Back in the day, before the iPhone, there were a plethora of personal digital assistant (PDA) devices that had styluses. Whenever you pulled out that stylus from your Palm or other PDA, you may have felt cool, and people would think, “Wow, that guy means serious business.”
But when Steve Jobs took the stage for the original iPhone reveal back in 2007, one of the things he said was, “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ‘em, put ‘em away, you lose ‘em.” Ever since the iPhone introduced smart multitouch displays that needed only your finger, pretty much every other smartphone company followed suit.
These days, it’s hard to find a smartphone that still has a stylus. In fact, off the top of my head, the only ones that really come to mind right now are the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) that I recently reviewed.
I’ve been an iPhone user for over a decade, and I’ve only been dipping my toes in the world of Android for less than a year. But after my time with Motorola’s Moto G Stylus 5G, I realized something. I actually like having a stylus! Here’s why.
A less smudged screen and easier navigation
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Jobs had a point — the best pointing device in the world is our fingers, and we don’t need any extra accessories when we have 10 of them built into our hands. But I’m on my iPhone 14 Pro most of the day, especially when I’m trying to complete the monthly quest pass in my Disney Emoji Blitz game, and I have noticed one thing: my phone’s screen is absolutely gross by the end of the day. It’s covered with smudges that match up with all of the swipes and taps that I do when playing or just using my phone regularly.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I can’t be the only one out here with a smudged-up screen after a few hours, right? I often find myself furiously trying to wipe away the smudges on my shirt or leggings when I’m out and about, only to sometimes just end up with a cloudier screen (if it makes any difference, I use a screen protector). At home, I tend to use mycleaning cloths multiple times a day to get a pristine screen again.
With the Moto G Stylus 5G, I noticed that after primarily using the stylus for navigation, the screen would be less smudged up than if I were to use my fingers. It ends up looking cleaner after extended use, and there are fewer times I need to wipe the screen throughout the day. Basically, one less thing I need to worry about, though I do have to remember to put the stylus back in the slot (but that hasn’t been a problem for me).
You can be more precise
Sometimes I feel like I have “fat finger syndrome,” where I accidentally tap on something that was next to what I intended to tap on. This is especially true if the developers of apps made the target tap zone smaller than it should be.
With a stylus, I’ve found that it’s harder to make those accidental taps on things because the finer tip of the stylus is more precise. It’s easier for me to close out of those annoying pop-up ads in mobile games and websites, for example, because sometimes I accidentally tap on the advertisement itself, which I never want.
And while I’m not a heavy mobile gamer these days, there are definitely certain games that benefit from the precision that a stylus offers — especially if you have the Galaxy S23 Ultra with the S Pen.
Great for handwriting or sketching on the go
Handwriting feels like a lost art these days. I hardly ever pull out a pen and piece of paper now, but I used to love writing with a high-quality pen in a fancy notebook. In fact, I don’t handwrite anything enough anymore, so when I actually do need to write something, it feels like chicken scratches.
I think using the Moto G Stylus 5G made me kind of reminisce about those days when I used to use a pen and paper. When you pull the stylus out of the Moto G Stylus 5G, it automatically brings up a menu of shortcuts that would benefit from the stylus, including an empty note. I’ve found myself just pulling the stylus out when I’m bored sometimes just to sketch or doodle, and if I need to write something down, I like the feel of jotting it down with the stylus. It might seem silly, but it’s one of those things I can’t quite replicate the same way with a fingertip.
It’s also just convenient to have a smartphone with a stylus so you can easily sign any documents digitally. Yes, it’s something that is easier to do on a larger screen device like a tablet, but what if you don’t have your tablet on you? Having a phone with a stylus would be great for those times you have to electronically sign a document.
Though I don’t have experience with it myself, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s S Pen has several different remote features, including photo capture, media playback, using certain app actions, and even unlocking your device via the stylus.
I love the idea of having a stylus be used as a way to capture photos, mostly. I have small hands, so the large phone sizes these days can make taking a selfie a struggle for me. Even my iPhone 14 Pro, which is the smallest iPhone size, is pretty difficult if I didn’t have a PopSocket on. I would love to be able to just hold the phone with one hand and then press a button on a stylus in my other hand to capture a selfie because then I don’t have to try finger gymnastics or keep turning the timer on.
Though the main draw for me would be the photo taking, the S Pen also having the other functionality is nice too. I can imagine just scribbling down something or just using the S Pen for navigation, and with a push of the button on the stylus, I can play or pause my audio without skipping a beat.
It’s really just about the convenience
I feel like I’m in the minority here, especially among my colleagues. But using a phone with a stylus — even a budget one that doesn’t have the fancy active stylus features of the S23 Ultra S Pen — made me appreciate having one around.
Personally, I just like the precision they offer, fewer smudges all over my screen, and the lost art of just handwriting or doodling on the go without a full-fledged tablet. And if you go all out with the S Pen, just being able to use it as a remote control for multiple functionalities just seems like a nice feature to have.
Jobs may have hated styluses and convinced everyone else to think that way, too, for the most part, but maybe they should come back.