Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, was notorious for hating the stylus. He used the once popular accessory – or lack thereof – to promote that the iPhone was advanced to the point that it didn’t need a stylus to operate. In a way he was right; at the time, a stylus didn’t benefit iPhone users much. There wasn’t much need to tap small areas where a finger wouldn’t do just as well or better than a stylus on the 3.5-inch multi-touch display.
It would seem that most smartphone manufacturers agreed with Jobs’ anti-stylus sentiment, as the number of people carrying phones and a stylus quickly whittled down as the number of smartphone users went up.
Until one day when all of that changed. Well, it kind of changed.
The Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone was a groundbreaking device in the smartphone world for a couple of reasons. For one, it was gigantic for its time. Nobody knew whether that factor would play out well for Samsung or not, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that it worked out rather well for them. Second, they revamped and reintroduced the included stylus with the introduction of the iconic S-Pen.
Samsung hit the nail on the head with the Note. It’s been 4 years now and nobody has been able to come up with anything better when it comes to smartphones with included styluses. There have been attempts, but I firmly believe that the Galaxy Note and the S-Pen are the best smartphone/stylus duo on the market.
However, Samsung’s Note line also extended out to tablets in 2012, and the idea of an included stylus with a tablet seemed to have caught on better than a stylus with a phone. Lenovo, Microsoft, Asus, HP, LG, and now Apple have all made tablets alongside Samsung with a designated stylus as one of its showcased accessories.
I have to say that I am really happy to see styli make a resurgence. I like to sketch sometimes in my spare time, and I’ve grown to really enjoy sketching on a tablet. For a while my best option was the Samsung Galaxy Note (which I still love, because even after two and a half years the device still responds extremely well with the included S-Pen). But now we can look at devices like the Surface Pro, Lenovo’s ThinkPad, or even the Apple iPad (which I wasn’t sure would ever happen). What’s even better is that even people who have no interest in being artistic can still heavily benefit from a really good stylus.
Note-taking, precision touch, and in some cases the ability to enhance a multi-tasking experience are all things that a good stylus can do for you. In a lot of ways, the “outdated” stylus can very much complement your tablet (and sometimes your phone) experience.
Despite all of the new options, I find that I still prefer the S-Pen with the Galaxy Note above everything else. The S-Pen is always included, there’s nothing bulky about it, there's no charging hassles, and for an included stylus it works really, really well.
Apple’s iPad Pro now allows you to use the $99 Apple Pencil with the device, but it isn’t included in the already expensive iPad Pro package. In this case, the Galaxy Note is a more cost-friendly option.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro line is another good alternative for those looking for a tablet that comes with a stylus – and the Surface Pro does include the stylus, called the Surface Pen – but if you’re not looking for a full-fledged desktop experience from your tablet, then the Galaxy Note still wins, in my opinion, in that regard.
Still, it’s awesome to see the stylus make a return. While the Galaxy Note series works well for somebody like me, there are plenty of reasons to appreciate the fact that Microsoft, Apple, and other manufacturers are putting forth the effort to create an optimal tablet/stylus experience. A stylus still has its place in the world.