THE IPAD IMPACT
The iPad has been around for a few years and I think we can all agree that it has made a major impact on portable computing. Tasks that previously needed a full featured desktop or laptop computer can now be done using Apple’s “magical” device.
One of my first thoughts about the iPad was using it as a notebook replacement. Having to keep track of all of your ideas on legal pads, scratch pads and even napkins can be very challenging. The iPad really helped to change all of that for me.
WHO NEEDS A STYLUS, I DO
The late Steve Jobs had several quotes some of which included “God gave us 10 styluses—let’s not invent another,” and “If you see a stylus or task manager, they blew it.” Some of the push back could be the carryover from one of Apple’s first attempts to create a tablet device in the 1990’s, anyone remember the Newton?
I can understand the reasoning behind this.He wanted the iPad to be self-contained without adding additional peripheral devices to carry around. If the intention was to use the iPad for a replacement for pen and paper however, you need to follow all the way through with that idea.
BUILDING A BETTER MOUSETRAP, OH I MEAN STYLUS
The need for a stylus opened the door for companies to come up with an accessory that users could use to write and draw with instead of relying solely on using their fingers. The iPad requires a stylus having a conductive tip in order for the touchscreen to see it. Also there is a specific area of approximately 2mm the iPad needs in order to sense the position where the touch or stroke is occurring.
In the beginning companies tried various materials from conductive rubberized tips and even specially coated wire loops. These were alright for a start but the writing experience was still coming up short in some cases.
For example some of the tips would skip and drag around the screen, also the size of the tip would sometimes limit your accuracy and control in where you wanted to begin writing. Some companies addressed this by trying to create smaller tips using various materials, discs, etc. One company in particular hit on a fabulous idea, conductive fabric.
RISE OF THE “TRUEGLIDE”
Lynktec introduced the “TruGlide” stylus which used conductive fibers embedded in the tip. You can read my review on the “TrueGlide” here.
This allowed the stylus to create a much smoother writing experience and with newer updates the “TrueGlide” introduced even smaller and paintbrush like tips to create powerful writing and drawing experiences. This was just the beginning however.
YOU HAD ME AT KICKSTARTER
I received an email from Lynktec announcing a new Kickstarter initiative to develop a new approach to stylus technology, the Apex.
Kickstarter is a community based funding website. Companies and individuals who have an innovative idea or invention can use Kickstarter to get the public involved in becoming an integral part of a products funding and development.
If a particular Kickstarter project sparks your interest you can “back” it by contributing your money to help reach a goal the company feels will allow it to bring the product to market. You become an investor of sorts in the project. Depending on your level of involvement the companies will have different reward levels some will allow you to receive the product before the general public and you will have the satisfaction of being a part of seeing an idea you believe in come to life.
ENTER THE APEX
Well the game was getting ready to change. As I watched some of the videos introducing me to the Apex I could tell this was not going to be just another stylus, Lynktec was about to redefine it.
Since the iPad needs a particular area to see your touches the Apex created a new technology to allow it to generate an electronic field around a very small writing tip. This allowed you to have a more accuracy and control providing a more natural writing experience.
It was exciting to see the project come together and the excitement grew as the product began to ship. After several weeks the finished Apex stylus was waiting for me in the mailbox.
THE BLEEDING EDGE
Being an innovator sometimes comes with its own set of challenges. This is especially true when you have so many variables in how users interact with their various devices. There is also the consideration of how Apple implemented different touchscreen technologies across their devices.For instance there are subtle differences between let’s say the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina display touch screens.
While I was impressed with the idea initially I could see that there was still some work to do to reach the full potential of the Apex concept. That was why I was so excited when I heard about the Apex Rechargeable.
APEX RECHARGEABLE, THE NEXT GENERATION
In my opinion the Kickstarter Apex served as an initial proof of concept. I was proud to be one of the backers as I saw the promise of what was ahead and Lynktec did not disappoint.
Lynktec received a lot of good feedback from their Kickstarter Backers and customers. Battery life, power switch, form factor, etc. were some of the main areas of concern. I am going to focus on these features and how the Apex Rechargeable has implemented these in its design.
This was a big issue early on. The original Apex used a AAAA battery to generate the small electric field around the tip. AAAAs are not that common and many were requesting some sort of alternative.
The Apex Rechargeable delivered this in the form of an integrated Lithium Ion battery. The battery is charged using a micro USB port that is inside the top of the stylus. A small screw off protective cap gives you access to the port. The cap also has a special surprise I’ll tell you about later.
The Apex uses a mechanical plunger twist on, twist off power switch. This was sometimes confusing to know exactly how to turn the stylus on and off. The Apex Rechargeable solved this issue using a more conventional power button to hold down when turning on and off. It is a lot better in my opinion.
AUTO POWER OFF
One of the things that I ran into was sometimes forgetting I had the Apex powered on. There is a nice blue LED near the tip that lets you know it was on. I ran into a situation where I would store the Apex in its case and left it on by mistake. Even with the LED I still had left it on. Well this drained the AAAA battery fairly quickly and without a spare you could be in trouble.
The Apex Rechargeable however comes to the rescue as it incorporates an auto power-off feature that shuts the stylus down after a period of not using it. This is a life, I mean battery saver for sure.
The original Apex was a little shorter and fatter than most stylus. While feeling good in your hand for some it might be a little too stubby to write comfortably.
The Apex Rechargeable design improved somewhat in making the stylus a little longer and thinner. This gives you more of a feeling of writing with a pen as it creates more of a balance in your hand. The overall build gives you a sense of the quality that Lynktec wanted to instill in their design.
I could definitely tell a difference when using the Apex Rechargeable as far as feeling a sense of accuracy when using it with the iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina.
The first generation Apex sometimes would skip or create some wild jagged lines when writing or drawing. The Apex Rechargeable however performed so much better and did not seem prone to creating this behavior. My notebook app of choice has always been NotesPlus and the Apex Rechargeable played very well together.
I should point out that I was using one of the first Apex stylus to be produced after the Kickstarter campaign. Lynktec has continued to work on the fine tuning of the electronics to help produce the best writing experience across all devices.
One of the interesting features is that you can replace the tips on the Apex. Having something in contact with a screen for a long period of time when writing and drawing can over time wear down the tips surface area so it needs to be replaced at times. Lynktec addresses this by providing two options a firm long life tip and a softer tip.
The firm tip is ideal for those users who tend to use more pressure in bearing down when writing. The benefit is increased overall lifespan f the tip in these instances. However if you use a screen protector on your iPad then the firm tip is not for you. The increased density of the tip reduces the electrical conductivity slightly making it harder for the iPad to detect it through the additional material of the screen protector.
The softer tip felt a little smoother to me and seemed to glide on the screen a little more naturally than the firm. I was told that the firm tip sometimes needed to be broken in and should get easier to use over time.
Now to the surprise I mentioned earlier. The screw on cover protecting the charging port has a little compartment that holds, wait for it… a replacement tip. It makes it so nice when you do need to change it that it is right there for you. The process is very easy as you can remove the older tip and slide a new one on in a jiffy.
In a product area with so many different approaches it is refreshing to see companies not comfortable with just going along with existing trends. Lynktec has proven with the introduction of the Apex line of stylus that they are willing to take risks into new territories.
Not everyone will like the Apex as we all gravitate and respond to different ways of doing things. The only way to find out is to experiment with what is out there and find what best suits you.
I have tried the majority of designs out there. Everything from rubber tips, Bluetooth, fabric, wires, infra-red tracking and now the Apex. I can say that the Apex has been getting a lot of use lately and to tell you the truth I do not see that changing in the near future.
So what are you waiting for? If you are serious about your note taking and drawing you owe it to yourself to give the Apex Rechargeable a try.