The Evolution of the Touchscreen Stylus

The touchscreen stylus is becoming more important than ever. Some of the best phones and tablets on the market now use the stylus as a selling point, including the Samsung Note and the iPad.

So how has the touchscreen stylus evolved? Here’s a look at why it has become so popular and how it has advanced in recent years.

From the Pencil to the Touchscreen Stylus

Humans have been drawing and writing using paintbrushes, quills and pens for generations. As such, it’s no surprise that we have adapted our use of computers to incorporate pen-like experiences.

As soon as the first tablets started to appear, styluses were included with them. The very first stylus for a computing device appeared in 1957, called the Styalator. As more tablet devices began to appear, styluses were again an important addition, such as on the RAND tablet that came along in the 1960s, and the Dynabook that followed in 1968.

The stylus has now become even more popular due to the improvements in touchscreen technology.

The Capacitive Stylus

Once touchscreens started to become the norm in both phones and tablets, the stylus saw a new lease of life. Most screens were designed to be operated using fingers, but styluses remained popular.

A standard touchscreen stylus is a capacitive input device. Your average smartphone screen is made from glass and coated with an electrical conductor. When you touch it, your finger works as an electrical conductor as well. This changes the electrostatic field to tell the device where you are touching the screen. Basic styluses work in the same way.

But things have changed in recent years, and there have been new advances in stylus technology. Let’s have a look at some of the latest versions of the stylus: the Samsung S Pen and the Apple Pencil.

The Samsung S Pen

The Samsung S Pen is one of the best styluses on the market, and it provides an incredibly smooth and accurate experience. So why is it so good? Because it works differently from standard styluses.

The S Pen is an inductive touchscreen stylus. The Galaxy Note incorporates special hardware in the device that means the S Pen does not work as an electrical conductor. It’s quite complex, but it essentially makes the stylus a lot more accurate compared to a capacitive stylus.

The S Pen also pairs up with Bluetooth to add extra functions. For example, you can use it to take a photo by pressing the button on the pen.

The Apple Pencil

Steve Jobs famously hated styluses, but that didn’t stop Apple releasing the Apple Pencil in 2015 with the iPad Pro.

The latest Apple Pencil is very advanced, and there are lots of things it can do. It charges wirelessly directly from the iPad by sticking to the side using a magnet, and it even comes with gesture controls so you can tap the side to, for example, change it to an eraser. It also senses the angle of the stylus and supports pressure sensitivity.

Like the S Pen, it also uses palm-rejection technology. On touchscreens, wherever we touch the screens with our hands or fingers produces an action. This is not ideal when you are writing with a stylus because your hand touches the screen at the same time. So palm-rejection technology is used to only focus on the stylus.

The iPad screen also scans for the device up to 240 times a second, and it even uses advanced algorithms to predict where the Pencil is located to increase responsiveness.

The Stylus Is Here to Stay

The touchscreen stylus has undergone some significant changes in recent years. While it was once rejected by Steve Jobs, it’s clear that it is not going anywhere. As technology continues to improve, who knows what the humble stylus will be capable of doing next?

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