Two newly revealed patents suggest that any new Apple Pencil (the next one would be the third iteration) is in the works.
When Apple released the first iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil was revealed at the same time: an elegant stylus for detailed writing and drawing work. Then came the second-generation Pencil which swapped the gloss finish of the original for a matte design and a flat side that allowed it to snap to side of the newly redesigned iPad Pro for recharging and pairing. It also introduced a double-tap mechanic to quickly switch between tools in an app.
Two new patents, spotted by Patently Apple, suggest that a future Pencil could work very differently to the current model. In one, called “Touch-based input device with haptic feedback”, the user could, for example, have a palpable, tactile response in certain conditions. This could be great in a coloring app, perhaps, when your Pencil is straying beyond where it should. There are lots of other applications, of course, but there’s one for you.
Patents are written in what seems to be devised as the literary equivalent of the sleeping pill. Listen to this: “A stylus, comprising: a housing comprising a user grip region on an outer surface of the housing, wherein the housing extends continuously about a longitudinal axis of the stylus to define circumferentially uninterrupted outer periphery of the stylus; a piezoelectric device positioned against an inner surface of the housing at the user grip region and forming a helical shape that winds at least once about the longitudinal axis; and a guidetube extending within the piezoelectric device; wherein the user grip region of the housing is deformable, such that an input force that deforms the user grip region of the housing is transmitted to the piezoelectric device and presses the piezoelectric device against the guidetube to produce an input signal and such that haptic feedback provided by the piezoelectric device deforms the user grip region.”
There’s much more like that and, please note, the above is all one sentence! But you get the gist, that a new sensor would be added to provide greater functionality.
This patent suggests a button could be added to the side of the Apple Pencil in future, which could mean all kinds of extra functionality.
The second patent is called “Stylus with touch input and compressive force sensors”, which is another corker of a headline.
It means something interesting, though. As well as the double-tap, new interactions will be possible, such as a slide on the side of the Pencil—arguably easier to do than a double-tap— or a squeeze on the area where the compressive force sensors reside. Pressure-sensing is something Apple is familiar with and uses well. For example, I find squeezing the stalk of an AirPod Pro is easier than tapping an AirPod.
These additional mechanics could change Pencil use dramatically. The capabilities are limited only by the imagination of app developers (which, as we know, is pretty unlimited) and any restrictions put in place by Apple.
It’s in the development of its accessories that Apple really changes the technological landscape. Stay tuned for further developments.