Jot Touch

Last year we published a review of the iPad’s first pressure-sensitive stylus, Adonit’s Jot Pro. Since then Adonit has developed the Jot Touch. Adonit has done an impressive job with both the hardware and software sides of a potentially groundbreaking new accessory.

Adonit boldly one-upped competitors last year with its original Jot stylus, instead using a transparent, pivoting hard plastic disc to offer greater writing precision than almost all of its rubber rivals. Jot Touch looks very similar to earlier Jot designs, but it’s a very different beast, adding a truly pressure-sensitive tip to the clear disc, and using Bluetooth to wirelessly communicate pressure data to your iPad 2 or third-generation iPad as you write. It also sports three buttons, one to toggle power on and off, and two for app-specific shortcut features.

On the surface, Jot Touch looks a lot like the earlier Jot Pro, sporting the same fancy metal chassis, rubber finger grip, and two of the four color options—gunmetal or red. They also share the same simple tube shape, and a 5.5”-long shaft. The only obvious differences are the screw-shaped bottom, which is silver on Jot Touch rather than color-matched, and a slightly larger silver accent between the writing tip and rubber grip. Look closely and you’ll see the aforementioned three buttons as a bar in the middle of the grip, plus a small green/red light below the bar that’s almost invisible most of the time, only appearing briefly when the power is turned on or off. You still get a detachable cap to protect the tip during travel, which can be screwed onto the bottom threads when you’re using the stylus.

That’s pretty much where the similarities end—unless you’re planning to use Jot Touch with its power turned off, in which case it works and feels virtually identical to earlier Jots for writing. Thanks to the special clear plastic tip, Jot Touch lets you see precisely where it’s writing, and can be wielded far more accurately than most iOS apps are expecting. It needs to be said that if you’re using an unsupported app you’ll never find a pencil tip as sharp as Jot Touch can handle, so your results may be indistinguishable from using a finger or inexpensive regular stylus. But should you run a “Jot Ready App” such as Sketchpro, you’ll be able to write with digital ink as thin as a 0.3mm pen. Although you’ll have to live with noticeably less accuracy than you’d get from an actual microball writing utensil, the results will look dramatically better than the results of trying to do the same thing with your finger, or with almost any non-Jot stylus. Even when it’s powered off, you can also use Jot Touch with the iOS menu interface to perform swipes and taps, just like a finger or traditional stylus.

Adonit’s approach to offering “Jot Ready Apps” allows developers to include one, two, or three levels of support for the accessory. The most basic is “Precision Disc,” which suggests that the app takes advantage of the clear tip. Next is “Pressure Sensitive,” which means that the app is supposed to recognize how much pressure is being applied to the stylus and produce different results based on the lightness or heaviness of your input. Last is “Shortcut Buttons,” which signals that the app assigns some feature(s) to the unmarked buttons above and below Jot Touch’s power button.

The single most important feature in Jot Touch is its pressure-sensitive writing tip, which is said to be capable of relaying 256 microscopic levels of variations in its position, corresponding to the pressure you place on the stylus. An extra writing tip is packed in just in case you wear through or break the first one, though we had no tip issues whatsoever over roughly a month of active testing. Adonit uses a Bluetooth wireless chip to communicate the pressure variations to the iPad 2 or third-generation iPad after a simple initial pairing process; it’s worth noting that the original iPad is not supported. A rechargeable battery enables Jot Touch to be used for eight or so hours between charges, and Adonit includes a highly unique magnetic USB charging dock to hold the stylus upright when it’s refueling. All of the parts are delivered in a hard to open but otherwise nice hard plastic box that can be used to hold the spare tip, as well as a stack of beautifully designed instruction cards.

Adonit’s tip feels almost exactly like using a regular pen, apart from the continued presence of the clear plastic disc, which takes a little getting used to before becoming natural for writing. Although the power indicator light is small and easy to miss, we experienced no wireless issues whatsoever after pairing Jot Touch with our iPads, and also found the battery life to be entirely acceptable; practically, you won’t need to charge it daily unless you are doing some really extended sketching on your iPad. Better yet, charging with the included magnetic dock feels a little like using something from the near future. The ability to just bring Jot Touch near the dock, have them snap together without even looking at them, and then plug everything into a USB port is seriously cool.

Finally, though we really like the charging dock, the stubby USB connector is really MacBook- and laptop-ready, not for desktop computers. It’s so short that it only just barely makes a physical connector with Apple’s wired keyboards—one of the rare desktop computer accessories that you might charge Jot Touch with. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a wall outlet or try to stuff it into a narrow side-facing USB port on the back of Apple’s desktop machines. A USB extension cable would have been a smart pack-in.

As of today, Jot Touch certainly has plenty of potential: Adonit has done a great job of enabling developers to add pressure sensitivity and shortcut buttons to their apps, while creating a stylus that feels great and is easy to recharge. However, third-party software for Jot Touch remains less than ideally implemented, similar to a “public beta” period, and developers need to do a better job of signaling the accessory’s connection, giving users a sense of what features are supported, and then enabling them to customize output to their needs. If you’re itching for a way to start writing or drawing with a pressure-sensitive stylus, you can jump in now and be part of the early testing; you’ll have enough of a positive experience that we can comfortably award Jot Touch our general-level recommendation. That said, there are still kinks left to be worked out, so if you’re looking for software that’s as polished as Adonit’s latest accessory, you may want to wait to buy in until the apps you care about have added more than just token support for Jot Touch’s impressive new features.