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Chromebooks are about to get better stylus options for drawing

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USI releases a 2.0 specification for its open stylus standard

HP’s Chromebook x2 11 supported wireless charging of its stylus in a similar way to how USI 2.0 stylii will work.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) announced this week that it’s established a new USI 2.0 open stylus standard, which includes new features that will make way for better writing experiences on Chromebooks.

A big new feature for USI 2.0 is wireless charging that’s compatible with the newest NFC spec, capable of 1-watt charging from compatible smartphones and other devices. “The simplicity and ease of use of wireless charging means that consumer adoption will be rapid,” said Mike McCamon, executive director of NFC Forum. NFC charging within the USI 2.0 standard means more devices can host wireless charging for attached styli, like how the Apple Pencil 2 charges against an iPad.

USI technology is available on many Chromebook devices from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and more. The standard gained significant traction among manufacturers after Google joined the initiative in 2018 but has not been widely implemented on devices other than Chromebooks.

The USI standard allows for stylus interoperability between different screens and devices, a key benefit over proprietary technologies like Samsung’s S Pen, Apple’s Pencil, and Microsoft’s Surface Pen, all of which can’t be used interchangeably between the devices. USI styli also do not require a pairing process and can retain settings within the stylus itself. Manufacturers can sign up to add support for new or existing USI compatible styli like the Logitech Pen to devices.

Now with the new USI 2.0 standard, the kinds of screens the technology works with have expanded to include in-cell screens — more advanced displays that combine the panel and the digitizer into one thin layer. There’s also an expanded color palette that USI styli can support: going from 256 to over 16 million colors. Future styli can also have more tilt / shading functionality for better drawing support.