What Am I Missing About Phone Styli?

Seriously, what is the obsession with a phone stylus all about? I’m a minimalist. I would rather accomplish any task with as few tools as possible. Keep it simple. So when I see phones emerge with a stylus, I often wonder why. I mean, you can type, dictate or use your finger to hand-write out notes on any smartphone – they’re all touch screens these days – so why cloud the issue with confusion? I get it for larger tablets and 2-in-1 computers, because on those devices you can actually take a full page of notes and have real estate to write and draw things out. But not on a tiny phone. I used to have a Samsung Note 5 phone and don’t think I ever actually popped out its stylus.

So when Android phone maker TCL recently announced its Stylus 5G phone for T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile, I was dubious but open-minded. I ordered a test unit to try, and to see if it would change my mind. And after a few weeks, I can honestly say I just don’t see much use for the stylus – other than writing notes over photos, which is kind of fun. I’ve also liked writing notes and then converting them to text via the Nebo app. But I just don’t see it for practical use. If I’m going to, for instance, grab somebody’s phone number, it really isn’t that much effort to type it in — or just have them text me, which automatically captures their phone number. And again there’s just not enough space on a phone screen to write intricate notes without the stylus falling off the glass. I’d just as soon grab a piece of paper and scribble it there, and then take a photo of it. The one app that did pleasantly surprise me for use with the stylus though was the Myscript Calculator 2 app. It’s a math app that lets you write in equations and then it instantly converts your equation to text and solves it. Very cool and fast. If they had that while I was growing up, I would probably be worse at math today because I would’ve relied on the app. But I see how convenient it can be for students.

TCL sells the phone for $258, which is frankly a really good bargain. You get a lot for the money here, with a 6.81-inch FHD+ display, pop-out stylus, headphone jack (yay!), 2.2 GHz processor, 50MP main camera lens paired with a 2MP depth lens for an artistic bokeh effect, 5MP super wide-angle lens, 2MP macro lens, MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G chipset with octa-core CPU and 4GB of RAM for a near latency-free experience, 4,000mAh battery, and 128GB of internal storage that’s expandable to 2TB via a MicroSD card you need to buy separately. I love that the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is built right into the power key for easy access. And the camera is pretty great, too. But the stylus is being emphasized. In its presentation, the company spokesperson said that users can quickly jot down ideas without lighting up the screen. I stumbled upon it once in my testing time, but couldn’t figure out how to get back to it later on. There’s also an option to magnify an area on screen with the stylus, which can be a useful feature.

Listen, I really like this phone. And if I use the stylus every now and then, that’s a plus. I certainly wouldn’t buy it solely because of the stylus – unless I take up sketching. But until then, the only thing I will draw is the conclusion that I don’t think a phone stylus is necessary.

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