Although there are many electrostatic styluses for the iPad for those who wish to use them, the seemingly unattainable goal of creating a pressure-sensitive stylus eluded peripheral manufacturers until now. Adonit's Jot Touch (US$99.99) became available to the public earlier this week, becoming the first pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad.
I had a chance to test-drive an Adonit Jot Touch for a few weeks, and although I'm not an artist who can really take advantage of the lifelike brushes, pens and pencils that pressure sensitivity provides, I'm still impressed with the capabilities of this new stylus. Read along for a review, and see how the pressure-sensitivity features work in a few apps.
Placing the Adonit Jot Pro and Jot Touch side by side, you immediately see some differences. The Jot Touch is slightly longer than the Jot Pro, although the rubberized grip area is smaller. The Jot Touch also has three buttons that are used to turn on the stylus (and get it to pair with your iPad) and provide one-touch shortcuts.
The tip of the pen is also slightly different. Looking closely at it, you'll notice that it's slightly longer than that on the Jot Pro. That's because it compresses into the body of the Jot Touch when you're applying pressure to the pen.
Since the Jot Touch has a built-in battery to power the Bluetooth transceiver and other electronics, Adonit came up with an ingenious way of charging the stylus -- there's a tiny USB dongle with a very strong magnet in it. Plug the dongle into a USB port, place the tail-end first into the magnetic port, and it charges. A tiny LED near the buttons lets you know when the battery has been topped off.
The Jot Touch will work as "just another stylus" with any app, but requires that an app be "Jot Ready" to take advantage of pressure sensitivity. Adonit provides a Software Development Kit (SDK) to any developer who wants to add more precision, pressure sensitivity, or shortcuts to an app. So far Adonit lists 14 apps that are ready to take advantage of the Jot Touch, including such titles as PDF Pen, Procreate, and SketchBook Pro.
As with the Jot Pro, the Jot Touch also comes with a screw-on cap to keep the plastic "precision disk" (unique to the Adonit styluses) clean and undamaged. There's also a replacement tip included in case you do damage or lose the original tip. You can purchase the Jot Touch in either red or gunmetal gray.
So, how did the Jot Touch work? OK, once I restarted my iPad. For a few days I was having issues with the Jot Touch pairing with Procreate, and kept bothering both the Adonit and Procreate teams. Finally, someone suggested that I restart the iPad, and that cleared most of the issues.
What do I mean by "most" of the issues? Well, I don't know if I had a faulty Jot Touch or not, but it kept dropping the pairing with my iPad. I'd work for a minute or so, and then it would disconnect. I wondered if it was just the app I was using, but it happened with every app I tried.
With Procreate, the pressure sensitivity works with a number of pens and brushes to increase or decrease the opacity. I liken this to using a pastel stick -- with a very light touch, not much pigment is transferred to the paper and the paper often shows through. When you press down hard with the pastel, more pigment is transferred and no paper shows through.
The two shortcut buttons are used to "undo" and "redo" your most recent strokes, and can be used to back up through changes you've made to your drawing. Tapping the lower shortcut button with a finger is a very intuitive way to undo your work instead of having to move away from your work and tap an undo button.
With Clibe, a "social journaling" app, the buttons work to increase or decrease the brush size. When the app detects the Jot Touch, a small + sign appears on the drawing/painting tools to indicate that the device buttons can be used.
It's a lot easier to understand how the Jot Touch works by watching it in action, so I tried to capture video of the Procreate app and the Jot Touch in action using the Reflection app for Mac. Unfortunately, Reflection quit mirroring the video whenever I paired the Jot Touch to the iPad, so I couldn't nab video that way. This also means that the video is taken with an external video camera and isn't the best quality, so be forewarned.
During the video, you'll notice that the device disconnects -- you actually see a small window appear saying "Jot Touch Disconnected". This is the problem I referred to earlier.
I like the concept of the Jot Touch, and I think as more and more developers use the Adonit API to add capabilities to writing and painting apps, the device will become much more useful. As it is, using the Jot Touch with the Procreate iPad app is the closest equivalent I've found to traditional art tools. I don't believe that the issue I had with Bluetooth pairing failing constantly is a common problem; it's probably a one-off issue with the review device.
Very ergonomic design, well-balanced in the hand
Shortcut buttons can be used to perform various tasks in applications
Already supported by a number of iPad apps
Ingenious charging mechanism
Review device disconnected frequently from iPad
Some apps make poor use of the possibilities of pressure sensitivity and the shortcut buttons (a developer issue, not Adonit's problem)
Who is it for?
Anyone who needs a pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad, particularly those who have fallen in love with using Apple's tablet as an artistic tool