your device. Basically, people are just too lazy.
Chris Taylor Here's an idea, morons. It's an EXTRA FEATURE. They didn't have to add it, they put it in for the conveience of the customer. Jesus.
Riley Shepherd Maybe if you have baseball gloves for hands...
Rolando Natalizia Every tool has its uses. A good notetaking app will excel with a stylus. But using the stylus as a navigation device has being deprecated by the powerful finger
Orion Pax Stylus is perfect for drawing. Try that with your fat finger.
David Quintanilla Jr Ppl don't like the stylus cuz its somewhat old school well guess what , almost everything is some what old school any from a lil of technology and other things like style of clothes also . Old school thing are making a come back so that why ppl love the stylus
Oscar Alfieri Who cares about the damn stylus!? It slows you down in any process you can think of that you can just use you own finger. Furthermore, it's just another accessory that can be easily misplaced. Forget about reinventing the stylus, let's get into perfecting hologram virtual keyboards instead. And the sooner that happens, GOOD BYE NOTEBOOKS/ULTRABOOKS. **books are only useful for long typing. Ps. If your quib is 'fat finger' issues,, then lose weight for christ sakes!
Chris Schaffner Had a stylus on my HTC Apache (PPC-6700) and it was almost always needed for that phone. True you could use your finger but with WM5.0 and that small screen, the stylus was the only way to use it. As far as losing it, on that model, a slight bend to the stylus and it stayed in secure.
Tim Miyashiro It's about as useful as an iPhone is customizable
Justin A Malakhow How do you LOSE a stylus? The devices have a special pocket or slot for them. I guess the people who lose the stylus are the same people who lose their entire phones. People need to take better care of their valuables.
Atul Parashar Used stylus on SE G900 and it wrkd like magic..... now I use SGS2.... don need one now
Zach Cline Because the stylus is outdated
Sean Kalkreuth No... With the new touch screens what's the point.
Basil Mahmud No, my finger is the best stylus ever made
Paul Alexandru I have to say that stylus really impressed me! The phone will seem to you slicker, and just like it flies when using the stylus.It's better than your finger xD
Grace Moss think its because its ANOTHER piece of equipment we have to store/carry/ & worry about. for me anyway it needs to be somehow attached to the device ,then i would be o.k. with it!(also earphones although i have bluetooth ones.)
George Cardoza I think the fact that the Galaxy Note has a stylus for notes, and doodles is very nice. Yet, it doesn't mean you CANT use the phone without it. A stylus isn't that bad as it, maybe, was before. :)
Dounutz Sesar If u think ur gona lose the stylus then ur just stupid
Eric Casanova We use capasitive touch screens. Stylus is for Resistive touch screens
Javier Olivarez Also, maybe if Aaron did a better job at his reviews on YouTube, people would be more educated about the entire product. The past three reviews talk about the same topics. Dude there is so much more to this phone. I've learned more from CNet and at&t that covered amazing features.
Huey Liggins The stylus won't scratch the screen. It's meant to be used as your finger. Does you finger scratch the screen? It's an option. Meaning that the screen is also touch screen. That's the beauty of it. Whether your screen is covered in links to other web pages or you want to draw or trace accurately the pen allows you to with ease unlike your finger. It's an old idea taken to a whole new level and I jus love it. Can't wait to have the Note
Javier Olivarez I do think its useful. People who keep bringing up the Palm obviously don't move forward. Thus stylus does a lot more than the one for the Palm did. Embrace the positive and stop being so critical. If you don't like it, just get something else!
Farhan Jaffer Having a stylus is definitely a plus....in most cases it is more responsive than the heat sensation from a human touch. As long as the device is capable of both options, it wouldn't hurt to have a stylus as a back up.
David DiPilla Nope pointless
Muhammad Bilal Arif may be, coz they like to finger.
Carlos Zarate I use a stylus wit my og asus transformer :P
Thanh Phan I remmeber watching my teacher using stylus smartphone 7-8 years ago. It was so cool back then. But now: Nah.
Jesse Snider the only good thing about a stylus is you're not spending so much time wiping finger prints off your phone! :P LOL
Clifton Brown Cause you have to buy 50 just to keep up with one! crazyfatfingeredpeoplewithyourlittlepens#
D.j. Izzy Stylus only good if your still stuck in 2007
Craig Campbell This is a very silly question as it's not remotely the same argument as when the iPhone first popularised the finger-only interfaces. The touch interfaces of the time (Windows Mobile) REQUIRED a stylus. The Galaxy Note does NOT. The stylus is an optional, extra tool, designed for specific functions, and is superior at those functions. If you don't want to use those functions, you don't need to use the stylus. Simple. The whole thing is an invalid argument.
Edward Swardt Just as Topher said, a Styler is a perception thing.I am a professional artist and I make use of my fingers to sketch and design on my iPad and iPhone, however I had to make use of a Stylus when I had a run with the Samsung Note because of the different screen. I prefer no Stylus.
Ashish Upadhye stylus is the only useful thing ! thats the point of attraction of Note
Christopher Manic Johnson It's a perception thing, many ppl think the stylus is an outdated tool, yet they don't realize how useful a stylus actually is. A stylus to the smartphone is like the mouse to the computer, it's an ideal input device; yes, that's right, touch isn't the 'end all be all' best input method. Even all touch pc's can't take off, and that isn't 100% down to software optimization, it's just not a natural thing in some cases. I mean, thinking about it, you don't dip your finger in a jar of ink to write a note on paper, why does it have to be any different with slate devices? Especially seeing how sometimes ppl want that thinness of all touch devices, yet they want to use something easier than a virtual keyboard. Plus, look at the added functionality a stylus can bring to the table.
Mark Coppock A UI designed for a stylus (a la Windows Mobile) is a bad thing. Using an active digitizer + pen for notetaking is awesome. Jobs was doing his usual obfuscation technique to hide the fact that a capacitive touch screen by itself is terrible for entering information.
Trevor Sawyer Heck no.
Don Scaflus WizMatic Bennett Lol @emanuel that's tru :)
Don Scaflus WizMatic Bennett Its useful in sum cases if u hav a small touch screen device then u wud need it
Emanuel Rolon Using a Stylus pen makes you look more professional. If you use the finger everybody may think you are playing Angry BirdsĀ© but when using a STYLUS people think "hey, he is doing something smart with that gadget"
Francisco Saucedo Yeah it is since it makes it easier to point things out
Michael Mycoo Chrisendath I hate the stylus because it scratches the screen sometimes.
Camille Lake Yes. Because your finger isn't a pencil.
Ian Jamieson I just lost all respect for this website.
Stuart Brewer Absolutely useful. I've often lamented the demise of the stylus and I'm glad to see it coming back. IMO if the only input option is your finger, then it's a toy, not a device for getting work done. Give me either a real physical keyboard or a stylus with handwriting recognition.
Carlos Nava Easy to lose and expensive af to buy a new one ..
Luis Robles Figueroa Small devices no but it works lovely on Galaxy Note 5.3" inch phone. Plus the software has to do alot with it.
Emanuel Rolon It is... Great when using swype or a drawing app. It saves visual space and make every touch more accurate. Also help to keep the screen clean without fingerprints.
Jeff Cross Those are soooo 80's Handsping/Palm III!!!
Scott AbstractCats I've used one on my touch screen and I do like it.
David McClellan Capacitive + stylus on a tablet = productivity. You can't write faster than you can type on a touch screen device.
Abbas Raza Nasir Alvi its not for most of phone's,but galaxy note make's it damn useful awesome feature's best stylus phone eva
Alen Teplitsky easy to lose and then it's some ridiculous price for a new one. and the trend is away from writing by hand to typing
Ian Swinton People hate them because they are easy to lose
Andrew Arnold because it reminds me of looking at my wee wee
Orga Price Shades of Windows Mobile and resistive touch screens for me.
Ben Conover maybe if it's a 3- 3.5" screen. not for a 5.3" screen.




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