John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Capacitive pens

A while back every hand held device used a stylus (or pen) to interface with them. Along came the iPhone and changed everything over to finger friendly easier to use world. The screen changed to capacitive touch screen to make them more responsive and friendly to fingers. But frankly to do this the screens became less accurate. Now along come devices like the Note, Note 2, Microsoft Surface and thus reemerges the pen. I used the pen on the Note 2 for taking notes and it works well. So this got me thinking about a pen. And subsequently I’ve heard other talk about them as well. So I did some digging and thought I’d share some research.

There a lots of pens out there that are designed to work with the capacitive touch screen that is found on almost all of today’s modern phones and tablets. Don’t get fooled (or excited), if your phone did not come with a pen it may or may not work with one of these pens. So be careful not too spend too much money on a pen only to discover your phone either won’t see it at all or is so inaccurate it’s unusable. It all comes down to the design decisions that were made when they made phones/tablets finger friendly. For devices like the Note 2 etc they have added a digitizer. This digitizer adds back the ability to accurately detect a pen. You will notice the head on these pens is small and fine, almost like … well a pen. If your phone didn’t come with a pen, guess what, no digitizer.

So to get around this there are capacitive friendly pens on the market. The first thing you will notice is that instead of a thin fine head they have a fat, foam like head. They almost look like a magic marker. The finer the head the more likely it is that it may not work. A fatter tip is what is needed for a capacitive screen to pick them up. So this makes them a lot harder to use to make notes or doodle. Just how fat they need to be is going to be a combination of the pen and your phone. So again don’t run out and spend a ton of cash on a pen that may not work. I bought a iKross one on Amazon.


This one has a finer tip and looks a lot more like a normal pen. I was hoping for one that had a normal pen in it so I would have a reason to carry it around but I didn’t find one I liked at a price I was willing to pay. This one arrived. First off it has some odd spring like rattle coming from it. Odd. No idea if they are all like it or if this is a manufacturing defect. So I pulled out my S3 and tried it with S Memo. The same ap Samsung add onto the Note 2. Thanks for adding it Samsung. So I start using it. Sure enough it works. I can use it to select things. I can use it to take notes. The feel is a lot like writing with a fat magic marker (particularly so when in landscape mode for some odd reason) Vs writing with a fine pen. So the writing is legible but not fabulous. I also tried playing with the Smasung keyboard’s ability to convert hand writing into text. This is clumsy at best. For some odd reason Samsung did not automatically put a space in between writing words when you pause. So you have to manually keep hitting the space bar. And writing recognition is not fabulous. You will spend a bit of time correcting anything it gets wrong which generally means this is far less than an efficient way to enter text. So all in all it works. How much use of this I will make I will have to see. Do I bother carrying it, how soon until I loose it (remember there is no where on the phone to store it), and if (or more like when) I loose it, would I replace it. Time will tell. I’d love to use it to be able to take notes rather than carry a pad of paper which I currently do.

As an interesting aside, the back and options buttons on the S3, S2 and Note 2 all ignore the pen (even the pen that came with the note 2). So you will need to shuffle the pen out of the way and use your fingers.

So next up I thought I’d try it with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. Not a chance. It was completely ignored. Pooh. I had thought it would be useful on the larger screen. So last up I pulled out my S2 and here it was also ignored.

Update: I also tried this on my friends Blackberry Z10 and it also completely ignored this pen.

So the lesson here is if you buy a pen, be leery. It may or may not work at all.


April 20, 2013 - Posted by | Android

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: