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Come On, Touch Me, Babe

May 8, 2009 By Dennis Burger

Click the images below for bigger versions:
iPod Touch with Pogo Stylus
Red Pogo Stylus for iPhone/iPod Touch
Big Paws, Tiny iPhone (Scale Slightly Exaggerated)

Our Resident Sasquatch Learns to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone

The good news is that I don’t secretly loathe you anymore.

Yes, you—you unapologetic iPhone users, walking around, flaunting your apps and your slick touchscreen interface. Yeah, I’ll admit it: I secretly loathed you, and not because I’m some anti-iPhone elitist or Luddite curmudgeon, but because I was jealous, plain and simple.

You see, Mother Nature decided to bless me with unfortunately large appendages. My hands sort of resemble two (mostly) shaven bear paws with kielbasa sausages stuck on the ends. And to make matters worse, I have long nails for fingerpicking guitar by choice. So, try as I might (and believe me, I’ve tried), I've never been able to do much in the way of typing on that tiny little screen. All attempts have been rather reminiscent of Grape Ape trying to pick a soprano ukulele.

True story: I was trying to use a friend’s iPhone one night at dinner, when a stranger at a nearby table said, “Hey, is that an iPhone? I thought they were bigger than that. That thing looks tiny!”

So I handed it to him. His response? “Oh! It is bigger than that.”

So, no emailing for me. No web browsing. No wiki searches. Not without a lot of deleting and retrying, anyway. A lot of deleting and retrying.

The iPhone’s predictive text feature may be pretty good, but when even the tip of your pinky covers four or five letters on the virtual keyboard, the best the little machine can do is shrug its shoulders and ask if you said “Abe Lincoln.”

Hell, I could barely even play Flight Control.

Until now, that is.

I received a press release a few weeks back for an iPhone stylus, which I had until that point thought impossible, given the iPhone’s capacitive screen. In other words, if it doesn’t disrupt an electrical field, the iPhone screen can’t detect it, so the stylus I use with my URC MX-6000 remote wouldn’t do the trick.

But a handful of companies have figured out how to simulate the fingertip in stylus form. And I couldn’t resist the urge to find out if they worked. So I sent in a request for a review sample of Ten One Design's Pogo Stylus for iPhone, sweet-talked Apple out of an iPod Touch, and haunted the mailbox until both arrived.

Unfortunately the latter got here far quicker than the former. And so—patience never having been one of my favorite virtues—I decided to order a different stylus from one of Ten One Design's not-to-be-named competitors. (Not to be named because they didn’t ask for my opinion and I aim to say some awful things about them.)

Imagine a section of automobile antenna, broken off, with a black eraser shoved in the end. That's the stylus that Amazon sent me. And I’m not sure exactly how the rubber tip functions with the iPhone/iPod Touch’s capacitive touchscreen, but I do know that it didn’t work very well. I had to apply way too much pressure to get the thing to register a button press, had to hold it perfectly perpindicular to the screen for it to work at all, and the first time I tried to use it in a slide-wise fashion, it sort of made a bld-d-d-d-d-d sound and a few stuttering jumps, and the tip shot off like a half-hearted missile launch.

And into the garbage it went.

In the meantime, I actually sort of found workarounds for my handicap. I discovered that if I turned my pinky sideways and barely, barely, barely touched the screen with it, I could type in my eleven-character iTunes password in about thirty seconds and sixty strokes, and I found a few fun apps that didn’t require much in the way of digital dexterity.
And, I have to admit, when a package arrived at my door this week with two different Ten One Design Pogo Styluses (Styli?) and a Pogo Sketch (a longer Stylus with a pocket clip), I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be. I mean, if a rubber tip seemed funky at first, what am I supposed to make of the spongy, fuzzy sort of semi-rigid, squared-off foam on the end of the Pogo? How in the world is this supposed to work? I thought to myself as I fiddled with its furry form. It looks like a nub of stiff foam rubber in need of a haircut.

It works like a champ, that’s how. Who cares about the mechanics of it all? Within minutes of opening the package, I’m typing, I’m emailing, I’m browsing, I’m wikiing like madman. I’m filling in password requests on the first attempt. My high score on Flight Control zooms from an embarrassing 23 to a more respectable 45 in one afternoon. (Nowhere near Nathan Fillion’s w00t-worthy 92, I know. But watch your back, Captain Tight Pants—I've got a secret weapon now, and I’m gunning for you!)

Truth be told, the Pogo Stylus is better at typing than it is at swiping. Flight Control aside, I find that sweeping motions and scrolling and the like are still better performed with a finger. But in just over a day, I’ve developed a sort of combination technique involving the thumb on my left hand, the Pogo, and the ring finger on my right hand that’s absolutely intuitive and effortless. For the first time, I feel—dare I say it?—graceful. For someone with a thumb-to-pinky finger span of over 10-½ inches, that’s quite an accomplishment, and well worth the $14.95 asking price. (Ten One also sells a clip pack for $4.95, which includes four extra clips, sized to fit most iPhone and iPod Touch cases).

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic or anything, but if you could find my inner girl (not that you’d have to dig too deep), she’d tell you she feels liberated thanks to the Pogo Stylus. Ask my outer dude, and he’ll tell you he’s counting the days until he’s eligible for another discounted cell phone upgrade. ‘Cause we’re getting us an iPhone as soon as we can, massive front paws be damned. Yes, precious... We wants it.




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