The iPad’s form has been seducing digital artists and those who love to doodle since its launch. It’s also the ideal size for taking hand-written notes. There are dozens of apps that create rich drawing or writing environments, but until recently input devices have been limited. Fingers just won’t do when precision is needed so artists and copious note takers usually rely on capacitive styluses which simulate the feeling of a pen, but are limited by the touchscreen interface. They aren’t sensitive to pressure, they offer no control over line thickness, and holding one comfortably tends to leave palm marks on the virtual page. Ten One Design offers one solution with their Bluetooth 4.0 Pogo Connect stylus. It doesn’t get everything right, but it’s a solid start in a promising direction.
At 5.1″ (130mm) with a price tag of $80, the Pogo Connect sports a stylish silver barrel with a rubber tip at one end and decorative cap at the other. There is a single button on the side and a LED light. It uses one AAA battery and because it’s Bluetooth 4.0 that battery will last a long time. A little wider than a regular stylus, the pen lacks heft, but it fits comfortably in the hand and has good balance. The tip is the same thick dark rubber that one finds on traditional styluses and is magnetic for easy replacement. Ten One promises new tip designs in the future.
Pogo Connect doesn’t pair with the iPad in the usual way a Bluetooth device would. To assist in getting everything set up correctly, users can download the free Pogo Connect app to link the stylus and then each of the 19 compatible apps – up from the original 13 – goes its own way. Some apps like Procreate just find the pen, while others like Noteshelf require users to poke around in the settings. It’s easy.
Because the stylus uses Bluetooth 4.0 it is only compatible with 3rd and 4th gen iPads and the iPad mini. Ten One offers iPad 2 owners a less-than-elegant work-around: there is a Pogo Bridge app that connects to the iPhone 4S or 5 and then sends the signal to the iPad 2, but at present only one app – Procreate – has incorporated the feature.
One of the more glaring flaws when I first tested the Connect back in December was that it didn’t prevent palm marks, but recent updates have improved that functionality. How well it works seems to depend more upon the app than the stylus.
And what about pressure sensitivity? That’s the key selling point, but it’s very hit or miss. Some apps respond to pressure by varying line thickness, others opacity, and none respond to a light touch despite claims that the proprietary Crescendo Sensor technology requires “0 grams of activation force.” That said, the Connect outperforms captive models. It’s not transformative, but with the right app and practice, sketching feels more holistic.
There are a couple of neat features worth mentioning: the Pogo Connect app has a pen locator, the button on the stylus works as an undo command, and the LED light indicates the active ink color. Still, while somewhat more intuitive than capitative models, the Pogo Connect needs a lot of tweaking before it warrants the hefty price tag, much less turns the iPad into a device that can compete with a dedicated graphics tablet.
If ones uses a capacitive stylus on their iOS device – those pseudo-pens that are great for handwriting, sketching, typing, and just tapping – the name Ten One Design may not be familiar but it’s very likely they’ve come across their Pogo stylus line.
This month the iOS accessories company released news that should make iPad artists and note-takers smile. Temporarily dubbed the Blue Tiger Stylus, it’s something completely different. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to pair with the iPad, particularly the new one. The result is direct input not from the screen, but from another gadget, which allows for much more user control.
The Blue Tiger won’t simulate pressure; it will react to it with genuine sensitivity and be better than traditional styluses (styli?) at distinguishing between intended strokes and palm prints. The killer feature is best described by Ten One founder Peter Skinner: “When using Blue Tiger in a drawing application, the user can control stroke thickness … which is displayed on the multi-colored LED button.” There’s no word on a release date or price, but if it’s durable it will be well worth paying a premium for, as it should outlast traditional styluses with inflated rubbery nibs.
Touch screen gaming will always be looking for ways to best offer controls that are as close to physical controls as possible – look at the Xperia Play, which is all about offering physical game controls on a phone. We’ve seen devices like the Joystick-It pop up recently, and another similar mechanism for physical controls on a touch screen is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. The Fling works by way of having 2 suction cups that stick to the bezel of the iPad, and a joystick mechanism in the middle. It is slightly raised, so touching it presses it against the screen. This is what makes it more useful than the Joystick-It – this registers a center point on the screen, which properly allows virtual floating joysticks to work, as you can move from a consistent center point defined by the joystick, and you get analog movement.
The Fling design is great – the mechanism is transparent, so you can see around where you have placed the joystick. Tons of games work great with the Fling as well – Super Mega Worm‘s d-pad works wonderfully with the Fling – about as well as one could hope. Archetype HD‘s movement controls work great, making you feel like you’re playing an actual console game about as much as possible. Dual-stick shooters are incredible – you move and fire with remarkable precision. Your high scores on Age of Zombies are no longer safe if I’m your Game Center friend. Max Adventure is a revelation with the Fling, feeling smoother than the game has any right to be. Red Nova’s movement is great with the Fling, as well. Also, it’s easier to stick the Fling and get it stable on the iPad thanks to the Fling’s bag that also serves as a microfiber cloth to clean the screen. It is exceptionally convenient, and helps make the Fling remarkably stable.
Not all games will work perfectly with the Fling – some games’ joysticks will be too large, so you may not move as fast as you want in some games. Games with swiping controls won’t work with the Fling – because of the way the joystick works, it snaps back to the center point, so moving the joystick in a direction returns it to the center, so it registers as a swipe in the direction you swiped in, and then in the reverse direction, so it won’t work properly. If you want to play Silverfish with the Fling, use the d-pad controls. Aiming in Archetype HD didn’t quite work properly due to this mechanism as well. Fixed controls are a trickier proposition, as you have to position them exactly correctly to play them properly, so Gun Bros. might be a challenge. The joysticks also have very stiff resistance – this may be part of the engineering of the device, but it is stiffer than most controllers’ joysticks.
Is the Fling useful? Yes, very. It makes playing games with virtual joysticks much easier, and the games that work properly with it are wonderful. Is it necessary? Maybe not, and there are a few problems with it, so it’s not perfect. However, there’s plenty of times when the Fling just feels like an ingenious solution, and well worth checking out. If you play a lot of games with virtual joysticks, this may be what you’ve been looking for.
The Fling Joystick is currently available for $19.95 for one unit, and $29.94 for two.
When it comes to iOS gaming, the biggest complaint that continues to come up is the lack of physical controls. While veteran iOS gamers have gotten used to virtual controls, games still often suffer from not having actual physical buttons and joysticks to use. While an iOS device that actually has physical gameplay buttons on it is unlikely to ever appear, some people and manufacturers are looking to provide physical controls to gamers on touchscreen devices, either by facsimile physical joysticks, or through external accessories to provide actual physical controls to games.
First up is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. Designed to simulate an analog joystick on a touch screen, primarily the iPad (it appears to be designed for the wider bezel of the iPad, and might not work as well on the iPhone and iPod touch), that you stick on the iPad screen, and works to simulate a physical controller’s analog joystick. The product claims to leave no residue on the iPad, and to increase your accuracy in games that simulate analog joysticks. You can buy both a single Fling joystick, or buy a 2-pack for dual-stick shooters. The joysticks appear to be designed for iPad-only games, but some games running in 2X mode appear to work, such as Secret of Mana, according to the publicly-edited compatibility list. Some games may not work as well due to the way their joysticks work or how they’re positioned, so it may be a bit of a crapshoot depending on the games you want to play. The Fling is available now, and it will run you $19.99 for a single unit, and $29.99 for a pair.
A second virtual joystick option is the JOYSTICK-IT, exclusively from ThinkGeek. It appears to work similarly to the Fling, simulating a joystick on a touch screen, but it has a different design, more similar to an arcade joystick than a controller thumbpad. However, it still appears to work as an analog joystick for 3D games and dual-stick shooters – it would be curious to see a joystick work to simulate a digital joystick, if it was at all possible. While the JOYSTICk-IT is more expensive than the Fling, running $24.99 for one and $39.99 for a set of two, the shape could be preferable for some people, and give a more arcade-like experience.
Also coming from ThinkGeek and ION Audio is the iCADE. This was originally a joke product from ThinkGeek on April Fool’s Day, but similar to products like the Tauntaun sleeping bag going from joke to real product, the iCADE is soon to be real as well. This lets you dock the iPad into a miniature arcade cabinet, that features an arcade-style joystick and 8 buttons, for any various configuration of games. The iCade connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, and claims to offer support via an API for other apps to support it. iCADE will support Asteroids and other Atari arcade games at launch, though. It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to a device like this, and if it’s allowed, although external game controllers have been theoretically allowable since iOS 3.0, as long as they’re Apple-approved devices, but no company has gotten on releasing one. There’s theoretically no reason why a Bluetooth controller shouldn’t be allowed, as a dock accessory would have to work through its own API as well. The iCADE is still in development, and is “Coming Soon” – but here’s hoping for April 1st just for the sake of irony.
However, most of these control options are designed for the iPad and other tablet devices – for gamers on the iPhone and iPod touch, their physical control options are more limited. One of the most intriguing physical control options for these smaller devices is the iControlPad from Craig Rothwell, who has worked on the Open Pandora handheld. This device communicates over Bluetooth, and offers support with a variety of different protocols, though it will work as a Bluetooth keyboard in its most basic mode, with the d-pad, 4 face buttons, and 2 rear buttons each mapped to a keyboard keypress. The iControlPad isn’t just a gamepad either – it has a built-in 1350 mAh battery that supports a generic USB output so you can charge a variety of phones and devices with it. iControlPad is also future-proof, as it uses a clamp system to support a variety of phones – including iPhone and iPod touch sized devices, and smaller Android phones. A larger clamp set is in the works to support larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S line.
Unfortunately, the iControlPad might be of limited use for non-jailbroken iOS users. According to Craig Rothwell, one of the designers of the iControlPad, the odds that Apple would allow support for the profiles that support the analog joysticks are low, though if apps can use keyboard input as game commands, the iControlPad could be supported through that. Considering that a device like the iCADE exists and offers similar Bluetooth control, there is a chance that games could actually support it in the legitimate App Store, if Apple approved it, though Craig Rothwell has said before that Apple would not approve apps that support the iControlPad’s API. He and the rest of the iControlPad team have been in touch with some iOS developers about implementing the iControlPad into their apps, though these would likely be jailbroken-only apps. Android apps are more in luck; due to the OS’s less restrictive policies, many apps already support Bluetooth gamepads, and so they would be able to easily support the iControlPad. The iControlPad is currently in production, and the first batch of units should be shipping out in the next month.
It will be interesting to see if any of these devices catch on in any meaningful way, or if they’ll just be devices for gaming enthusiasts looking to simulate the feel of gaming controls on their touch screen devices in any way. As some of these devices start to ship out to customers and as new controller solutions are potentially announced, we’ll have the latest news and impressions of these devices.
Evernote now comes with reminders to ensure that you never forget an important note. You can pin a note to the top of the list and add a due date to receive in-app and email notifications. It will also mark a note as done when you complete your task. Now we shall never forget to [...]