Aussie-designed; innovative high-frequency sound and pressure solution; comfortable grip; buttons for undo/redo
Requires knowledge of digital drawing and setting up brushes
It seems that the world of iPad styluses has fragmented into two camps. The first and original category relies on user’s fingers to either be touching the screen and acting as a stylus themselves, or to be transferring conductive energy through a metal, plastic or wooden stylus, but thats it. They might differentiate on how the tip is designed, and recently I reviewed what I’ve found to be the most accurate stylus of this type – the GoSmart. But in recent weeks we’ve seen the release of three of a new breed that replaces us with electronics and batteries – yes, the robo-apocolypse (at least in terms of iPad input devices) has begun.
First to make it to stores was the Jot Touch from a company originally boot-strapped via Kickstarter; second has been from Pogo who were makers of the first iPad stylus; and third to market has been an Australian product that promises to be the most innovative of them all – the JaJa.
The JaJa consists of an attractive aluminium tube with a rubber grip and orange highlights that has a few items not found on other styluses such as two buttons, a battery compartment and a small thin hole located above the rubber grip. It’s tip is of the clear-disc type pioneered by Jot that is attached to a solid shaft which can be easily be pulled out and replaced (or inserted again into any mechanical pencil to turn them into a stylus). This shaft makes contact with pressure sensors inside the stylus so it can measure how hard the JaJa is being pressed against your iPad screen. When communicated to the iPad, this information allows apps such as Procreate, Art Studio and Sketchbook Pro that have added support to modify the width of lines etc according to the pressure the user applies (up to 1024 levels).
How is this information communicated I hear you ask? The JaJa emits special (high-frequency) sound waves from the thin hole about half way up its length. The iPad’s microphone then picks up these sounds and the information encoded in them allowing apps that have been updated with the right software to take the pressure information and convert it into brush strokes that are lighter/thinner or darker/thicker depending on how hard you are pushing down on the stylus tip.
While this is a method that can be impacted by very loud nearby noises, or by cases that partially block the iPad’s microphone (situated up top and centre-back), its a strategy that sets it apart from the Jot Touch and Pogo Connect which both rely on Bluetooth. Avoiding the use of Bluetooth will extend your iPad’s battery life. It also means you can use the JaJa on planes where airplane mode would rule out Bluetooth solutions. I especially like the undo/redo buttons built right into the grip, and I did find the flat disc to work better than the one that Jot uses, although not as good as the GoSmart. Hopefully it also wears better than that of the Jot which has been known to lose contact over time.
So how well does the JaJa draw then? Can it replace pen and paper? You know, I’ve realised something obvious across my ownership of 5 styluses and now the JaJa – digital drawing is different. If I’d been a Wacom-tablet using artist instead of a teacher and tech-writer, I probably would have already known this, but like many who have been wowed by the responsiveness and possibilities of the iPads large touchscreen, I just assumed that I should be able draw as fluidly and expansively as I can on paper. I’m now accepting that the two media (glass screen and digital input vs paper) are actually very different, with contrasting usage cases that do however compliment one another.
What this means in practice for potential buyers of styluses like the JaJa is that there is a decent amount of work involved in getting a good performance out of it. This is not a bad thing, just an admission that you are stepping into more serious digital art territory. So, if you are prepared to understand how digital drawing differs from pen and paper, take the time to learn how to draw so you keep the disc flat and move it consistently and learn the brush settings that the supporting high-end drawing apps include – the JaJa can be an important new tool for your work. Sometimes its just a case of slowing down, but generally it means a process where the feeling of smooth glass becomes your expected default surface setting, replacing the assumptions of pen and ink.
There have been some reports from a couple of early users with a sensitivity to high-frequency sounds that they are unable to use the JaJa or even be in the same room as one – so use caution if you’ve had reactions to high-frequency sounds.
Macworld Australia‘s buying advice
Online reports from many users (see the forums of Procreate app users at Savage Interactive for eg.) who have also tried the Jot Touch and Pogo Connect are that JaJa is the best choice so far for pressure-sensitive styluses. For iPad users who are prepared to set it up fully and have a good knowledge of digital drawing and brush settings, it comes highly recommended.