Capacitive stylus roundup

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A friend of mine sent me a message asking if I could do an article on different styli (for capacitive screens). I thought that was a great idea, so here goes.

OEM design styli

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The most common form of capacitive stylus is the one that most manufacturers use, making those styli pretty much identical. I have the Griffin Stylus which fits in there with all the other ones: Pogo Sketch, Pogo Stylus, Boxwave’s stylus, elago, Macally etc. They have different durability and comfort in some cases but frankly they’re all pretty much the same. Some are in fact identical as they just rebrand OEM styli.

“A bit different”

Some styli are basically the same as the above rubber tip lookalike styli, but “a bit different”; the design, length, additional features etc.

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The Just Mobile AluPen is a machined aluminum stylus which is significantly thicker than your average stylus. Drawing on a capacitive screen is a bit like drawing with a big permanent marker so it fits the use, really, but it might be too thick for some. It looks great though and fit the design of a naked iPad perfectly.

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Boxwave’s mini capacitive stylus is another interesting design. Aside form being small (pretty common) it has a short strap with a plastic plug that fits into a 3.5mm headphone socket so the stylus can be attached while not in use.

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Another short stylus that can connect to the device (if it’s an iPad) is the OEM dock stub stylus that I’ve seen around on various Chinese OEM sites. Haven’t found a brand name version of this, but I’m sure the Chinese copied it from somewhere.

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Combining a stylus and a pen is another way to go, like Boxwave (left) and HardCandy (right) has done.

Transparent stylus

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The thing with capacitive styli is that they need to have a certain amount of contact with the screen in order for the screen to react. The device then calculates where you’re actually aiming by finding the center of the area that is in contact with the screen. This means you can’t have overly pointy capacitive objects though as the screen won’t see it, and why most styli have large rubber tips. There are alternatives though, and one of those is the Dagi stylus which uses a transparent (large) plastic tip with a red dot in the center. The device still calculates the center of the large stylus tip like on the styli above, however with this stylus you can actually see that center yourself. You have to hold it at a specific angle for it to work though, but it should give you better control. I’ve ordered one, so I’ll give you a review when it arrives!

You can also make your own if you don’t want to spend the cash.

Paint brush stylus

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The Nomad Brush is a whole different stylus altogether: it functions like a paintbrush, in more ways than just the looks. In order to get the surface area needed for the capacitive screen to react, hundreds of tiny conductive hairs touch the screen as a single group, making the screen think you’re using a finger. The point of it is to get the feel of painting, the smooth feel of a brush and (if the software/device supports it) virtual pressure sensitivity, where the size of the area on screen equals the brush size. On the iPad this isn’t possible at the moment as the necessary API isn’t public (FU Apple) but we can hope for the future.

Crayon stylus

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The iPad is a perfect toy for kids with all the different games and books on that thing. Griffin and Crayola (the Crayon maker) thought the same and teamed up to make the iMarker, a stylus that looks like a crayon. It’s designed to go hand-in-hand with Colorstudio, an app they’re making which is basically a digital coloring book. It hasn’t been released yet but the idea is great, even if it’s just another stylus. The app is interesting though as it has such features as palm ignore, animated coloring areas, and a feature to never go over the line when coloring (I think we can all agree that is a neat addition).

DIY stylus

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There are hundreds of DIY styli out there, using a variety of methods to get the screen to sense the pen. Just do a search on Instructables or YouTube and you’ll be browsing for hours.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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