The Apple Pencil is one of the least talked about Apple products out there, but it's still one of Apple's most important accessories. So far we've seen two generations of the Apple Pencil which made its debut in 2015 alongside the first-generation iPad Pro and both the 1st gen and 2nd gen Apple Pencils are still available and are compatible with almost every current iPad model.
However, a new patent which has surfaced recently suggests that Apple could be working on the next version of its fancy stylus. And from what we could decipher from it, the 3rd gen Apple Pencil will be unlike any other Apple Pencil we've seen.
Apple's new patent application for the Apple Pencil
The patent application filed by Apple with the US Patent and Trademark Organization was spotted by AppleInsider. The patent application called "Touch-Based Input for Stylus" explains how a future Apple Pencil could come with support for more gestures beyond the double-tap input that the 2nd generation Apple Pencil offers.
This would work via a low-profile touch-sensitive panel or sensor placed on the side of the pencil with tactile input entered where the user's fingertip naturally rests. This would allow users to, for example, swipe up and down to scroll through webpages. The patent also suggests that while a user is holding a stylus or other touch-based input device, he may be limited to the input options provided thereby, so the additional input capabilities on the stylus would come in very handy.
In the patent application, Apple says: "the touch sensor can be used to detect a tap, double-tap, triple tap, or another gesture by the user. For example, as a user applies a finger at the grip region, the stylus can detect the resulting capacitance that is induced in the touch sensor. The user can subsequently lift the finger, and the stylus can detect the resulting capacitance or change in capacitance that is induced in the touch sensor.
The sequence of inputs within a span of time can be interpreted by the stylus as a user's tap gesture. One or more taps can be interpreted as a user input to change a characteristic (e.g., color, size, width, thickness, shape, etc.) of a marking produced by use of the stylus with the external device. By further example, one or more taps can be interpreted as a user input to perform functions on the external device, such as a copy function, a paste function, an undo function, and/or a redo function."
The patent also outlined another way of adding input to the Apple Pencil by employing a capacitive sensor that could read a "rolling gesture" thereby allowing users to roll the stylus in their fingers or on a surface to control something on the screen.
Everything that Apple could put in the Pencil
Apart from the input methods, the patent also covered every possible technology that the stylus could have installed onto it. The patent has mentions of things like processors, memory, power supply, communication interfaces, data connectors, power connectors, and input/output devices such as a speaker, a microphone, an on/off button, a mute button, a biometric sensor, a camera, a touch-sensitive trackpad and so on.
The mention of a camera embedded inside the Apple Pencil alongside the other sensors, although seems innovative, but it has been mentioned in previous Apple patents too. The addition of a camera sensor could possibly be to track the movements and even more, know what it was writing on.
How about a fingerprint sensor in the Pencil?
As per the patent, a future Apple Pencil could include a fingerprint sensor to not just lock and unlock the device using the pencil but also to verify biometric information for Apple Pay, while purchasing apps on App Store, or when using certain banking or financial apps.
Now, all this seems like a bit of a stretch and but Apple seems to have been working on this for some time because most of the stuff has also appeared in its past patent applications. But the biggest question is whether Apple will finally make the Pencil compatible with the iPhone? That's a tricky question, but it is high time Apple added the Pencil support for the iPhone, especially after all the rumours surrounding the 2020 iPhones suggesting several revisions to the iPhone 12.
Will the Pencil ever be iPhone bound?
If we could recall, rumours of the iPhone finally supporting the Apple Pencil started surfacing back in August 2019, when case maker Olixar posted renders of a new case for the iPhone 11 models that had a sleeve for the Apple Pencil. But, as we all know, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max don't support the Pencil.
And as far as the patent is concerned, well like every other patent there's no guarantee that we might get to see all the features that it mentions on the final product. But we can at least hope that Apple makes the next Apple Pencil compatible with the iPhone.