Finger Painting versus Stylus Painting on mobile phones. Xperia X10 vs my old Dopod D810

imageI recently made the switch to a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 1ghz mobile phone running Android OS 1.6. It’s a very nice phone with a big 4″ widescreen and a resolution of 854×480. Since buying the phone I have downloaded a number of painting apps including Magic Doodle, Layer Paint, Cam Paint and a few others. They’re nice apps, but to be honest they all still leave a lot to be desired. My previous phone was a 400mhz dopod D810 running Windows Mobile 6. The painting software I used on that phone was Pocket Artist by Conduits.

Here’s what I have found. Finger painting using apps such as those I mentioned on my Xperia x10 is actually quite difficult. There’s definitely a skill involved! Painting strokes slowly generally results in a big wobbly line. So fast strokes seem to be the only way to get a nice clean line. I notice iPad and iPhone artists on YouTube working in much the same way, using quick strokes. It’s going to take me some time to get the hang of. I’m still waiting for some stylus pens I ordered one Bay to arrive. I’m not sure if one of those will make things easier,but it will be worth trying. There’s a lady on YouTube who uses a couple of different pens with her iPad, although she said that the iPad is still no match for a tablet PC or Wacom tablet due to the iPad’s lack of pressure sensitivity.

This afternoon I went back to a little painting on my old Windows Mobile phone with it’s 320×240 screen and stylus. I hate to admit it,but I’m seriously missing that phone. It’s little stylus is so much nicer to work with than my fingers. The software too. That Pocket Artist software which is at least 3 or 4 years old now, although it’sbeen around a lot longer, is still way ahead of anything you can put on an Android phone. From what I’ve seen of the all the iPhone apps out there, not too many of those I have seen would compete either. Sketchbook mobile looks great, but I believe it’s maximum resolution is only 1028×768. The last painting I did using Pocket Artist was1600x800. I remember reading that Pocket Artist essentially has all the features of an older version of Photoshop. V3.0 or 4.0 if I’m not mistaken.

Sadly these Windows Mobile stylus pen devices just don’t exist anymore. All the phones now use a touch surface. The stylus phones could also be used as touch phones. Then there’s the technology too. Voice dialing for example. With that old phone I would click a button on the side and say “Call Lydia on mobile”. A girl’s voice would answer back “Call Lydia mobile, is this correct”? I would reply “Yes”, the girl would then say “Dialing”. By that time the phone would already be dialing. It was brilliant! But these Android phones.. There’s voice dialing, but they don’t talk back. Makes you feel lonely without the AI answering you. You instead have to click something on the screen. I don’t know how it works on the iPhone, but nothing can beat that Windows Mobile voice dialing experience :-) I remember one guy freaked out a few years ago when I told the phone to call someone and it spoke back to me.Microsoft were way ahead with that technology! You could tell it to play a song too. It would find the mp3, ask you if it was the correct song and play it.

Now I’m beginning to question whether or not I should have even bought this new Xperia X10 phone? The screen is amazing. I can watch Vimeo movies on there, YouTube, it has brilliant 8.1 megapixel camera. Not quite as good as using my Canon Ixy 510 still camera though. But with the camera software I have on the phone I can easily take a photo which is then processed using filters to give it a nice film look, and then I can immediately upload it via Ping.fm or Pixelpipe where it will be posted to a number my websites including Flickr, Facebook, my blog, Blogger and so on. That’s a nice. I can also play high quality 3D games,including one where you become a Japanese fighter pilot in WW2 and get to bomb Pearl Harbour! I’ve got a nice RSS reader on there, all my contacts (Facebook included) and the calendar are synced to Google(which I’ve read the iPhone isn’t even capable of?), I can browse websites and see a lot more than before, there’s an app I have installed that can translate multiple languages, a timelapse program for the camera, a guitar tuner, compass and a lot more.

But even with all the features the Xperia X10 has to offer, I am still missing the 3 year old dopod D810with it’s stylus, Pocket Artist and the voice dialing!! I am sure my AI friend on there is probably missing me too. So my dilemma, do I persist with the new technology and all it’s bells and whistles, or return/sell it and go back to the old dated technology that just did what it did very well? Of course I’ll stick with the Xperia X10, it will just take a while to get used to a different way of doing things.

One Response to “Finger Painting versus Stylus Painting on mobile phones. Xperia X10 vs my old Dopod D810”

  • Stefan Fischer on February 16, 2011

    Given the small display-size of most smartphones (4 inch diagonal), but their high resolution (better than 480×320), it is obvious that their information density (pix/cm^2) cannot be adressed by a thick finger-tip. Only the thin tip of a stylus (or of a ladie’s long finger-nail) can make good use of that information density. A typical example: cut-and-paste of text, starting and ending at a precise character. This is impossible for a finger-tip, since it is unprecise and the finger occludes the view.

    This means that capacitive touchscreens, which require an extended surface of the finger to be in contact with the screen to register a “touch”, are not at all appropriate for pocket-sized devices like smartphones when one tries to do more than just viewing information, but tries to actually modify the text/picture/etc. that is shown on the screen.

    So far, only resistive touchscreens allow to work with a stylus or a finger-nail. For many users, this is really a more useful feature than being able to zoom with gestures (multi-touch feature of capacitive touchscreens). Zooming can be achieved in many other ways (for ex. by having a zoom-button, etc.). But nothing can replace pointing accuracy. Note that track-balls and other similar poiting-devices are no substitute for the ability to directly point to the screen with high accuracy.

    In any case, technology already exists that allows to combine the advantages of capacitive and resistive displays, see for ex.
    http://www.stantum.com/ or
    http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/hitachi-develops-capacitive-touchscreen-compatible-with-stylus-input-20101118/
    Unfortunately, this is being ignored in the newly released Android smartphones.

    Stefan Fischer, University of Heidelberg (Germany).

    PS: I cannot wait for Steve Jobs to introduce iFood, the revolutionary way to eat with your fingers, instead of with fork&knive 😉