Steve Jobs made it clear he thinks the best stylus is already on the end of our hand, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a more traditional stylus — especially now that the iPad is available. Ten One Designs is trying to fill that niche with its Pogo Sketch stylus, and it does a reasonable job, assuming you want to get artistic.
The Pogo Sketch is designed to simulate your finger touching the surface of your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Mac’s multi-touch trackpad. It’s long enough to feel pretty much like a pen in your hand, and its aluminum body is light weight and durable, which is good news if you plan on carrying it around all the time.
For people that plan on taking their Pogo Sketch with them everywhere, it includes a pocket clip and a lanyard hole, so you don’t have to toss it into a bag or your pants pocket and hope you can find it later.
The tip is made from some kind of magical material that looks like sponge but conducts electrical current just like your finger tip does. That’s what lets the stylus work as a proxy for your finger, and it has the added bonus of working even when you’re wearing gloves.
The Pogo Sketch Stylus
The sponge tip offers some resistance on your iPad’s display, so it takes a little bit of time to get used to since it doesn’t feel the same as tapping and swiping with your finger. Because it’s narrower than most people’s fingers, however, it’s easier to see exactly where you’re tapping.
I was a little concerned about how well the tip would stay attached to the stylus because it appears to be glued on. After a little over two week’s worth of usage under my belt, I’m still not completely confident the tip isn’t going to eventually pop off. Mine already looks stretched to one side, presumably because I always hold it at pretty much the same angle.
The stylus tip bends out of shape quickly.
How well the Pogo Sketch performs is just as important as how well it holds up, and I’m equally pleased and disappointed on that front.
I tested the Pogo Sketch with a small handful of creative-oriented iPad apps, specifically, ArtStudio, Adobe Ideas and Draw. Across the board, I found drawing and painting on my iPad to be substantially easier, especially since using a stylus feels far more like holding a pencil or paint brush than pointing with my finger does.
Since my finger wasn’t in the way, I was able to better see what I was drawing and where I was touching my iPad’s surface. That was especially handy when I wanted to precisely control where lines started and stopped, and when I added color to objects. Seeing exactly where the stylus tip was touching my iPad screen turned out to be a really big deal.
The Pogo Sketch works well for drawing and painting.
Drawing or painting with a stylus on an iPad isn’t, however at all like using a graphic arts tablet with your computer. Unlike quality art tablets, the iPad doesn’t offer pressure sensitivity, nor can it register the angle of the stylus — both important features for serious artists.
I also found that a light touch with the stylus more often than not meant my movements wouldn’t register. I never felt like I had to press so hard with the Pogo Sketch that it felt uncomfortable to hold and use, but the nuances I get when using my Wacom Intuos3 tablet definitely weren’t there.
Despite the limitations I found when using the Pogo Sketch to draw on my iPad, I still found it to offer a much better experience than drawing with my finger. Using the stylus to take notes and navigate in apps, however, was a different story.
Small lines are easier to draw with the stylus than your finger.
The iPad seems like a natural choice for note taking, and it follows that using a stylus to hand write notes would be a great fit. In practice, however, writing with the Pogo Sketch didn’t work out nearly as well as I had hoped.
Using the stylus to write felt almost artificial and disconnected from the letters I was drawing. There was enough latency between when I would begin drawing a letter to the time the strokes caught up with me that it felt like I had to slow down to avoid writing blind.
In fairness, that latency was more likely an iPad issue and not the fault of the Pogo Sketch. Still, seeing my lines trail behind the stylus instead of with it meant I had to pay close attention to my hand movements instead of focusing on what I wanted to write.
Launching apps, tapping on screen buttons, and swiping motions with the Pogo Sketch turned out to be an exercise in frustration. I had to press with the stylus far harder than if I touched the iPad screen with my finger, and I continually felt like the Pogo Sketch was slowing me down instead of improving my productivity. I’m assuming that’s because your finger is a more efficient electrical conductor than the stylus.
As a navigation tool, the Pogo Sketch is far better suited for iPhone users that don’t want to take their gloves off in cold weather. In fact, I’ll probably carry mine around next winter just so I can leave my gloves on so I can answer calls when I’m out on cold days.
In other words, Steve Jobs got it right when he said that we already have the best stylus on the end of our hands.
The Bottom Line
The Pogo Sketch is great for drawing and painting on your iPad because it offers a more natural feel than drawing with your finger tip. It also keeps your hand out of the way so it’s easier to see your masterpiece as it develops.
As an alternative to finger-based navigation, however, the Pogo Sketch falls short. It requires far more effort than simply touching and swiping with your own finger, and feels clunky compared to the tactile control Apple intended with the iPad.
I’ll keep using my Pogo Sketch when I want to draw on my iPad, but my fingers are still my navigation tool of choice.
[Updated to discuss using the Pogo Sketch to write.]