Monday, February 20, 2012

The return of the stylus

Among the somewhat interesting things I saw at CES, the Samsung Note topped the list.

Mostly, because Samsung made a big deal out of it: they hired graphic artists to sketch your face on the device and that created a long line of people (there is nothing people like more then themselves: smart move, Samsung...).

What is the Samsung Note? A huge phone or a small tablet, depending on how you look at it. It is 5.8 by 3.3 inches (if you are not American, don't worry, it means it is huge). It fits in your pocket, if you are ok with going around with a brick in your pants. You can also use it to make calls, unless you are worried that people will look at you holding an iron board.

You know what I think about super-sized phones (a.k.a. versatile bricks), and I have the same feeling about the Note. It is just too big.

However, the new (?!?) thing about the Note is that it sports a stylus pen. Yes, exactly like the one we had in the old Palm Pilots. The one we hated. The one we lost so many times, we all bought five replacement pens. It stays inside the device, you push it and it comes out. You can write or sketch on the device (there is a Note app), while you use the finger for anything else.

I had lunch with a friend a few days ago and he had one of these monsters. I sketched a face (not mine) and the experience was quite good. Still, the thing is too big, sorry. It will be a device only for a niche.

However, it made me think about the stylus. It was gone when the BlackBerry introduced the mini-keyboard and even more when the iPhone introduced multi-touch.

Do I ever miss it?

Yes, I did. I clearly remember one day when I went looking online for a pen. For my iPad. I could not find one that would actually work and I gave up.

Why was I looking for a pen?

To sketch ;-) And take notes while in meeting. Typing on an iPad in a meeting is just too much and the social experience is still bad: better than taking notes on a laptop, with the screen creating a visual barrier, but still bad because you must look at your fingers while others are talking. We are so good at writing, that we do not need to look at it. We write and we look at the person in front of us, or we alternate. It is socially acceptable.

The same for taking notes in school. Try doing it with your fingers. It is too hard. Personally, I believe tablet will totally eliminate sketchpads eventually. Now, it is not possible. With a pen, it could.

Somehow, the idea of a stylus for a tablet makes sense to me. And not only me: I heard rumors that Samsung is about to launch a Note 10.1, a tablet with a pen. It is something that would make it different than any other tablet out there. On a phone, I say no. On a tablet, oh yes.

More, let me predict one thing about the new iPad 3: you will be able to write on it with a pen. A magic pen, sold as an accessory. Probably nicely fitting in your cover.

This is the return of the stylus.