i've recently lost the stylus to my phone, and seeing as how i've got some commissions needing to be finished, i really need help on what to use for a replacement. i've tried just about everything- cotton swab, band-aid, pencil, ds stylus, expo marker cap, headphone jack, even a cashew- and yet nothing works, so far. my phone is a samsung, and i assume that it has something to do with that. i've heard that aluminum foil works but i don't quite think we have any. if anyone knows any other solutions, it'd be greatly appreciated if you would share.


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Your phone screen senses your touch by detecting changes in electrical field strength caused by your finger (which is slightly capable of conducting electricity) touching the surface. This technology is known as a capacitive touch screen. An alternative technology used to be more prevalent called resistive touch, that relied upon pressure deforming the screen and bringing two electrically conductive layers inside the screen onto contact with each other

Resistive screens are more precise, whereas capacitive screens are harder to damage and can detect being touched in multiple places at once

Critically in your experiments, resistive screens can be touched with anything, because it is entirely the screen deforming that detects the location. Capacitive screens must be touched with something electrically conductive and none of the things you've tried are. You said you'd tried a ds stylus - if that's a stylus from a Nintendo DS then it's a good example of a resistive screen- take a look at the screen sideways as you press on it and you'll see the screen surfaces is soft and deforms when pressed. The DS stylus is effectively just a pointy bit of plastic

The upshot of all this is you're going to have to replace your stylus with another one dedicatedly designed to work with a capacitive screen, there isn't really a lifehack that works out other than eg the metal handle of a knife or similar - and even then these objects aren't as effective because the end doesn't make superb contact with an area of the screen (dedicated styluses are slightly soft at the tip) and really you only risk damaging the screen surface

Fortunately, until you get a replacement stylus you should find that a finger works, though it may lack the required precision that a stylus gave you. You'll really only be able to counter that by zooming in so your imprecise touch can hit a bigger area. On the upside they're quite hard to lose :)

  • You give such an excellent explanation of how the screens work, yet no alternative to a stylus. The usual styluses have very small tips, so there must be a material that conducts enough electricity to be recognized by the screens. I'm thinking about a fridge magnet (iron oxide) or maybe just a long wire coiled inside an empty pen, but I have no idea whether those would actually work.
    – Elmy
    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:18
  • Did I not cover that in my penultimate paragraph? It's exactly about conducting electricity, it's about being specifically conductive enough to generate a capacitive effect that the phone can detect. It will be calibrated for a finger/human skin and styluses will be calibrated to exhibit similar properties. There isn't really a lifehack I'm aware of that will work as effectively as a stylus; replace the stylus
    – Caius Jard
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:09
  • 1
    Pen-ultimate paragraph? chuckle, chuckle.
    – Stan
    Mar 29, 2019 at 11:54

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