Steve Jobs once said that nobody wants a stylus. The comments he made in 2007 might have been spot on at the time but all these years later the stylus hasn’t died. In fact, even Apple released the Apple Pencil back in 2015. While Jobs was speaking about the stylus’ of the time which were basically plastic sticks, the new generation like the Pencil or the Samsung S Pen includes tech to make them much much more. What if we told you there’s an option out there which is cheaper, better and Irish? That’s where Scriba comes in. Designed by Dublin Design Studio, I’ve been getting hands-on with the Scriba Stylus over the last few months to see how this unique looking stylus stacks up.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What is the Scriba Stylus?
Scriba is a new age Bluetooth stylus, designed, developed and manufactured in Ireland. It has been created by David Craig, a Dublin based architect who during the recession began looking for a new challenge. He noticed that the modern stylus was basically just a digital pen so he set out to build something that was designed around the user.
Enter Scriba, the self-proclaimed world’s most innovative stylus. The Bluetooth enabled product has won a tonne of design and innovation awards already due to its features that include a unique ergonomic design, “squeeze motion” technology instead of buttons, and haptic feedback. The Scriba can be paired with any tablet or smartphone to be used as a standard stylus but when used on iOS products you can see it’s true potential. With it’s own range of compatible apps users can do so much more than just doodle, but we will talk a bit more about that later.
What you get
Scriba keeps it nice and simple. In the box you get your ergonomic stylus, the Micro-USB charging cable and 3 additional replacement tips. The replacement tips is a very nice little touch, would Apple do it? I think not. For me this is the advantage of supporting the ever-growing Irish tech start-ups, they actually give more of a toss about their customers. While replacement tips might seem like a small thing it’s that thoughtful touch that the bigger players will never do.
I’ll keep mentioning the price but at a price point under €100 the Scriba Stylus is much cheaper than the competition, namely the Apple Pencil. But that doesn’t mean a weak spec sheet. Weighing in at 16 grams it’s actually lighter than the competition which might seem strange given the design. It’s down to the ergonomic design, while Scriba might be a bigger product it’s lighter due to the material selection and overall design. You also get over 200 hours per charge again an incredible stat when you think the average for other similar products is roughly 12 hours. We’ve mentioned that Scriba is charged via Micro-USB, simple and effective, plus chances are you won’t need another charger when travelling.
There is also the Dynamic “squeeze motion” technology for extended app interactions and the haptic (vibration) app support for tactile feedback but more on that later. Finally, Scriba also offers it’s own supported apps: Brushes for Scriba for drawing, Scriba Slides which brings more intrigue to standard powerpoint presentations as the app makes work as a digital pen and remote for the presentation. They also have an app called Scriba Photo and this makes the stylus a remote for your device’s camera.
Design & Features
Did you know that these guys made 136 prototypes before they settled on their award winning design? You know when a team takes this kind of care and patience they are going to create something impressive. We wan’t to focus on the product but if you want to read their full story check out their website.
Ok so the Scriba Stylus is a ergonomically designed open framed tool that is made to share around the movement of your hand. While the stylus itself is straight the “handle” wraps in such a way that it’s contoured to create a natural gripping point for both your thumb and pointing finger. Both touch-points are enhances with a rubberized surface to further improve grip and comfort.
Interestingly, unlike most other styli you won’t find a single button on the Scriba. The body is flexible which enables the “squeeze motion” pressure-responsive technology through simply pinching or squeezing your thumb and forefinger. Rather than using buttons, this intuitive system helps the user control stroke widths and a variety of other controls across their presentation and drawing apps. The Scriba stylus is also the first stylus to use haptic feedback which is essentially using vibrations to confirm squeeze based actions, connectivity and alerts for compatible apps. It might feel odd at first but to be fair you learn the controls so quickly that these new features just feel right.
Full disclosure, I spent way longer than I should have when trying to find the charging station (guess that’s what you get for thinking you don’t need the instructions). Anyway making me look stupid, all you do it grab a coin and unscrew the base of the pen to pop in the charger. Really it’s that simple but thankfully for me with a battery life over 200 hours and 6 months of standby you wont need to charge the Scriba all that often. Better again a full charge takes only two hours.
At the other end, the stylus uses the standard silicone tips that you will see on any normal stylus. This is held on by a screw on cap to keep it tightly in place in use but allows for a quick change when needed. Oh and it weighs just 16 grams, incredible considering the Apple Pencil is 20 grams and that’s just a stick.
Compatibility & Apps
The Scriba stylus will work with any touch screen but it’s on iOS where they have the most support. It works best using their own software which has been optimised to take advantage of the squeeze controls.
Firstly get onto their app called Brushes for Scriba, this will give you the best platform to get started and gain a decent understanding of the inner workings of the stylus. Beyond that, there is a list of apps designed specifically for the product which you can check out here.
Brushes for Scriba is their own custom variation of the popular Brushes app, optimized for their stylus. You are able to control brush stroke width and a bunch of other bits and pieces by simply squeezing the device. Within the app, you can control up to 10 layers while you can switch between the brush and eraser by double-clicking Scriba or triple-clicking to hide the interface and focusing on your work. Other apps include Scriba Photo and Slides. Scriba Photo lets you use the stylus to control your device’s camera while Slides is a productivity app that makes the device do double duty as a digital pen and a presentation remote. All good stuff, just remember that the advanced features of the Scriba will only work on Scriba enabled apps.
Connecting the Stylus couldn’t be any easier, squeeze the pen to search visible Bluetooth devices and pair, job done. In terms of connecting the stylus with a compatible app, use the setting tool to highlight the ‘connect to Scriba’ icon, click that and now you can control the app through the pen. That connect icon doubles up as a battery indicator which is quite nice.
Final note regarding the compatible apps – Scriba are doing a lot of work in the background, Android support has grown quite a bit since my last conversation with David. Handwrite Pro has just launched support in addition to Infinite Painter in testing mode. So keep an eye on their website for future updates.
How does it Perform?
To be fair it performs quite well. I’ve been very impressed with Scriba considering I’ve been using it for about a month now and it’s potential is obvious. The stylus fits naturally in your hand so you can maintain constant control when writing and it requires less pressure than your typical pencil looking stylus. This means you can use the product for longer before feeling any strain making it ideal for designers and others who would use a stylus for long hours.
If you are looking at a straight comparison with the Apple Pencil, the Scriba hasn’t a hope given the precision and control the Pencil can give. However, the Scriba can also not be compared to what a Pencil can do, it’s just that different.
I have been doodling away using Brushes4Scriba and to be fair their own platform is designed to show the true potential of the squeeze technology. Anyone who has ever worked with an airbrush will feel right at home using Scriba. You are able to set limits for maximum and minimum brush widths alongside levels of transparency to add your personal style to your work. It’s worth saying the control and precision of the stylus is brilliant but the silicone tips are a bit stubby for fine detail, a common issue for most stlyi.
In terms of overall performance, the haptic feedback offers great control that I was very happy with however it’s only available on supported apps as we have mentioned already. It’s not a big deal for me because this is only the start of their journey with great potential for future growth. We are already seeing more developers including Scriba compatibility so the future is bright.
Notes an other bits
Scriba ain’t just for doodling! I’ve been diddling about with a few of their apps and when it comes to regular handwriting the Scriba Stylus is far more comfortable to use versus the Apple Pencil.
Using an app like ZoomNotes (a supported application) you can take your notes through general writing, this is what I used and personally speaking I found Scriba more than capable of doing any general writing function.
Beyond general writing or drawing, Scriba can also be used as a presentation tool in their platform ScribaSlides. Using the Bluetooth connection you can flick between your slides with ease. You can also make more engaging presentations by using the stylus to highlight areas, focus on particular points or draw on your presentation in real time to get across your point. Thank god because something that’s even slightly more engaging has to be better than death by PowerPoint.
Finally, Scriba can also be used as we mentioned as a photo-shooting tool. It’s really cool and different, you basically use the stylus as a Bluetooth-enabled shutter release for your camera app. Really that’s it.
I’m a picky bollox so of course, there had to be something I’m not 100% sold on. That’s the silicone tips. They are a bit on the stubby side and that makes Sciba a tad dodgy when you’re trying to get those finer details The Apple Pencil pips the Scriba Stylus in this area due to it’s finer tip and active sensor but in comparison to most conventional styli, Scriba is streets ahead. Told you I was just being picky, but if they could tweak the tip or offer a finer solution then it’s game on.
Vs The Apple Pencil
I don’t want to look like I’m bashing the Apple Pencil but let’s be realistic here, the Scriba Stylus is going head to head with one of the biggest forces in the tech. From what I’ve seen Scriba is more than just a competitor to the Apple Pencil.
Due to the sleek ergonomic design you can use the Scriba for hours without any strain whatsoever. Take that against the standard pen style of pretty much all the competition and it’s easy to see why Scriba is more comfortable. This style also means that for younger users it will aid the development of fine motor skills which are being lost somewhat as mobile takes precendance over pen and paper for today’s youth.
Again unlike the Apple Pencil, the Scriba Stylus is responsive to the user’s touch with a direct correlation between user action and NUI reaction and gestures avoid the need for the annoying buttons. For me, the biggest difference between the two besides price is the insane battery life in the Scriba that is almost 20 times that of the Apple Pencil. Couple this with the fact that Scriba actually works with more iOS devices than the Pencil (anything in the last 5 years vs 2018 or newer) and the fact that this is the first stylus to feature haptics and you can probably understand why I wanted to address the elephant in the room. Including post and packing the Scriba Stylus is almost €30 cheaper just goes to show branding isn’t everything.
Who should use it?
Scriba was initially designed to offer creatives an improved user experience and a greater level of control. Modern designers, architects and such professions are now shifting their work flow between the physical and digital environments: whether sketching, note taking and presenting, they demand tools that deliver a seamless transition between the two.
Having said that it’s not just for the big kids, Scriba has been unexpectedly been picked up by children as a tool to improve motor skills and writing technique. This comes at a time when paediatric doctors are concerned over children’s use of technology impacting their ability to hold pens and pencils.
We mentioned that Scriba has somewhat stumbled upon a secondary market surrounding younger children. Well after speaking with David I discovered that they are now working with occupational therapists in Trinity to conduct a qualitative assessments. They are looking to understand and discover how the squeeze-action compliments the development of the child’s mechanical skills of writing at both the “Refinement” and “Integration and Implementation” stages with a controlled ‘scaling’ action between their thumb and forefingers.
Sounds fancy, but basically they want to see if the Scriba Stylus offers something valuable to the next generation. He also mentioned at the point of writing that the studies are so far getting some very positive feedback. We will be keeping a close eye on this and I’m sure David will keep us posted and once we know more, so will you.
I’m a fan of the Scriba Stylus and as someone with a background in design I can say this honestly. For the creatives out there this is the well worth the look. From the ridiculous battery life to the control and ergonomics, Scriba has thought of pretty much everything. The squeeze technology and haptic feedback are innovative tools where a stylus is concerned and with all the work being done in the background I am excited to see what the future holds.
While it will be cool to see their own tools and compatibility improvements, it’s the work with children that I can’t wait to come to fruition. In a world where tablets are soon to take over from pen and paper in schools, Scriba is ready to pick up the slack to help develop motor and writing skills for the new tech-savvy generation.
In comparison with the Apple Pencil, the Scriba Stylus can be used across operating system platforms and devices, unlike the Pencil that is restricted to only the iPad Pro/2018 models. So for me if you’re in the market for a sylus that offers comfort and precision, is two thirds of the price of the Apple Pencil and was designed, developed and manufactured in Ireland, there’s only one winner.
Pros & Cons Summary
|Beautiful Ergonomic Design
|3rd Party app compatibility to
|Further support on no nApple
products (in development)
|Silicone tip has minor issues
with fine detail
(common for most styli)
|Huge battery life
|Innovative dynamic squeeze technology
|Massive future growth areas
|Cheap vs competition and it’s Irish made