Photo: Courtesy of FiftyThree.
We'll make a pretty broad generalization and say that most consumer-level styluses kinda suck. Not to prove Steve Jobs right or anything, but a lot of non-pro stylus technology has simply not been able to capture the natural feeling of writing or drawing on a touchscreen.
Now, however, comes a potential game changer. You've probably already heard of Paper, the very easy-to-use and highly addictive drawing app that debuted in 2012. What makes it more attractive than other similar apps is its general intuitiveness and simplicity, which somehow manages to preserve usability. Since Paper launched, its creator, FiftyThree, has been working on a stylus called Pencil, which combines that same mix of intuitive technology and simplicity.
Ellis Hamburger at The Verge did an extensive hands-on test with Pencil, and concludes that it is "the first Bluetooth stylus that normal people will love." (Meaning, people who are not digital artists or designers.)
What makes it different? First, it's powered with Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which means that, even though it's electronic, it can hold a charge for up to a month. To recharge it, you simply slip the battery out of the body and plug it into a USB port. When you need to pair Pencil with your device, you simply press the tip to Paper's new in-app pairing button. No more fiddling with buttons.
But, even more interesting is Pencil's palm rejection technology. With many styluses, you need to hold your hand above the touchscreen, instead of resting on it in a natural manner, because the screen can't differentiate between your palm and the tip of the stylus. There are apps and styluses out there that also include palm rejection tech but, in Hamburger's words, "to less successful effect."
Paper and Pencil's advantage is that the app knows when you're using your hand and not the stylus. With that in mind, it incorporates new features like the ability to blend colors, which you can only achieve with your finger.
There are downsides, however. Even though it's Bluetooth-enabled, Pencil is not pressure-sensitive, so it doesn't let you directly control the thickness of your stroke. Paper itself does this in a way, translating the speed of your hand into variable stroke widths. It works, but you have to get used to it.