A recent study disturbingly revealed that young children are using touchscreen devices so frequently that they are growing up unable to hold pens correctly due to underdeveloped muscles. Despite there being several electronic pens on the market for use with tablets or smartphones, they generally have been either expensive or limited to newer tablets. A Hong-Kong-based company hopes to change all that with the SonarPen, a cheap, pressure-sensitive stylus that works on almost all generations of iPad, connecting to the devices through the headphone jack.
The SonarPen is an interesting smart pen that cleverly fills the gap in the market between a cheap rubber stylus and a more expensive Apple Pencil. The battery-free device connects to an iPhone or iPad through the headphone jack (or via a lightning adapter if you have a newer model). Its pressure-sensitive capabilities are produced by turning pen strokes into audio signals that are interpreted as digital signals by the tablet or smartphone and instantly transformed into writing on the screen.
The overall functionality of the SonarPen is directly related to how quickly app developers integrate the device. So far, the makers of SonarPen have only developed the software for iOS devices. Android tablet and smartphone users can still utilize the device but currently it will only work as a "dumb stylus" with no pressure-sensing or palm-rejection capabilities. It is claimed that Android integration is on its way and very well may be around by the time the device ships in June.
Currently only two iOS apps are officially supported, Zen Brush 2 and ZoomNotes, but the makers of SonarPen suggest several more app developers are currently working on, or reviewing, integrating the smart features of the device. Considering the popularity of this crowdfunding campaign (it has already doubled its initial goal with over two weeks still remaining) it seems likely that more apps will integrate the device in the near future – but nothing is guaranteed, so right now it is recommended that buyers only rely on what is already featured.
The cost of the SonarPen is its strongest feature with a current earlybird campaign price of around US$25 with a post-campaign regular retail price of $30. This sets it apart from the more expensive Apple Pencil (at around $100) that only works on an iPad Pro, whereas the SonarPen offers full pressure-sensing capabilities on older iPads.
In the scheme of Kickstarter campaigns this is a relatively safe bet with the makers of the product successfully delivering other campaigns in the past. Any promised future functionality cannot be guaranteed, but if you have an old iPad and want to turn it into a neat sketchpad, maybe for a child to play around with, then this looks like a decent cheap option.
Take a look at the campaign video below.
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