HTC Flyer: To Stylus or Not to Stylus

by Ben Bajarin   |   June 4th, 2011

I want to focus the thoughts of this article purely on the HTC’s implementation of a stylus on their Flyer 7″ tablet. When Steve Jobs said “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” I believe he meant that if a tablet or computer required a tablet for navigation and input it has failed. To this I would entirely agree.

I believe the stylus alone should be viewed as an accessory, not something the tablet experience depends on. I believe HTC understands this and all though the implementation isn’t perfect it is still by far the best stylus implementation to date.

Things I Liked

1. Calendar linked Notes:
Note taking in general was not that bad. What was useful however was the ability to link notes to a calendar event for archiving and easy searching. What was particularly helpful was, if you are currently sitting in a meeting that is on your Flyers calendar, and you select to make a new note, the device will notice that you are currently in a meeting and ask you if you want to link this new note to the calendar meeting you are attending.

2. Marked Up Screenshots:
HTC also assumed that taking notes wasn’t the only thing someone would want to do with a stylus. They also thought through how someone may want to use the stylus to mark or edit elements of a document, web page, presentation etc. To do this all you simply do is bring up on the screen whatever you want to “mark up”. Then simply touch the stylus to the screen and the screen instantly freezes, like a screen shot, and you can now mark up the screen as desired. All the pen options for colors, pen types, eraser etc instantly become available to you and when finished you can instantly save, email or upload the marked up screen shot.

3. My Kids Enjoyed Coloring:
This is a plus in a variety of ways. First off they love to color and go through a ton of printer paper, since that is the bulk of blank paper that I have on hand. All though I want to fully encourage them to color, experiment, draw and be creative, they can go through paper quickly.

It was nice to let them color and be creative on the Flyer and also save paper. It also made it so they could easily color in the car and on trips or at other people’s houses.

Things I didn’t like that Need Improvement

Writing could definitely be better. Because the surface of the screen is smooth, it sometimes became hard to write has accurately as I would have liked. The accuracy of the pen was good, it was just that writing took a little getting used to, since when you write on paper there is a little friction. Adjusting to the differences of writing on glass vs paper simply took a little getting used to.

Often times when writing, if my hand or finger touched the screen, the keyboard would annoyingly pop up. This would force me to stop taking notes close the keyboard then get back to taking notes. If this happened when I was taking a note just to jot thoughts down it wouldn’t be so bad. When it happened while I was in a meeting listening and trying to take notes it became distracting and hard to get all the key points.

Conclusion

All though not a perfect implementation of a stylus it is certainly a solid one. The best to date on a tablet in my opinion. HTC has done a great job thinking through some specific implementations where the stylus adds value and integrating them tightly into the tablet experience.

Ultimately i’d like to see more innovation and experimentation on how the stylus as an accessory can be used in conjunction with a tablet. I would certainly like to have a dependable and reliable tablet for taking written notes in a meeting. I also see the potential for software or apps that take advantage of the stylus, especially around the arts.

The iPad for example has some amazing apps for artist to draw and paint etc and sometimes, in those applications, a finger just does not suffice.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio