Pogo Sketch for iPhone 3G
Developer: Ten One Design
Requirements: iPhone 3G, iPod touch, MacBook with multi-touch-capable trackpad, or other capacitive touch interface.
When the iPhone and iPod touch were first introduced, a lot of pundits decried the touch-only interface (four physical buttons notwithstanding) and lack of a stylus, since pretty much every other PDA-like device up to that point—including the iPhone’s spiritual predecessor, the Newton—shipped with a stylus. Two years later, the two iPhone OS devices are a smashing success despite the lack of an included pointing device.
Apple’s philosophy on this is fairly straightforward: if you can use the device with your finger, there’s no stylus to misplace or forget. After all, when was the last time you left your fingers at home or forgot to put them back on your hand?
That mindset works very well for most people in most scenarios. Perfecting an interface for the masses is something Apple has always excelled at. The iPhone uses what’s called a capacitive touch interface. The theory behind it isn’t important, but its major limitation is that you can’t use a capacitive interface with gloved fingers. Longtime iPod users will probably recall the various accessories, such as Burton’s AMP Jacket that provided physical buttons to control the iPod when used while engaging in winter sports such as snowboarding, so this idea—or problem—isn’t exactly new.
A second major drawback to putting your fingers all over a shiny surface like the iPhone’s screen is the rapid accumulation of fingerprints, which then need to be wiped off with a soft cloth. Ten One Design has introduced the $15 Pogo Sketch to address both problems.
The Pogo Sketch looks a lot like a short pen with a severely overdeveloped felt tip.
The Pogo Sketch looks like most other styli, but with one important difference: the tip is made of soft foam so it won’t scratch your screen. It has a pocket clip built in, which is handy for office types. There’s no provision for keeping the Sketch with the iPhone, though, making it easy to fall victim to the “where’s my stylus” problem. Ten One actually makes an accessory universal clip pack (another $15) that provides a clip for the Pogo Sketch on the side of the phone or with a variety of tested and recommended third-party cases.
Ten One’s proprietary tip material looks foam-like.
Using the iPhone with the Pogo Sketch is pretty much the same as using it with your finger. Pointing with the Sketch can be somewhat more finicky—I found myself having to double-tap from time to time, and accuracy isn’t as good as it usually is with a fingertip. Using the iPhone with gloves on, however, is actually possible with the Sketch. Just try that with a gloved hand!
Here’s a shot of the Sketch and my iPhone getting cozy. Fingerprints on the iPhone’s screen are from the pre-Sketch period.
After forcing myself to use the Sketch for a whole day, I have to say the iPhone’s screen stays much cleaner, especially if you do a lot of typing or other activities that involve lots of pointing at different places on the screen. (Swipes don’t seem to dirty the screen as much as pointing does.) Of course, the Sketch has only a single point of contact with the screen, making it impossible to perform multi-touch gestures unless you’re (a) not wearing gloves, and (b) capable of minor feats of acrobatics with your fingers.
Here’s another shot of the Pogo Sketch tip area.
Fifteen dollars is an okay price for the stylus itself, but I’d like to see one clip (of the buyer’s choice) included with it. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people out there willing to spend $30 just to add a stylus to their encased iPhone and not worry about losing the stylus. I also don’t think there are too many people out there still using their iPhones without a case, if my workplace is any reflection of iPhone customers as a whole.
Touching the iPhone’s screen with the Sketch feels quite natural, like writing on glass with a marker.
I don’t find the Sketch indispensable, but being able to use the phone while wearing gloves is handy in the winter. I prefer the “finger stylus” and find it to be more accurate and faster. Sometimes, however, that’s just not an option, and the Pogo Sketch does a perfectly acceptable job of turning the impossible into the possible. For people who need that capability, it’s perfect.