Farhad Manjoo writing for Slate states his case for “bringing back’ or using a stylus with an iOS devices.
For certain uses, the stylus is way better than fingers–it’s more precise, easier to control, and more capable. A stylus lets you type just as fast (and maybe faster) than you can with your finger on a touchscreen and it allows for fine-motor skills like drawing and photo editing. Jobs wondered who wants a stylus. I do! And if tablet and app makers took some time to optimize their product for styluses, you will, too.
Today, people use styluses on iPads for specialized, pen-specific tasks like sketching.
“The research shows that the type of content you produce is different whether you handwrite or type,” says Ken Hinckley, an interface expert at Microsoft Research who’s long studied pen-based electronic devices. “Typing tends to be for complete sentences and thoughts–you go deeper into each line of thought. Handwriting is for short phrases, for jotting ideas. It’s a different mode of thought for most people.” This makes intuitive sense: It’s why people like to brainstorm using whiteboards rather than Word documents.
Today’s touch devices cater to the first, deep mode of thought, but–lacking a stylus–they don’t give us a way to jot down our nonlinear ideas. That’s why I sometimes find it more frustrating to read e-books than paper books–I can’t quickly mark up a Kindle title by underlining, highlighting, or writing notes in the margins. The best example of such marginalia–see David Foster Wallace’s–are freeform doodles, as graphical as they are textual. You can’t do that kind of thing with a keyboard.
I’m afraid I agree with the quote from Walter Isaacson’s biography, “God gave us 10 styluses–let’s not invent another.” The last thing I need is another object in my pocket. There are many times I find a capacitive touch stylus extremely useful; writing Chinese characters, jotting notes, and fine point control I find much easier with a pen than a finger. But thats what the accessory market is for and there are a slew to chose from.
Steve Jobs hated it, but the iPad and iPhone could use a pseudo-pen.