Skip to main content

Should you get a stylus for your Apple Watch?

Seriously, folks. I've had three different people email me to ask to do a roundup of the best styluses for Apple Watch since the device's launch, and all I can kind of do is shake my head.

Unlike the iPad or even the iPhone, the Watch isn't designed to be an in-depth sketching platform. No one's looking to the artist who will make the first gallery-ready "Watch drawings". Digital Touch is fun, and there are plenty of ways to get better at it, but a stylus is not practical for sketching. Where are you going to keep it? Behind your ear? In a bag? Clipped to the underside of your super-classy Watch band?

But because I love you crazy people, I tried it.

Spoiler: it really stinks.

A capacitative stylus does give you slightly more control when writing, but that control is offset by buttons getting in the way. On the Digital Touch screen, the touch targets for back, color change, and info are so large that it's almost impossible to draw near a corner without triggering one of them. You may be getting a tenth of a percent of control with your letters or linework, but does that really matter when your drawing is going to be sent half-finished?

And speaking of digital touch targets, let's talk about precision. We use styluses in part because they help us have greater stability while drawing, and in part because they feel more precise. The Digital Touch interface, however, isn't exactly designed for tiny nibs: It's built around your finger. As such, even a stylus nib isn't going to give you the perfect dots and lines you want — because the screen simply isn't designed to take more precise touch targets.

If you need a stylus for accessibility reasons, that's another matter entirely, of course. A stylus can provide more stability, as I mentioned above, and if you're just looking for something to help you interact with your device, it's certainly an option — you have to figure out what's going to be best for you when using the Watch.

But for drawing, at the end of the day, I don't really see any sort of material benefit using a stylus over using your finger. Your finger is sloppier, yes, but you know what? It's what the Watch was built for.

If you want to send goofy stylus pictures to your friends, there are a ton of iPhone and iPad apps that can make that happen.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

12 Comments
  • unless you get a collapsible stylus, or wear one on your finger. Silly of course but today's my day off, so no one's paying me to take things seriously. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Shake your head all you want, My fingers are so dry most of the time It's hard to get my iPad or iPhone to pick up that I'm touching it. I have to use a stylus. Cant see buying a iWatch either doubt I will be able to manipulate the crown.
  • I see that as more of an accessibility issue than a "I want to draw and need a stylus to do so" case. Still, that's no good! I'd definitely try out the Apple Watch display first in stores if you're worried about that.
  • I work in a low-humidity environment and I do have issues with dry skin and Touch ID. Sent from the iMore App
  • FWIW, after an unseasonably chilly Wisconsin day yesterday, I can verify that I could still operate my watch while wearing a pair of capacitance gloves. I would never have even thought of using a stylus.
  • "Should you get a stylus for your Apple Watch?" Short answer: "No." Long answer: "Hell no."
  • This is why I gave up on styluses altogether until Apple can make a built in experience. They might "feel" more accurate, but they actually aren't in fact. iOS styluses are essentially "fake fingers" and as such exactly as accurate (or not) as your finger is. When you add in the spotty "palm rejection" technology, the necessarily awkward drawing angles and the fact that you have to use certain proprietary apps, styluses are just a complete waste of time on *any* iOS device IMO.
  • You know what would have been funny Serenity, is if I saw the article "should you use a stylus for your Apple swatch" opened it, and it just said NO. Left it empty lol. Sent from the iMore App
  • You joke, but that was the first draft of my article. :)
  • Having a stylus defeats the purpose of not taking your phone out of your pocket. Now you gotta take your stylus out Sent from the iMore App
  • The stylus does seem silly. Add to that, I wear my watch on my left hand and I am left handed. Using a stylus in my right hand would be difficult and less precise than my finger.
  • Some people...