iPad stylus smackdown

As a lawyer, one of the things I love about my iPad (did I mention I upgraded to a new iPad, the third generation?) is the ability to take notes using a stylus and an app like Noteshelf or UPAD. While I can use a finger in a pinch, I really prefer to use a stylus because it is more natural—almost like writing with a pen on paper.

When I acquired my first iPad, I bought a Pogo Sketch Plus by Ten One Design. I liked how the little “puff” ball at the end worked to mimic a finger on the iPad screen, but I didn’t like how thin it was. I therefore acquired a different stylus that was a bit thicker, more akin to a regular ballpoint pen. I’ve forgotten what the stylus was, and I used it so much that the name has rubbed off the thing. But, I began to experience some problems with it. Specifically, the darn thing would “skip” when writing. I don’t know if it’s a case of the rubber tip being worn or what, but using it was more than frustrating.

The Adonit Jot Pro

A little while ago I decided to get a new stylus. A colleague had his iPad at a mediation one day, and he had an Adonit Jot Pro. I was intrigued by it (having read about it on the web) and I asked him if I could give it a go. It was nice, and I’ll say more about it in a little while.

I’m not one to make a decision based on one brief experience, so I began reading reviews of iPad styluses (styli?) online. My needs are pretty basic: I want to be able to write in a note-taking app and not have it look like hell or be unreadable. After reading several reviews, I settled on three contenders: the Adonit Jot Pro, the Boxwave EverTouch Capacitative Stylus (that’s a mouthful), and the Wacom Bamboo Solo. Feeling that I have a moral obligation to help my readers (all thirteen of you!) make informed decisions, I ordered one of each stylus from Amazon so I could try them out and share my observations. I also figured that my wife could use one as well, and if they were all as good as reported, then I would not feel bad about giving her a “reject.”

Without further ado, here are my notes, observations, and conclusions about each stylus.

The Adonit Jot Pro

If you want a stylus that’s more like using a roller ball or ball point pen (rather than a crayon or big Sharpie marker), the Adonit Jot Pro is your choice. Rather than the typical rubber tip that can block the contact point between your stylus and screen, the Jot Pro uses a clear plastic disk that swivels on a metal ball. To put it bluntly, this is a kick-ass stylus. It is smooth, accurate, and is as close to feeling like writing on paper as you’re going to get. At first the clear disk seems a little weird, but after a few minutes you don’t even notice it.

Well, actually, you do. Not with your eyes, but with your ears. Every time you pick up the stylus and then put it down on the iPad screen, you hear a little “bonk.” It’s not ridiculously loud, but it is noticeable. Now, I have to say here that Jeff Richardson of iPhone J.D. mentioned this in his review. When I tried the Jot Pro that belonged to my colleague, the audible sound of putting disk to glass did not occur to me. After reading Jeff’s review, I noticed it. (And now you’ll notice it too.) It’s possible I wouldn’t have been as aware of it without the power of suggestion, but for some it may be an issue. I don’t think it will bother me to use it in court or during a deposition. It’s not much louder than the sound one’s watch might make when setting a wrist upon the table. The noise might be noticed, but it’s of the type that should fade into the background (somewhat like typing on a laptop keyboard’s sounds become unnoticeable).

The Jot Pro has another nice feature: it has a magnet built into it near the grip so that you can attach it to the Apple Smart Cover. Other styluses use ferrous clips so they are attracted to the magnet built into the cover, but by using a magnet within the stylus as well, Adonit makes sure that your stylus isn’t going to fall off without a little effort.

The shaft of the stylus is made of some metal, and overall the stylus has a nice hefty feel. The Jot Pro features a rubberized grip, and there is a screw-on cap that protects the clear disk when you’re not using the stylus. The cap screws on to the other end of the stylus so it shouldn’t get lost.

If there’s one downside to this stylus, it’s the absence of any sort of clip to help secure the thing in your shirt pocket. Frankly, this omission is mind boggling. Perhaps Adonit figured with the good use of magnets, a clip was not needed since it would be secure on your iPad cover. As good as the magnet is, though, I will always feel safer carrying a stylus in my pocket where it won’t drop off without me noticing it.

At $23 or $24 through Amazon, this is a good buy. I give it an A-, the half-grade being lost due to the lack of a clip.

The Boxwave

The name of this stylus is too long, but that’s about the only “substantive” fault I can see.

The Boxwave Evertouch Capacitative Stylus

Unlike many of its competitors, this Boxwave stylus uses a fiber mesh of sorts instead of a rubber tip. As one web site said, it looks like steel wool but feels like a tee shirt. Like the common rubber tips found on other styluses, the Boxwave’s fiber mesh is spongy.

When writing with the stylus, it produces a nice, clean line. Simply put, this stylus works well. It’s only real down side is that the tip is rather large (but very comparable to other rubber-tipped styluses), so if you are bothered by not seeing that stylus-to-screen contact point, this may not be the stylus for you.

The width of the stylus is nice, and feels pretty close to a standard pen size. It is a little light, however, but not so much that it feels inferior.

The one “feature” I don’t understand is the hole in the top that allows users to attach a ring or run a thin chain through it. Sorry, but I don’t feel the need to add silly bling to my stylus, and I’m not going to attach it to a chain to wear it around my neck. This gripe is much more about form than substance, however, so it will not stop me from giving this stylus high marks as well. At $14 through Amazon, this stylus is a steal and well worth your consideration. I give it an A- for the long name and goofy bling “feature.” (I’m kidding. It’s actually the larger tip that keeps this stylus from getting a perfect score.)

The Bamboo Solo

Wacom has been involved with styluses for a long time, having produced graphics tablets for computers for what seems like forever. Because they’ve been making products since 1983, in the time frame of personal computing Wacom has been around forever. The Bamboo Solo is Wacom’s basic tablet stylus, and I have to say it’s a doozy.

A herd of Wacom Bamboo Solos

The Bamboo Solo features a smaller rubber tip than any other I’ve seen on a stylus. It’s big enough to work, but it feels more like you’re using a small Sharpie marker to draw or write on the screen. The stylus has a nice weight to it and sports a clip to safely stow it in your pocket, purse, or anywhere else. The clip is attracted to the magnet in the iPad cover, so it provides a feasible if unsafe option. If you don’t like a clip on your stylus, you can unscrew the top, remove the clip, and reattach the top. That’s a nice feature I would have likely missed if I hadn’t flipped through the tiny manual. (A manual for a stylus? Really? The idea was so odd—like a manual for a two-by-four—that I had to see what was in it.)

I have to say, this stylus is fabulous. Even though the tip is larger than a pen, the fact that it’s about 3/4 of the diameter of other tips (like that on the Boxwave) makes a huge difference in the feel and perception. At $22 through Amazon, this stylus isn’t cheap, but it’s just about perfect. I can’t think of a single negative aspect of this stylus. I give it a solid A.

The Final Results

If I have to give places in this competition of three styluses, they finish in this order.

  1. Wacom Bamboo Solo
  2. Adonit Jot Pro
  3. Boxwave Evertouch Capacitative Stylus

For me, the Bamboo is a perfect blend of features, size, weight and cost. The Jot Pro comes in a close second, and the Evertouch isn’t far behind at all. I’m guessing that I will find myself switching between the three (Mrs. Third Apple may not be getting a new stylus after all!) depending on my mood, just as I will go from one particular writing instrument to another.

iPads in jury selection

It wasn’t too long after the iPad’s introduction that enterprising lawyers developed apps to use in jury selection. I have not purchased or used any of the apps that are out there, mostly because the information I could obtain about the apps didn’t tell me much about what they could really do for me.

Ken Broda-Bahm has a short piece and a 15-minute video review of two iPad apps for use in voir dire. The reviews are thorough, and he establishes criteria to use in measuring the apps in terms of usefulness.

At this point, I have my doubts about whether we will ever see an iPad app for jury selection that really works well. The reason for my doubts is simple: the approach to jury selection is almost unique to each lawyer. Some use the grid and Post-It note system discussed in the video. Some use simple legal pad note taking. I think it would be hard to develop an app that would allow attorneys to voir dire the potential jurors in their own way, and not force the attorneys to adapt to the app’s system. To cover all of the possible approaches and philosophies (not to mention personal habits) would be daunting.

Of course, no system is perfect, so I shouldn’t expect an iPad app to be perfect either. The secret to success in the app world so far seems to be to do one thing and do it really, really well. Maybe the secret for developers looking to create an app for jury selection is to take one part of the process (perhaps recording information gathered from questionnaires, Internet research, and the other tasks done in the days before trial) and to do that well.