AppleInsider reviews FiftyThree’s Pencil Bluetooth stylus: ‘Highly recommended’

“Development studio FiftyThree takes a bold step into the hardware game with its Bluetooth-enabled stylus designed to be a companion tool for the company’s popular drawing app Paper,” Mikey Campbell writes for AppleInsider. “Pencil is being sold exclusively through FiftyThree’s online store and comes in at $50 for the Graphite version and $60 for Walnut. Every Pencil also unlocks all of Paper’s optional brushes and color mixer tool, which are normally sold as in-app purchases priced at $1.99 each or $6.99 for the entire set.”

“In designing Pencil, FiftyThree chose to mimic a carpenter pencil, a writing tool that many potential customers have either used or are familiar with. Until now, most styli have taken on thin form factors dating back to some of the first examples designed to fit into PDA bodies. Even current models like Wacom’s Bamboo Stylus or the Pogo Connect have shapes that may feel foreign to someone picking one up for the first time,” Campbell writes. “Anyone who has used a carpenter pencil and found its shape comfortable will be pleased with Pencil. The opposite is also true, however, as we know a few people who simply can’t use a squared-off writing utensil without cramping up.”

“Carpenter pencils don’t usually come with an eraser, but FiftyThree opted to build one in to its version of the tool. The feature is one of Pencil’s major selling points and one that sets it apart from other standalone iPad accessories,” Campbell writes. “After a few sessions, we started using the Paper and Pencil combo as if it were a real paper and pencil; quickly moving between draw, erase and blend modes. There is something to be said for a digital tool that so closely mimics the functionality of its “real world” counterpart that it can simply be picked up and used… It comes highly recommended, though we do point out issues in the ‘Pros and Cons’ section that are applicable to general consumers.”

Much more, including photos, in the full article here.


  1. I find it odd that they would pick a carpenter’s pencil as a form factor to mimic. To me, a carpenter’s pencil is only good for drawing a line with the assistance of a metal straight edge. It would never occur to me to write or draw with one.

    1. One trick:

      There is a visual style to writing with a long tip, much like drawing with a magic marker. You keep the stylus tip oriented either vertical or horizontal as you write. The result is a thin line in one direction, a nice transition into the other direction, where you then get a fatter line. I received quite a nice complement from a cute girl while I was drawing this way at a poster making party. It makes you look like you’re a calligraphy expert, when you’re not.

  2. This device looks good. But, I don’t like that it can only work with one proprietary app. I would rather wait until Apple rolls out an official API for pressure sensitive input devices before I invest in one.

  3. Got my son an iPad Air for Christmas and he really like to draw manga looking stuff. I was planning on getting the one maid by Wacom. I wonder how this companies to that one with its over 1000 pressure sensing settings. I know the Wacom one cost more ($79 Amazon) and don’t know of it has an eraser.
    Any advice??

    1. Looking it up, as I can’t recall the details:

      Enjoy a hands-on creative experience thanks to Wacom’s professional-grade pressure sensitivity and industry-leading palm rejection technology. With 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity the Intuos Creative Stylus reacts to a light touch just like a real pen on paper. And just like real paper, you can rest your palm naturally on your iPad, because the only thing that will leave a mark is your stylus.

      The Intuos Creative Stylus connects seamlessly with your iPad Mini, iPad 3 or iPad 4 through Bluetooth® 4.0 Smart technology. This automatically enables pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and shortcut buttons when used with creative apps that integrate Wacom’s industry-leading technology.

      Create from anywhere with your favorite creative apps. The Intuos Creative Stylus works seamlessly with top creative apps that have integrated Wacom’s industry-leading pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and shortcut button technology.

      $99.95 full retail price. Shop around for better.

      -> The compatible app list, so far:
      Autodesk SketchBook Pro
      Autodesk SketchBook Ink
      Autodesk SketchBook Express
      Bamboo Paper
      ibisPaint X
      Adobe Ideas
      Zen Brush
      [Visual Object Notes]
      [ ] = coming soon.

  4. Ive won’t approve. It looks too much like a pencil. Everyone knows it’s a pencil, so why should it look like one? (Apple’s argument for the look of buttons in iOS7.)

  5. Resting your hand on a running capacitive sensor is not a good idea. It’s an active technology that uses sub-RF frequencies to interact with your body tissues in a very unnatural way.

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