[THE INVESTOR] Although digital pens for tablet PCs and smartphones -- aimed at improving productive work such as note taking and drawing -- have been in the market for long, having been deployed by global tech giants such as Samsung Electronics and Apple, they have not been very popular.
The input device is often not used due to disappointing writing capability and unfledged software solutions.
Moreover, the popularity of high-end active styluses -- which communicate with mobile devices through signals and often require an extra battery -- is hindered by their hefty price tag.
If you want to buy an Apple Pencil active stylus for Apple’s iPad Pro, for example, you have to pay an extra US$99 on top of US$799 for the tablet PC.
Brian Ko, the CEO of HiDeep, a local venture for touch controller integrated circuits, said these inconveniences and complaints about expensive stylus pens will soon be a thing of the past due to improved passive stylus pen technology.
“I am pretty sure that styluses, especially those based on passive technology, will gather steam from this year as they now offer greater writing performance than before at an affordable price,” Ko told The Investor in a recent interview.
“Tablet PC users will be able to replace Apple Pencil with a US$1 pen.”
A passive stylus, in fact, is not an actual pen, but is so called because the technology enables any conductive object to work as a pen. It only needs a touch screen controller IC chip inside a mobile device to allow users to write on the screen. This is in contrast to active styluses like Apple Pencil, which require a range of components, including digitizer panels inside phones or tablet PCs and electromagnetic resonance chips, among others.
An active stylus is only compatible with specific mobile devices while a passive stylus works with any device incorporating the touch screen controller IC chip.
It is often thought that a passive stylus lacks precision and accuracy, but Ko said the firm’s aulu S touch controller IC for digital handwriting delivers as good a handwriting experience as an advanced active stylus, while the cost is nearly eight times cheaper.
The unit price of HiDeep’s chip is less than a couple of dollars while the combined cost of components for an active stylus pen comes in at US$7 to US$8.
“The company will try to make stylus pens available for not only premium products but also budget mobile devices,” he said.
Recognizing the performance of the startup’s stylus technology, some global firms, including Lenovo, have deployed HiDeep’s chips.
Lenovo’s Yoga tablet PC series including the Yoga Book hybrid table PC, utilize the Korean firm’s touch chip technology.
The Korean startup has shipped 3 million touch controller IC chips for the passive stylus technology over the past two years and is in talks with major Chinese firms to supply its chips.
“Around five tablet PC models that are anticipated to adopt the aulu S stylus pen technology this year will be rolled out from May,” Ko said.
He, however, refused to reveal details of the partners due to contract terms.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)