The arrival of capacitive touch screen devices changed people's note-taking and sketching habits profoundly. Suddenly, the fingertip reigned supreme.
Despite that, users crave more precise interaction with their phones and tablets, especially for writing, drawing, sketching and illustrating – it's not just about tapping in a phone number or selecting which email to view.
The stylus pulls together various technologies that make using your device easier, more flexible and universally functional. For businesses, speed and accuracy are essential, with a stylus as the tool of the trade.
What to look for in a stylus
Stylus nibs, the part of the instrument that makes contact with the glass, are made of various materials from rubber and mesh to plastic discs. Some pricier ones are powered by batteries or Bluetooth, which can provide additional precision features such as pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. Styluses are often controlled by apps, if the native device does not support all its features.
Here are some features you'll want to consider as you choose which stylus to buy:
Natural feel: A stylus must feel good in the hand and be comfortable to use for as long as you want. Beware of styluses that cramp your fingers or hand or make your hand feel tired after only a short while.
Design: Consider how your protects the nib (if it does so at all), and whether it is retractable, has a cap or includes a clasp that lets you attach it to a case to avoid loss. The case should feel good – smooth but not too slick, grippy but not cramping.
Friction: Marking up your tablet or phone screen shouldn't feel like a chore. You should be able to form letters and draw lines easily, with the marks appearing immediately and without lag. You want just the right amount of friction between the stylus nib and the glass so that your stylus does not drag or move so slickly that it skips, causing you to lose control. You don't want to have to press too hard for it to register, or fail to work with your screen protector.
Balance and weight: Moderation is the key. A stylus should be of medium height so that it is easy to handle and doesn't wobble in your hand. Weight should be evenly distributed throughout the body. If a stylus is too heavy, your hand will tire quickly, and if it's too light, you might lose control.
Precision: Whether you're handwriting text or sketching on a note, you want to be able to write consistently, without overlapping letters or erratic spacing. When you create a document, you don't want the stylus to get creative with your content or force you to compensate for its poor performance.
Read on for some great styluses for businesspeople on the go. [See related story: Best Tablets With Stylus]
Wacom Bamboo Tip ($49.95)
The recently released Bamboo Tip highlights note taking on the fly where speed doesn't miss a letter. The stylus' fine tip lets you fly across the screen, regardless of whether you're writing or drawing.
At 1.9mm, the pen lets you see exactly where the tip hits the glass for use with any app on either iOS or Android devices – no pairing necessary. A small side switch, which you can move to an up or down position, optimizes the stylus' performance for your device – up for most tablets and down for the iPad Pro. You can always replace the tip if it starts to wear out.
Apple Pencil ($114)
No other stylus compares with Apple Pencil, which feels and performs like your favorite pencil or pen. Pencil was created specifically for the iPad Pro and is engineered to leverage all the tablet's advanced, built-in features. Palm rejection and pressure sensitivity work together with the Pencil's two-tilt tip sensors to calculate the angle of your hand, which you can rest on the screen to create shading for your drawings. A Lightning connector, located under the cap, lets you plug it directly into the iPad Pro for charging: 15 seconds gets you 30 minutes of use, while a full charge can last up to 12 hours.
Adonit Ink ($44.99)
While the Apple Pencil targets only iPad Pros,the Adonit Ink Fine Point Stylus demands equal time for Windows tablets and 2-in-1 laptops from companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Microsoft. Ink's 1mm fine point tip works with the Microsoft Pen Protocol for most Windows devices – no Bluetooth connection required.
Like the Pencil, Adonit Ink is pressure sensitive, allowing you to press harder for thicker strokes and lighter for wispy strokes. It also supports palm rejection, while two shortcut buttons provide erase and right click functionality. The slender, balanced metal body includes a handy clip that lets you fasten the stylus to your pocket or notepad so no worries about losing it. Charge up the Ink with any microUSB for 80 hours of continuous use.
Adonit Dash 3 ($49.99)
Using Adonit Dash 3 is like having your favorite fine-point pen in your pocket – except you won't need a pocket protector. With its brushed aluminum body, smooth, ergonomic design, and handy clip, it's both beautiful and functional. To write, just click the top, like a conventional ballpoint pen.
This new third generation Dash features an improved 1.9mm tip that ditches the drag for a faster, more fluid writing experience. You can use Dash on any touch screen, and you don't have to bother connecting: Just turn on the stylus and it works for up to 14 hours.
Musemee Notier V2 ($12.99)
This lovely pen, which comes in three colors, starts out narrow and thickens near the tip to prevent finger and hand cramping, allowing you to hold the stylus at any angle you're comfortable with for writing or sketching. Its fine, replaceable tip and disc design enhances accuracy, with the ability to bend to 42 degrees. The protective cap sits on the top of stylus while you're using it. The Musemee Notier V2 is compatible with all capacitive touch screens including smartphones, tablets, and touch screens.
Meko Universal Stylus ($14.99)
It's two styluses for the price of one with the Meko two-in-one precision disc series. This stunning, reasonably priced stainless steel and aluminum set gives you everything you need to get started with tablet- or phone-based writing and drawing, and more. Compatible with all capacitive touch devices, it ships as a pair with replacement discs and tips. The 6mm fiber tip and 6.8mm disc work together to give you a clear view of your markup and to give your output a fine touch. It comes in color combos of black and silver, pink, purple, gold and all black.
Wacom Bamboo Fineline ($59.95)
The Wacom Bamboo Fineline fine tip smart stylus, designed for writing and note taking, provides pressure sensitivity and ergonomic design for a natural, comfortable pen feel. Just connect the stylus via Bluetooth and then activate or deactivate it with a twist. The twist mechanism protects the fine tip when you're not using the pen, while the customizable shortcut button is a genuine timesaver. The stylus also works with older Bluetooth iPads. It comes in white, light blue, blue or black.
Pendorra Stylus Pen ($34.99)
You never have to worry about touch screen compatibility with the pen-like Pendorra Stylus, as it works with all devices, without pairing, for writing, note-taking, drawing and sketching. The stylus' ultra-fine 2.2mm fiber tip functions as smoothly as pen and paper and offers pressure sensitivity. The rechargeable design includes an intelligent power saving mode, button on-off controls, and automatic power-off after two idle minutes, make this a good choice or most users. It comes in rose gold, gold, silver, gray and red.
Lynktec TruGlide Pro Precision Stylus ($10.99)
You can't go wrong with the Lynktec TruGlide Pro universal stylus. Used with a phone or tablet, the pen is compatible with all capacitive touchscreens. It features a precise 5mm microfiber mesh tip that lets you write, draw, take notes and play games without dragging or skipping. An anodized aluminum finish in silver and black, coupled with chrome accents, spring-loaded clip, and ergonomic design makes the stylus comfortable to use and attractive to look at. An interchangeable tip design lets you attach a paintbrush accessory, should you get the creative urge (sold separately).