Paul Carter checks out a new device aimed at making smartphones more usable for people with hand or dexterity-related conditions.
When Disability Now was looking for someone to review a mouth-operated stylus for touchscreen devices, they naturally turned to me. I’m not sure if it was because I don’t have hands, or if it was because they just wanted to put something in my mouth to shut me up for a bit, but hey.
The Griffin Mouthstick Stylus has been designed for people who find it difficult to operate the increasing number of touchscreen gadgets proliferating in our daily lives. This could be people without hands like me, people with motor-impairments or limited co-ordination, or even people who struggle with fatigue or strain.
The tip is made from soft rubber and works with the touchscreens found in the majority of the most popular smartphones and tablets. I tested it with a Samsung Galaxy S3, a Google Nexus 7 and an iPad and found it extremely responsive, and perhaps most importantly, not too over-sensitive. In fact, to show how accurate it is, all the letters on this page have been lovingly tapped into place by my own fair mouth. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type/tap.
The ‘mouth-end’ of the stylus is made from y-shaped stainless steel and is covered with a cushioned rubber mouthpiece. The package comes with extra coverings in case the original becomes worn or damaged, as obviously holding steel in your mouth is far from comfortable. Griffin say that the mouthpiece is food-grade, meaning that no nasty chemicals are going to go into your mouth after extended use. It’s a bit unwieldy in your mouth at first, and it does take a while to adapt to. But its shape and size does mean that you can hold onto it with your teeth which makes it more stable.
The shaft of the stylus is made of aluminium, and I found it to be fairly light and easy to control without causing too much fatigue. The lower end of the stylus is made from a more flexible aluminium that’s almost rubber-like, allowing the angle to be adjusted and bent into a shape that’s either more comfortable for the user, or better suited to the way the device is being used. But this took me a while to discover, and I actually thought I’d bent it at first.
It does take a degree of getting used to – my early efforts were more akin to wild stabbing than careful tapping, but after some practice, it is possible to gain much more refined control. It is still slow to use, but that’s not necessarily an issue particular to this stylus alone, and the chances are that someone making use of the product will find it liberating rather than limiting.
My main gripe is that perhaps there could be greater degrees of contrast in the colouring of the different elements of the stylus, with higher definition among the sections. I often found myself squinting down the stylus trying to determine exactly where the tip was positioned on the screen. As it’s all in black, it can be difficult to distinguish. For people who have a visual impairment, or plain old dodgy eyes like me, this might be something to consider.
My other main gripe was that the stylus is a fixed length of 12 inches, and sadly doesn’t extend. The option of either different sized products or a telescopic version that could be adjusted by the user would have been a welcome addition.
All in all, the Griffin Mouthstick Stylus is a product that’s been carefully considered, well made and will likely be very useful for people who currently struggle to operate touchscreen devices.