Monday, February 06, 2012

Note to self: is the stylus about to make a comback? The Nintendo DS generation is here.

What's old is new again.

Samsung's Galaxy Note suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a big smartphone? YES! Is it a small tablet? YES! I suppose in the end, it depends on the size of the user's hands.

With a 5.3-inch Super Amoled HD display, the Note is a big device compared to the average, everyday smartphone. The iPhone 4S, for example, has a 3.5-inch display. Otherwise, Note has the type of hardware specs one would expect of a high-end Android-based smartphone these days: 8 megapix camera with 1080 HD video support, 3G+ (no LTE in this version), and memory expansion.

But it's the inclusion of a stylus with the device that I would like to touch upon here. Samsung calls the included stylus the "S Pen." It should be noted that HTC recently introduced a tablet, the HTC Flyer, that also shipped with a stylus.

For Note, Samsung has optimized the Ice Cream Sandwich Android build to support S Pen input and included a number of exclusive S Pen apps.

Stylus input is of course nothing new. Palm popularized pen input back in the mid-1990s with their "Graffiti" language on the Palm Pilot. But as capacitive touchscreen became the industry standard support finger-put, the stylus got lost.

Will it soon be time again to stick with the stylus? Let's remember the guideline: three makes a trend.

Recommendation to device vendors: Follow consumer acceptance of stylus in top of smart devices. Track especially how the Nintendo DS generation reacts to this potential trend. Platform vendors could need to adjust deep OS support for more input methods than finger touch.

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