Why Apple wants to bring back the pencil

“Apple’s latest accessory is a return to the written word — not so much a stylus as a digital pen that harks back to the way that humans captured language for centuries before the keyboard made cursive an obsolete art,” Andrea Peterson and Brian Fung report for Bloomberg. “Analysts say the $99 Apple Pencil, announced Wednesday as an add-on to the new supercharged iPad Pro, is part of a wider move by the tech industry to convince consumers that computing doesn’t have to be limited to, well, computers and smartphones. Instead, Apple is focused on giving new, digital capabilities to more traditional platforms.”

“It’s no surprise to see Apple look back in time toward some of our most venerable productivity tools. Apple’s efforts go beyond the pencil, whose origins date back to 16th-century Italy. The company’s new Smart Keyboard for the iPad also represents a departure of sorts — a recognition that newfangled touch interfaces have their limits,” Peterson and Fung report. “By returning to more physical forms of interaction, Apple is not only conceding that tablet users need more flexibility — it’s making an argument that even the most mundane-seeming items can become part of a sophisticated computing environment.”

“That’s perfectly fine — and it’s consistent with Apple’s goal of bringing other, heretofore undigitized routines into the modern age,” Peterson and Fung report. “‘If you think about the Apple Watch in particular,’ said Dan Cryan, an analyst at IHS, ‘and the iPad Pro demo, they were both squarely geared around almost traditional computing tasks as a way of illustrating what that future looks like — traditional computing tasks being taken onto the watch or the tablet.””

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s simple: Finger-driven Multi-Touch first with specialized input devices for specific use cases. If you use an iPad and you want to type a lot, get an Apple Smart Keyboard; if you sketch a lot, get an Apple Pencil. It doesn’t get much simpler that that.

Also, there’s this predictable meme over Steve Jobs’ scorn for styluses as per Apple Pencil. Jobs is on record as eschewing a stylus for a 3.5-inch iPhone, not for a 12.9-inch iPad. Jobs was also on record against the following (to throw competitors off the trail) before he was for them: Cellphones, tablets, e-books, and video and movies on tiny little screens, to mention just a few.

Oh, by the way, in the interest of factually destroying a bad meme: Apple has been filing Apple Pencil-related patent applications since at least as far back as 2008, when Apple’s CEO was most definitely Steve Jobs.

As Justin Bariso, the founder Insight, writes for Inc., “Steve Jobs would have loved this stylus. In fact, he would have loved the entire event [on Spetember 9th]. This is the closest Apple has come to matching the extraordinary vision of the famous founder since his unfortunate passing four years ago.”

Not ‘just a stylus’ – Apple Pencil is perfect, better than any stylus I’ve ever used by a wide margin – September 12, 2015
Why artists will flock to iPad Pro and the amazing Apple Pencil – September 11, 2015
Hands-on Apple’s new iPad Pro with Apple Pencil – September 11, 2015
Hands-on with the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro – September 10, 2015
Professional artists cheer the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil – September 10, 2015
Apple iPads had physical keyboards three and a half years before Microsoft’s Surface tablet debut – September 10, 2015
Wired: Hands-on with Apple’s great, big iPad Pro and Apple Pencil – September 9, 2015
Apple introduces 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard – September 9, 2015
Apple files another patent application for sensor-laden active stylus – April 16, 2015
Analyst: Apple likely to launch simple stylus with 12.9-inch iPad Pro; advanced 3D stylus due later – January 18, 2015
Apple granted another smart pen patent for capturing digital copies of notes and drawings – December 30, 2014
Apple files their 10th ‘Smart Pen’ patent of the year – December 6, 2014
iPen: Apple patent applications reveal advanced modular smart-pen – February 2, 2014
iPen? Apple secretly files three dynamic smart-pen patents in Europe – February 28, 2013
Apple patent application reveals advanced ‘active stylus’ for iOS devices – December 31, 2012
Apple patent application reveals more about their optical iPen and graphics program – May 24, 2012
Apple patent app details smart, heated ‘iPen’ stylus for iPad and iPhone – July 7, 2011
Apple patent application details new type of stylus for iPad – February 3, 2011


  1. I always felt that Steve Jobs wasn’t dismissing the stylus, he was dismissing the scaled down desktop GUI that ‘required’ a stylus. This table is aimed directly at Wacom and the business world. It will be interesting to see how the industry responds.

    1. You nailed it. Steve was dissing the implementations of tablet operating systems that utilized desktop OS interface menus and required a stylus to hunt and peck through them. That was one of the things that I did not like about Palm devices – turn it on, get the tiny plastic stylus out of its slot, then start pecking and drawing symbols. The iPhone and iPad make it clear why that never felt quite right.

      1. Indeed not difficult to understand unless you are hell bent on making sure you don’t, is it. In a way it should be seen as a compliment to Steve that people seem to think trying to establish non contradictions as fact against such a greatly influential and respected tech man is their way of trying to establish some semblance of their own important and impact in their very small way in the World.

  2. Yer… Apple wants to bring back the pencil only to people buying an iPad Pro!

    95% of creative professionals will have to make do… No wonder the share price tanks all the time with stupid decisions like that.

      1. The Pencil, n.b., currently does not work on any device except the new iPad Pro. None of the many third party styluses I have bought for use on iPod, iPad, and iPhone, has ever passed muster, especially for drawing stuff. Moreover, with the one pixel resolution, I hope we will have credible translation from on-screen hand-writing to text, as well drawing capability. Finger writing and painting is alright for kindergarten but adults more precision.

    1. I’m thinking there will be a seamless way to use your iPad Pro as an input device alongside a desktop computer for Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD, and standalone for remote or location work.

      If so, I need an iPad Pro, and so will you. If not, I just want one – I’ll wait till my current iPad no longer meets my needs before I get one, and I’m sure you’ll do the same. Not sure where you pulled that statistic from but I can be pretty sure 95% of creative professionals use professional tools, the best money can buy, and that goes for every profession.

      Styluses make a lot of people’s work more productive, they pay for themselves very quickly and continue to pay off in increased productivity. I’ve owned and loved an 11×17 Wacom tablet and pressure/tilt stylus for years and it cost more than the iPad Pro. Look at Cintiq’s pricing for their 13-inch HD stylus/screen combo, it’s $1099SRP – and that’s all it does! Apple’s Pencil looks super-responsive and phenomenally accurate, a synergy only Apple could pull off. Maybe this isn’t for you, but don’t call the race yet, the gate just opened!


  3. Friend of mine is a HUGE AutoCAD user in the building design field and they are really excited about the iPad Pro and PENCIL devices that will really change the field of design…..!!

  4. “The company’s new Smart Keyboard for the iPad also represents a departure of sorts — a recognition that newfangled touch interfaces have their limits”

    It’s amazing how people seem to forget or maybe are just ignorant of certain things… Apple released a keyboard dock as an accessory to the original iPad. They knew typing on a flat screen had limitations.

  5. Being first doesn’t make it best. All good things come better to he who waits. Latency was always the biggest bugaboo with stylus pens and now Apple has pretty well solved that problem in a more comfortable pen size and perfect variable capabilities. The stylus has now truly arrived and Apple was the one to do it.

  6. Meanwhile, Microsoft has been developing their own version.
    The first three attempts (models A,B and C) met with little success.

    They finally struck gold with dPens
    (available in the international colors of yellow, brown and white;-)

  7. The iPad pro gets writers to understand that the iPad was never meant for them. That they take other jobs seriously. The “creative types” now have the tool they been asking for. The people they make fun of with the OS they make fun of, especially MS fans. The name pencil shows that this is not for writing, that would be pen. The iPad Pro is for drawing, and there are a lot of jobs. The new MacBook is for writers.

    The keyboard is for a different types of writing than those who write about things. A real creative writer can go places they are inspired to write and still connect with the world by cell. Something that should scare the establishment is the keyboard could be for iPads in places like hospitals. IPad Pro could be used to replace MS as the terminals. With the Watch, iPhone, and iPad as the OS for workers in a hospital. Everything is now there, even companies to support the backend.

  8. Unless you design mechanical things, it is hard to grasp how quickly a trained designer can move through a half dozen sketches of a proposed design as he works through the different options he has to work with.

    From the demo, it looks like Apple nailed the speed of pencil on paper. Going to be fun!

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