Is the stylus back in style?

Samsung's Galaxy Note leading charge, with ZTE and HTC following

Are styluses back in style

Like cowboy boots and 2D video games before it, the smartphone stylus appears to be on the verge of a comeback.

Stylus-based screen control interfaces went out when touch-screen technology debuted in 2007, as Steve Jobs' masterwork was the first mobile device to successfully utilize finger-based touch controls.

But Samsung's Galaxy Note, the large 5.3-inch Android smartphone that could easily be mistaken for a small tablet, could lead the charge to bring the stylus back into consumers' hands.

Samsung's stylus-equipped Galaxy Note sold more than 5 million units, and with a rumored expansion to T-Mobile that number is likely to continue to rise. So it's no surprise that imitators are popping up.

And they may copy the device's stylus as well as its size.

Chinese device maker ZTE's head of handset strategy, Lv Qianhao, reportedly said last week, "We want to come up with the next generation of a Galaxy Note-type product - a combo product of handsets and tablets."

Other rumors peg HTC with a Note competitor slated to be introduced later this year.

The big phone/small tablet could sport Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 chip, 1 5-inch 1080p HD display, updated HTC Sense software, and a Scribe digital pen stylus.

The stylus makes sense

The Samsung Galaxy Note's relatively large touch screen is enhanced by the addition of a stylus, despite the negativity surrounding the little pens since Steve Jobs's infamous Macworld 2007 speech introducing the iPhone.

"Who wants a stylus?" Jobs said. "You have to get them and put them away, and you lose them. Yuck."

Maybe consumers have become more responsible with their mobile electronics since then, however, as the Galaxy Note is doing quite well.

The device's advanced S Pen stylus allows for unique input methods that can turn it into a versatile sketchpad and more on the go.

Third-party manufacturers have been crafting special stylus devices for use with Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad for years, so the demand is clearly there, even in Apple's traditionally hive-minded market.

With more device makers jumping on Samsung's stylus bandwagon, the question then becomes: will Apple ever follow suit?

Via Bloomberg Businessweek