Is Jobs wrong about pen/stylus input for mobile devices?
Sponsored content [Thursday 1 August 2013]
In the evolution of computer input devices, the keyboard and mouse have been considered our good friend almost since the beginning, while the rise of portable devices such as PDAs, Pocket PCs, and Microsoft's Tablet PCs also brought about attempts to introduce a "stylus" as the basic input device. But after Apple's Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, the "touch" method has shined as the primary input method for today's mobile devices. However, using fingers to input data, write, take notes, and draw have always lacked a certain accuracy and realism. Therefore, stylus manufacturers still have something to say.
Touch is not bad, but a stylus is more intuitive
Ben Lee, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for WALTOP International, indicated that input devices that come with general consumer computers are mostly based on keyboard and mouse. Only professionals or artists use a drawing board plus stylus for creative production purposes. The prevalence of portable devices and mobile networks have led to the popularity of the PDAs, Pocket PCs, and Microsoft's Tablet PCs that tried to bring the "stylus" back to the application scene.
However, when Steve Jobs from Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and brought "touch" input method into our lives, followed by subsequent products such as the iPad, all mobile handsets and tablets from the Android camp, and even Windows 8; the "touch" input method has become the mainstream input/computer interaction method, overthrowing early pen input devices.
However, using a finger to input data, write, take notes, and draw has always lacked a certain accuracy and realism. Therefore, the stylus has specific application value and market opportunities remain.
With an extra 'pen,' sales for Samsung's mobile phones become unparalleled?
During his speech, Lee paid tribute to Steve Jobs and thanked him for bringing the "touch" input method into all of today's mobile devices so we can use our hands for sliding control. However, Ben Lee feels that Steve Jobs may have spoken too soon when he said, "If you see a stylus, they blew it."
Lee believes that maybe in the spelling cultures of Western languages, a keyboard has been historically sufficient for precision data entry for computers, while using hands and mouse for pointing and interactive controls. However, the facts prove that finger control for writing cannot completely replace writing with a pen because using fingers for writing, taking notes, drawing, and providing signatures is always not as natural and accurate as using a pen.
Lee raised an example that Apple's main competitor today is Samsung. The Galaxy Note and its S2/S3/S4 series all include a stylus to bring the writing experiences to the consumers and use the stylus to stimulate the users' creative inspirations. This has allowed Samsung's mobile phones/tablets to become productivity tools. Statistics show that the Samsung mobile phones have the best sales performance worldwide. In addition, the Fonepad Note recently launched by Asus also included a stylus. This shows the importance and love of the Eastern writing culture from Asian IT manufacturers.
Best handwriting input device is a pen and cannot be replaced by finger writing
When the various input devices and methods are compared, the results show that the keyboard and mouse are not suitable for mobile use and virtual keyboards lack a realistic touch sensation. Although the touch method is suitable for inputting, it is not suitable for long-term writing. While the voice input is easy to use, its error rate is high. Therefore, the "pen writing" method is the most natural input method and can be used at fixed points (such as offices, conference rooms, or classrooms) or when traveling (in a car).
In addition, pens have a difference in thickness and depth, and are divided into pencil, pen, brush, and other types. Pens can write (draw) relatively smaller words (pictures), the effort required would not be as arduous as that of using a finger, and will not leave fingerprints on the screen. Therefore, pens are more suitable for long-term memo, note taking, calligraphy, painting, and signature applications.
Types of stylus and the advantages of electromagnetic pens
Today's stylus technologies are primarily divided into the Passive EM Digitizer or the Passive Capacitive Stylus types. The advantages of the Passive EM Digitizer are that it has the hovering height of 10mm, can have buttons added to the pens, has an Z-axis sensing pressure level of up to 1,024 or 2,048 bands, has the pen tip width of 1mm, has a 4,000 LPI resolution, allow for a palm resting on the screen, has strong anti-noise interference capabilities, can be designed with exclusive applications (such as Samsung's AirView suspension preview function), and the pen tilt angle can also be detected (up to 50 degrees).
WALTOP is the leader in the electromagnetic pen (EM Pen) technology. Its technology patents cover sensor layout, pen movement, IC chips, etc. Lee introduced the EM pen's product composition and operation principles. The battery-free EM Module covers the sensor board, the controller or control board, and the pen itself. Among these components, the sensor board (less than 0.25 mm in thickness) is placed between the cell phone backlight panel and the back cover, the controller can be integrated onto the PCB of the mobile phone, and the pen's movements or gestures are detected through the electromagnetic wave emission method.
The battery-free EM Pen is used with the 5-inch or larger mobile phone/tablet/ touch notebook markets. Besides 9mm, 7.2mm, and 5.5mm, WALTOP has also launched a 4.5mm diameter EM Pen, the thinnest EM Pen in the world. This can help to reduce the size of the mobile units by 1mm to 2mm, allowing the thicknesses of cell phones and tablets to be less than 9.0mm and 7.8mm, respectively; as well as allow mobile devices with pens to become thinner and lighter, and is bound to drive the rise of the stylus market.
Ben Lee, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for WALTOP