Paper's Pencil crosses the Atlantic promising neater tablet scribbling

After 10m app downloads, US firm Fifty Three launches its stylus accessory in the UK, France and Germany More than 10 million people have downloaded Paper, an inventive design app developed by US start-up Fifty Three. Now the company is launching its companion accessory, Pencil, in Europe.

The device – a sleek stylus that comes in a choice of walnut or graphite versions – was released in the US in November 2013, but will now also be available in the UK, France and Germany through a distribution deal with Amazon.

The stylus can be used to scribble on the iPad's touchscreen when using Paper, but also flipped upside down to be used as a digital rubber – the app recognises which end of the device is touching the screen and reacts accordingly.

Paper can also tell the difference between the Pencil stylus and the hand of the person using it, to ensure they can rest their hand on the screen while drawing without creating palm-sized smudges.

FiftyThree has not said how many Pencils it has sold in the US, although it claims customers include entrepreneurs, fashion designers, teachers and filmmakers. The device will cost £49.99 and £64.99 – graphite is the pricier model – in the UK.

"To date, over 100m designs have been made in Paper and the app has over 10m downloads," said FiftyThree's chief executive Georg Petschnigg. "We think anyone can be creative, and for us, Pencil is the most accessible and expressive accessory for this."

A useful tool for tablet scribblers of all stripes, or an expensive novelty that can only be used with one app? Pencil is likely to divide opinion.

FiftyThree at least has an answer to the one-app criticism: the device can be used as a regular stylus with other apps, while the company is working on partnerships for deeper integration with apps from other developers.

The company is backed by $15m of funding raised in June 2013, which it said at the time would fuel its expansion "beyond touch and into the physical world of accessories". Pencil was the first of those.

"We're not trying to build a better finger: touch is great, and there is no tool better than the human hand. But there are things that tools can do to complement the human hand," FiftyThree's hardware design boss Jonathan Harris told The Guardian in November 2013.

There are legitimate questions around whether Paper's momentum has slowed, though. Launched for iPad in March 2012, it notched up 8m downloads by June 2013, but according to FiftyThree's latest stats, has only added another 2m in the year since then, taking it to 10m overall.


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