Take a look at the AluPen from Just Mobile, a company that makes some cook aluminium accessories for the Apple iPad. It seems somehow incongruous to add a pencil-like stylus to the sleek touchscreen device.
Steve Jobs never wanted you to use a stylus with your iPad. He dumped Apple’s old stylus-driven touchscreen device, the Newton MessagePad, almost as soon as he returned to the company in 1997.
In Steve’s mind it’s not an elegant solution. It’s not human. Real artists don’t use tools, he might say – they use their hands.
Look at smartphones and PDAs that still require a stylus. They look clumsy and old fashioned. Apple doesn’t want that look associated with its more human, personal devices.
But there’s no doubt that graphic artists and draughtsmen often work better with a pen or pencil than a finger. Children too can better express their artistic selves using something akin to what they’re used to working with on paper.
And, of course, using a stylus stops you getting your greasy fingerprints all over your smart touchscreen.
An increasing number of drawing and painting apps would benefit from using an accurate stylus.
When it comes to handwriting input a finger takes some getting used to, but works pretty well with a good drawing or note app, such as Art Studio or Penultimate.
You can use a stylus to tap out your words on the iPad or iPhone’s keyboard. In use we didn’t find this to be any quicker or more accurate than standard finger typing, but others might prefer this option.
While Apple isn’t likely to produce its own iPad or iPhone stylus this hasn’t stopped third parties stepping in with their own pen tools for these devices.
The AluPen - which the company says is for “creative tableteers” - is a chunky pencil-shaped stylus that gives you precise control over your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
It’s made with aluminium so it’s very light despite the handy chunkiness. The action end of the stylus features a soft rubber nib.
It measures 12 x 1.3 x 1.2cm (4.7 x 0.5 x 0.5 inches).
In tests we were actually more impressed by how quickly we got used to using a finger but there's no doubting that using a stylus like the AluPen feels more natural than using your finger for drawing and handwriting, and we liked the AluPen's stubby pencil feel.
Another iPad/iPhone stylus, the similarly priced Griffin Stylus is slimmer than the AluPen and boasts a pen-like pocket clip. There wasn't a great deal of difference in the actual feel or use of either stylus, however - so your choice may come down to styling.
Using a stylus for touchscreen input is a must for a growing number of iPad/iPhone apps, especially drawing and painting programs. The Just Mobile AluPen has a friendly chunky pencil feel to it that recommends it to artists and younger iPad users.