First there was the Astropad, a graphics pen-tablet app for the iPad that mirrors and connects to your Mac. Think of the Wacom Cintiq, but at a fraction of the price. That app connects your device to the Mac desktop via Wi-Fi or USB.
Today, that concept pushes further with the release of the Astropad Mini for iPhone. The new product is analogous to the existing iPad app — except that you can now carry this functionality in your pocket. Astropad Mini lets you use the same Mac tools for drawing, masking, tracing and retouching in real time — with Photoshop and Lightroom or other apps — on your iPhone.
Built for photographers, illustrators and other professional creative folk, Astropad Mini works like a native iPhone app and with all iOS-compatible styluses. It recognizes gestures such as pinch to zoom and pan in Mac apps. Customizable shortcuts and a separate app for the Apple Watch also allow you to control your art work.
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The Astropad Mini supports all pressure sensitive styluses available for iOS, but it’s also Force Touch-ready in preparation for the release of the iPhone 6s, which is rumored to include haptic feedback technology. Astropad Mini supports all Adonit styluses, all Wacom models made for iOS, Pencil, Pogo Connect 2 and Hex3 JaJa.
While I found the connection between mobile and desktop steady and reliable, and the performance good, navigating around the images was harder on my iPhone 5 than on the iPad. It was more of a challenge to hold an image steady and to locate editing controls, though a stylus made things a bit easier. Over time, I developed a strategy to accomplish the things I needed to do with particular images. People with larger phones, I suspect, will have a smoother experience.
Astropad Mini is available from the Apple store for $4.99 — a break from its regular $9.99 price. It requires iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.9 or later.