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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Saskia Kemsley

Best styluses for smartphones and tablets, tried and tested

Since the invention of the touch screen in 1965 by E.A. Johnson, and its subsequent commercial popularisation by Apple later in 2007, it’s rare that you’ll come across a portable piece of tech that has been manufactured without the nifty, near-magical specification.

There are two types of touchscreen interface, but the one we interact with the most is called capacitive touch. They consist of multiple layers of glass and plastic which have been coated by a conductive material – either indium tin oxide or copper. When another electrical conductor comes into contact with the touchscreen, such as your finger or the tip of a specially designed stylus pen, an electrical circuit is completed. As a result, the electrical charge is altered at that very point. Nifty.

While touchscreens indeed make navigating our phones, tablets and even laptops far easier, the ability to have more control over how we utilise these devices has untold benefits for professionals belonging to a variety of disciplines – especially if they decide to employ the help of a stylus pen.

Graphic designers and artists use innovative drawing applications to create detailed digital artworks, architects can accurately draw up plans for houses and even create lifelike model animations based on their plans, students speedily write up lecture notes with more accuracy than ever before, and entrepreneurs can spark creativity with a constellation of sketched-up brainstorms.

Using a stylus on touchscreen surfaces isn’t merely about preventing the presence of countless fingerprints. Styluses help to provide accuracy, precision and a naturalness which is particularly valuable to artists. You don’t need a pricey smart pen with additional features like the ability to transmit information or record audio files in order to purchase a stylus that responds accurately to all your movements.

It's also an invaluable tool for those with mobility problems and works especially well when paired with a handy iPad or phone stand. Scrolling through social media and crafting texts or emails suddenly becomes a breeze, rather than an additional strain on your hands and wrists.

What’s the difference between an active and a passive stylus?

Passive styluses have a conductive tip and work simply by replacing your finger in completing the electrical circuit that makes touchscreens work. Active styluses are slightly more advanced, come with a variety of additional features and often work with the help of integrated Bluetooth technology.

We’ve rounded up a selection of the best styluses for smartphones and tablets to suit your needs.

Shop now

Microsoft Surface Pen – Platinum

The Microsoft Surface pen is a marvel for a variety of reasons, but our absolute favourite feature is the fact that it has an eraser nib. Though designed to be compatible with the Microsoft Surface laptop, it will work with any device that is compatible with Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) – so it won’t work for interchangeable use with Apple products. We doubt this will become an issue, as PC users and Apple enthusiasts tend to be fairly religious about their tech.

With a whopping 4,096 pressure points to make sketching and note-taking more precise than ever, the Microsoft Surface pen also has a reduced ink flow lag, meaning that digital ink will flow from the tip of the pen with no latency.

Buy now £99.99, Argos

Logitech Crayon Stylus

The Logitech stylus uses Apple Pencil technology, which means that it’s compatible with most Apple iPads and iPhones. With a battery life of up to 7.5 hours after just a single charge, this stylus delivers a writing experience almost as natural as putting pen to paper.

With the dynamic tip, you can automatically switch between thin and thicker lines and the innovative palm rejection allows you to rest your hand on your touch screen without smudging or ruining your digital masterpiece.

Buy now £69.99, Argos

Apple Pencil, 2nd Generation (2018), Matte White

Sleek and stylish, the Apple Pencil is the priciest stylus on the market – which hardly comes as a surprise given the brand’s track record. Nevertheless, we’re big fans of its user-friendliness and seamless design. With the newest generation, you can wirelessly charge the Apple Pencil simply by magnetically clipping it to the side of your iPad and plugging your iPad in to charge as normal.

Crafted to feel like a real pencil in terms of size, shape and grip, the hyper-sensitive and precise technology makes writing, note-taking and drawing an absolute breeze. What’s more, with this upgraded model, you can double-tap the pencil to change brush sizes or tools. Double taps can also be customised depending on your most frequently used tools. Pressure sensitivity also means that you can press harder onto the touch screen for thicker lines, and ease up on the pressure for thinner ones and the precision nib allows you to make single-pixel changes to your work – so it's a brilliant tool for editing photos.

Buy now £139.00, John Lewis

ESR Digital Magnetic Pencil with Tilt Sensitivity Synthetic Resin Nib for iPad

This value-for-money iPad-compatible option can be used straight out of the box and is made from a lightweight synthetic resin. Just like upmarket options, the ESR pen has tilt sensitivity which enables you to switch between stroke widths with the utmost ease. The nib attaches to the pen magnetically and comes with a replacement nib just in case you find that your original one has come loose in your backpack. It is also equipped with palm rejection and will attach magnetically to your iPad, just like the Apple Pencil, for easy storage.

Buy now £28.50, Staples

B&D Universal Capacitive Stylus Pen

A universally compatible, passive option for those looking to switch between using a stylus for smartphones and tablets, over 40,000 Amazon customers can vouch for this stylus pen from B&D. Featuring a 6mm flexible rubber tip, the stylus also comes with a variety of replacement tips in smaller and larger sizes to suit your needs.

Buy now £8.54, Amazon

Antimicrobial Active Stylus for iPad

This iPad-compatible stylus has been infused with an antimicrobial additive to make working on your touchscreen device more hygienic than ever. The durable tip delivers precision accuracy and requires no Bluetooth connection to function.

After just 90 minutes of charging, this stylus will last for up to 10 hours of continuous work and will enter power-saving mode when left idle for over five minutes. What’s more, it’s equipped with palm rejection to make artists’ lives that much easier.

Buy now £69.99, Targus

Mek Stylus Pens for Touch Screens

We love that this universal passive stylus comes with a magnetic cap to prevent the loss of the rubber tip. The double-ended, ergonomic stylus is incredibly versatile for such a value-for-money gadget, and the highly precise disc tip at the front end of the pencil is particularly brilliant for creating detailed digital sketches.

Buy now £8.41, Amazon


When it comes to active styluses, our top pick is the ultra-sensitive and precise Microsoft Surface Pen.

For compatibility with Apple devices, the Logitech Crayon is a brilliant value-for-money alternative to the sophisticated Apple Pencil. Our top pick for passive, universal styluses is the B&D Stylus Pen.

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