When hand-held PDAs first hit the marketplace, the stylus was an invaluable accessory. With it you navigated various screens, opened “apps” and tapped in messages. This all changed when Apple introduced its first iPhone with its newly designed touch screen. We no longer needed a stylus since, as Steve Jobs pointed out, humans are already equipped with the most natural of styli, our index finger. While no one can argue with the advantages the finger holds over a stylus—such as being harder to misplace and more than likely always available—the finger is not the perfect stylus. On the smaller screen of an iPod touch or an iPhone, using your finger for more precise navigation can be a little frustrating. Furthermore, taking handwritten notes or drawing with your finger isn’t the easiest either. For this reason, you may be looking for a stylus as an accessory for your iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. Recently, Just Mobile gave me a stylus of theirs to review, the AluPen. This stylus will work on all capacitive touch screens. After using it for a few weeks, I remember how useful a stylus can be.
The AluPen reminds me of the pencils teachers gave out as prizes in elementary school—those thick, chunky pencils with no eraser on the end. At first glance, it is easy to mistake the AluPen for a pencil: It is a hexagonal stick with a black tip. Just Mobile was able to take this simple design and make it aesthetically pleasing and a joy to hold and use. As the name suggests, the AluPen is made out of aluminum—specifically, a single piece of tooled aluminum. That makes it extremely light and cool to the touch. The black tip is rounded instead of “sharp,” and it is soft to the touch. This soft tip fools the touch screen of your device into thinking you are using your finger. Best of all, it doesn't leave the smudges that your fingers often do. The shape of the AluPen makes it incredibly easy to hold.
While the rounded tip doesn’t offer quite the precision of an old-fashioned stylus or a pen or pencil when writing, I found it to be a significant step up from my finger. This is especially evident with one of my note-taking apps. I had given up using note-taking apps because the quality of my penmanship was so bad when writing with my finger. I will admit that the quality you get with the stylus still isn’t nearly as good as when you are using pen and paper, but the AluPen does allow you to get a lot more out of these apps. I really wish Apple would use something similar to the AluPen at Apple Stores, because I am tired of signing credit card receipts with my finger and having the signature look nothing like mine.
The biggest drawback to the AluPen is having to carry it. I have yet to run across many iPad cases with an integrated pocket that can accommodate something the size of the AluPen. If you carry your iPad in a briefcase or messenger bag, this isn’t quite as big a deal. If you use your stylus primarily at your desk, Just Mobile also offers the AluCube, an upright stand for the AluPen. This too is tooled from a single piece of aluminum. Since I rarely use my iPad at my desk, I don’t see much of a benefit to the AluCube, but that is just because of my usage habits.
Overall, I am pleased with the AluPen. If you are looking to take handwritten notes or draw on your tablet, a stylus such as the AluPen has distinct advantages over your finger, most notably the level of precision. The biggest drawback is that it is an accessory that you will more than likely have to carry “loose,” meaning will be easier to forget and lose. At $24.95 ($39.95 for the AluPen + AluCube set), it is not something you will lose too many times before giving up on it altogether.
AluPen + AluCube
$24.95 for AluPen only (currently $18.74 from Amazon.com); $39.95 for AluPen + AluCube
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.