The Return of the Stylus

December 29, 2012 2:11 pm

Sometimes, visionaries can get it wrong too. That was the first thing that came to my mind after 30 minutes of playing around with the S-Pen (a stylus, basically) on the Samsung Galaxy Note II – I remember telling myself “I would never use the S-Pen” – particularly since I have been using an iPhone for the last few years. But after 30 minutes, as I placed the S-Pen back into its slot on the Note-II, I was thinking “This looks like a cool thing after all”. The other thought that came to my mind: Steve Jobs had written off the Stylus – not once, but twice.

The first time was when he introduced the iPhone – when he told the world that the iPhone would be a touch device. I remember that very clearly – he called it a “Revolutionary UI” and ridiculed the stylus as “Who Wants A Stylus?” – he went on to say, you have to get them to use them, you lose them, put them away – yuck! Nobody wants a Stylus” – in fact the points “No Stylus” and “Far More Accurate” appear on the same slide in his presentation.

The second time was in an AllThingsD interview – where he said, if you think about the interface for a tablet type device, and you start with a pointing device (like the earlier Microsoft tablets) you have already made a mistake (I couldn’t locate the exact link for this one).

But Samsung seems to be getting this one right- the S-Pen is a great tool for scrolling, typing, clicking, writing down notes, everything. Well here is an exercise for you: Try taking a screenshot, scribble some notes on that, and email it. Do it on a touch-only device, and then try it on the Note II. You will see the difference. Use the stylus for some time, and you will find it difficult to go back to a touch-only world. Steve Jobs was definitely wrong when he said that the finger was ‘far more accurate’ – definitely wrong.

Yes, touch was a new paradigm that took the technology world by storm. But try the S-Pen once, and you will feel like you have watched the trailer of ‘The Return of the Stylus’. Well, that movie must be fun to watch.

But to Steve’s point – “Who wants a stylus?” – after 15 days with the Samsung Galaxy Note II – I definitely want one.

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5 Comments for “The Return of the Stylus”

  1. Bob Aldof

    You are wrong. Just because you enjoyed 30 minutes of Stylus does not mean its return is a success. Just wait till you loose it. Lol.

  2. Even Microsoft abandoned the stylus. Windows 7 was working well with Wacom-Penabled TabletPC’s, while Windows 8 basically treats the stylus like an afterthought.

    Too bad.

  3. jlau

    Totally agree. From my Note v.1.
    If only these samsung wankers would actually provide the latest android id be happy.
    Also i have to say that the memo programs by samsung are okoish, but all in all rather shitty. They open slowly and its heavy moving around in them. Using them is more of a chore than an intuitive paper notebook replacement.
    Samsung is not a company that has the capacity to truly shine in the usability department. Designed by engineers for engineers. Hoping that someone pushes the.envelope on this. Props to Ssung for giving it a good shot tho!

  4. huxley

    Wow, “definitely wrong”?

    I love drawing and think a stylus is a nice ACCESSORY for a tablet, but previous generations of tablets and smartphones made the pen the PRIMARY input device. So you what you missed was the historical context of Jobs’ quote.

    For 99.9% of my tablet and smartphone use, I’m glad that my finger is the way most of the interface is operated.

  5. Luke

    Check out Leap Motion. Imagine that capability on a tablet instead of stylus.

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