Stylus pens have experienced a wave in popularity in the last 10 years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Palm Pilots and small PDA devices were new to the market, styluses were used regularly. This is because these early technologies used resistive touch screens, screens that respond to and register pressure. Resistive touch screens are not particularly responsive to fingers, so a stylus was extremely helpful, even necessary.
Around 2005, many companies made the switch to using capacitive screens. Capacitive screens are much more accurate and do not require you to push on the screen. A light touch, or simply placing your finger, is sufficient to register movement or selection. With the introduction of capacitive screens, the prevalence of styluses really dropped.
Now, in 2012, they seem to be back in full force, the ballpoint pen/stylus combo in particular. They're a popular choice for trade show giveaways, career fairs and tech conferences. We're also using them for restaurant promotions. Servers can keep a few in their apron to enter orders for the kitchen, and they're helpful for patrons signing mobile payments.
Why use a stylus instead of your finger?
A stylus pen is more precise. Whether you're sketching on a tablet or signing an electronic document, using a stylus will keep your work and penmanship tidy and legible.
A stylus pen is more sanitary. If you carry a pen with you to prevent picking up germs, why wouldn't you carry a stylus as well? Just think of the number of fingers that have swiped that screen before you. Keep a stylus/ballpoint pen combo in your purse, and you'll have your writing bases covered.
A stylus pen is gentler on your screen. If you have long nails, using a stylus pen instead of your finger will prevent scratches on your phone or tablet's screen.
Do you use a stylus when working on a tablet or browsing your phone?