The Apple Pencil hasn’t been compatible with the iPhone since its introduction in 2015, but that could change in the future. A new patent application from the company outlines an updated Pencil design that could bring significant changes to its functionality.
Apple application covers a device with optical sensors, which could “read” an iPhone’s screen to judge location and input content by estimating the pencil’s location on the display. Interestingly, the device features a trackball instead of the solid tip that today’s Pencil offers. Patently Apple pointed out that the trackball makes it possible to use the device on a hard surface with less risk of scratching and contamination. It also enables use on non-touch-sensitive surfaces.
The new device could also work with the upcoming Apple Vision Pro. Thanks to its sensors, the device could be used to track movement in up to six dimensions, so we may see an augmented or virtual reality application for the device if and when it arrives.
A move to Pencil compatibility for the iPhone would make it more competitive with Samsung devices, which have long featured a stylus. The Galaxy Note models have a built-in S Pen, and the newer Galaxy S models offer compatibility, with the S22 Ultra coming with it built-in.
Rumors have pointed to the move for several years, and users have been clamoring for the upgrade for nearly as long, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the next-gen Pencil working with the iPhone. That said, this is only a patent application, so any such device could be years away from the market.
Apple released its second-generation pencil in 2018 and updated it late last year with USB-C capability, but its overall functionality hasn’t changed since the beginning. The Pencil can only be used with iPads, including the Pro, Air, 10th-generation, and 6th-generation iPad Mini. Apple still sells the first-gen Pencil, but its compatibility list is shorter and includes older iPad models.