What kind of stylus do I need?

tablet-stylus.jpgMillions of people worldwide are enjoying the amazing functionality and versatility of the iPad and the iPhone, as well as many other Tablets and SmartPhones. As incredible as they are, however, many would agree with us that a stylus would make them just that much better (if not easier to keep clean & sanitary). This would seem to be a simple proposition, however, as many things go with technology, "simple isn't so simple".

Determine the type of "Touch-Screen" you have...

You may not be able to exactly determine which technology your device is using, however you can pretty easily tell what type of stylus to buy. Try the following tests:

  1. Take a Pen Cap or other SOFT plastic item with a fairly small end to it and see if the screen reacts. If so your device probably has a Resistive Touch Screen and practically ANY stylus will work.  If it doesn't work, try STEP 2…
  2. Try a Pencil Eraser.  If this works but a plastic tip doesn't you probably have a SAW, or Surface Acoustic Wave Touch Screen. If this doesn't work, try STEP 3…
  3. Lastly, if nothing works but your finger (as with the iPhone/iPad) you probably have a Capacitive Touch Screen, which really limits your stylus options (for now…).

If you are interested in learning a bit more about the different touch screen technology please feel free to read on…

Touch Screen Technology

The first hurdle that must be overcome is the technology that is used in the touch screen of a particular Tablet, Smart Phone or other device. There are many different ways to make a screen respond to touch and not all will work with a regular plastic-tipped stylus. So let's start with a quick description of each:

Resistive Touch Screens - this is the simplest, most basic type of touch screen and has been used for many years on devices ranging from the Palm Pilot to Symbol/Motorola's various handhelds and more. It will respond to pretty much anything that touches it…  Click here to learn more

Capacitive Touch Screens - are designed to respond to the electrical characteristics of the human finger. These screens are very responsive, which is why they are used in so many Smart Phones and other devices, however they do need a certain amount of surface area touched to respond. This makes them somewhat of a challenge for stylus makers… Click here to learn more

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) Touch Screens - this is the simplest, most basic type of touch screen and has been used for many years on devices ranging from the Palm Pilot to Symbol/Motorola's various handhelds and more. It will respond to pretty much anything that touches it…  Click here to learn more

There are other "touch-screen technologies", past and present, to help people interact with a given device or system…and there are likely more to come. Between ease of use and simple cleanliness it is also likely that a stylus will be a preferred input device, but time will tell. What is very likely, however, is that types of devices and styluses are going to continue to evolve and change.