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Time to ditch the Apple Pencil? A wave of new styluses are hitting the market

The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) has revealed the first 12 companies planning to release universal styluses under its new protocol.

The not-for-profit trade association has unveiled the first brands that will be releasing products under USI 1.0 – the first open standard active stylus protocol on the market.

The idea behind USI 1.0 is to encourage brands to release styluses that can be used across a range of touch-enabled devices rather than restricting smartphones, tablets and computers to one compatible brand. The protocol aims to introduce more stylus options for users rather than limiting options for the iPad to the Apple Pencil or the Microsoft Surface to the Surface Pen.

Read our review of the iPad Air

“Our vision is of a single, active stylus capable of operating with all the devices that a consumer owns or uses in the workplace or at home,” said USI chairman Peter Mueller.

“USI 1.0 makes this vision a reality by providing a next generation active stylus option that is an alternative to current proprietary solutions.”

The 1.0 specs include setting up a two-way protocol between a stylus and a touch-enabled device and support for multiple styluses at once. USI 1.0 styluses are also expected to behave consistently across platforms.

Information is stored in the stylus itself so customisable settings such as ink colour and brush width can be remembered and activated across a variation of devices released by different manufacturers.

Chicony Electronics, Cirel Systems, Google, Shenzhen Goodix Technology, Hanvon Technology, HiDeep, HP, Intel Corporation, MAXEYE, Silicon Integrated Systems Corporation, Sunwoda Electronic Company and Waltop International Corporation will be the first companies to implement USI 1.0 in their active stylus products.

Mueller stated that more than 30 companies were involved in the development of USI 1.0, including Intel and Google, in order to make sure that the new styluses would be accepted and implemented across a range of devices in the market. Google has since made USI 1.0 the standard for its Chromebooks and Android devices and other USI members include Lenovo, HP and Dell.

Read our review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6

And Mueller only expects USI membership to get bigger from here. If companies continue to adopt the initiative we could see a situation where a user can pick up their Surface pen and start scrawling on an iPad Pro very soon.

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