Apple considering bringing Apple Pencil support to iPhone

“Sources say Apple engineers have recently been working on a new iPhone that comes with a digital pen,” Kim Young-won reports for The Investor. “”

“‘Apple is preparing to launch the phone as early as 2019,” an industry source told The Investor on condition of anonymity. ‘It is also in talks with a couple of stylus makers for a partnership,'” Kim reports. “In 2016, the firm debuted the Apple Pencil stylus for the iPad Pro tablets. It has also continued introducing new handwriting functions for the iOS operating system such as Notes and Makeup tools.”

Kim reports, “Along with the stylus technology, the source said, Apple’s current A-series mobile chip should undergo a drastic upgrade to better support handwriting functions of the planned stylus.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Of course, this is very much in the rumor realm, but times have changed much since Steve Jobs eschewed the stylus for iPhone.

The iPhone had only a 3.5-inch display when Jobs made those remarks. iPhone 6s/7/8 Plus units have a 5.5-inch display. iPhone X has a 5.8-inch display.

When trying to markup a screenshot or jotting down notes on an iPhone, for example, a finger barely works and never works well. Even rudimentary third-party iPhone styluses work far better for such purposes. Apple Pencil support in these cases would allow for an even better user experience.

50 Comments

  1. Doesn’t the X/8 have more “horsepower” than the first gen iPad Pro? Why would it need even more just to support an Apple Pencil? How does a Note manage this? Confused about lack of processing power being a limitation.

    1. I see this as copying Samsung’s lead in certain key areas. There are those that DO want a stylus on a large format phone ( aka tablet ) and adding a stylus takes away a differentiator.

      It would only be on the largest devices… but I DO wonder if it will come built into the device like the Note… or available as an accessory.

  2. Before the usual trolls post about Steve Jobs not wanting a stylus, that’s a misunderstanding of what Jobs said. He meant the requirement of a stylus as the foundation of the UI. You can listen to Jobs talk about that here:

    The Apple Pencil is not the foundation of the device’s UI, it is a useful accessory.

      1. The Apple Pencil works in games like WWF, and has reduced my fingertip haematoma. It is troubling to lose the fine sense of touch, as when I tried to learn guitar and developed calluses. I’d welcome a stubby Apple pencil to use with iPhone, especially if it came with a no-lose attachment like my old third-party styluses.

      2. And you call yourself a Mac Daily News reader? You’re a Notvinnik!

        Bring back the real Botvinnik, the one who had a tick and trump in his name instead of this weird NotYinnik logo

    1. When you need to be quiet in a meeting room, it might be nice to scribble notes rather than thumb type. Dictation is better when the situation allows.

  3. I believe 3D Touch will go to the iPad too. Maybe not at the same time, however it is a logical end. Prefect each then combine them on the same screen. You would already have developers familiar with both. The R&D cost would be easier too.

    1. Started a snarky response and then saw your /s.

      Anyway yeah, Apple started work on Newton in 1987 and shipped it in 1993. Palm released the Pilot in 1996, and Samsung Note showed up in 2011.

  4. The pen is great but it really needs to work in more apps. There is no way to do convert writing to text using the pen in common apps like word etc. that would be a big use case for the iPhone

  5. One more addition to a ‘before Galaxy’ and ‘after Galaxy’ for iPhones similar to the MDN pics of before and after iPhone for cellphones that they never seem to get tired of posting.

    1. I’m not aware of what the Galaxy devices had before Apple was already working on similar tech. Examples? People tend to forget that Apple starts working on new features roughly three years before an iPhone is released, so any feature a Galaxy device had a year before an iPhone, all that means is Samsung released their device first. Apple would have already planned those features for an iPhone, but Apple doesn’t rush, they don’t need to.

      1. There are quite a few things that Galaxy had more than a year before iPhone:

        Larger displays, OLED, convex miniscus display, edge to edge displays, Display in Display, split screen, waterproofing, wireless charging, quick charging, capacitive home button (no physical button on front of device).

        Possible future Apple ‘innovations’ Samsung has already done: Tapping phones together to create a peer-to-peer connection to transfer photos, files, etc.; incentives for using Samsung Pay in addition to those offered by credit/debit cards and loyalty cards.

        Point is many people have blinders for the variety of features in Android devices when they’ve bought into iPhones.

        1. Nothing you listed wasn’t already being explored or worked on by Apple. Remember the lead time for any shipping iPhone is about three years. It isn’t one year, and likely not even two years. If we’re looking at Apple’s R&D it could be more than three years. Apple is almost certainly already working on features that may or may not be included in whatever iPhone ships in 2021. When some other phone ships a year earlier with some version of one of those features, is Apple then copying that device? Even though Apple was working on the same feature (or features) two years earlier?

          You are correct that other devices often ship with this or that feature before the iPhone ships, but it is extremely unlikely Apple wasn’t already exploring those features and either deciding to implement it in a different way, or to not implement it at all, or to simply wait because Apple has no need to rush the way Android OEMs have to.

          1. Unless you are privy to Apple’s research it’s simply speculation. The reality is that Samsung has implemented everything I have listed more than a year and in at least one case, capacitive Home button, more than 3 years earlier in the Galaxy S2 for Sprint. I believe they called that version of the S2 the “Epic 4G Touch”. The convex meniscus display was present from the S3, also 3+ years before it showed up on the iPhone.

            As you say, there may be a lead time of 3 years, but that does not equate to the ideas being even close to crystallizing. At the same time wouldn’t you have to also believe that Samsung has just a long ‘lead time’ since Apple is so secretive? Or do you somehow think they have better engineers than Apple? It is more likely given the current state/lag of feature release that Apple is the one that is ‘following’ in several parts of modern smartphones.

            1. Samsung and other Android OEMs don’t spend nearly as much time on integrating various aspects of their devices. They use off the shelf components in a modular fashion, and one of the advantages of that is time to market.

              Don’t delude yourself, Apple and other tech companies are aware of what’s coming down the pipe in tech and features. By design Apple integrates to a high degree and takes longer to do so in some cases. Android OEMs use a modular approach and ship first. What does shipping first get you? Bragging rights?

              It is clear that in silicon Apple has a huge lead, likely by a few years and it’s only growing. Integration has some negatives but it also has some big advantages.

            2. I will agree that Android OEMs don’t spend a lot of time for overall integration. However for their differentiator features, they spend a great deal of time developing, integrating and getting it working right with Android since it is unique to their device. As the more ‘general’ parts of the device are as you say off-the shelf it does allow a certain amount of time to be cut for the non-specialized portions.

              Tech changes quickly and I don’t believe even Apple has a single roadmap that spans more than a couple years. Plans change due to competitors developing new technologies. Modular design is not to be discounted since it allows functional devices to be created quickly and efficiently. In essence no ‘re-inventing the wheel’ every time. Being first to market may result in bragging rights, but that is secondary IMO to gaining mind-share and brand recognition.

              Yes, Apple appears to be ahead in silicon for now. Unfortunately, the full capabilities of what they could do with it is tempered by their privacy policy for good or bad.

            3. Apple has a ten year roadmap, at least. They admitted as much at the last WWDC. Being first doesn’t count for much when it comes to mindshare or brand recognition. If that were true Apple would have gone out of business long ago. Being first just doesn’t matter to normal people, it only matters to geeks and nerds.

              Also keep in mind the scale at which Apple has to produce devices, meaning they need X or Y part to meet exacting tolerances in huge numbers. That slows Apple down, the manufacturing alone is a very complex challenge. It means some features just aren’t practical right now and have to wait until the manufacturing can scale.

              Apple doesn’t just appear to “be ahead in silicon for now” (as you put it), they are far ahead and the lead continues to grow. It took Apple a decade to build their own chip team and now that is paying off. Others could copy this approach but not within a year or two, it would take a good deal of time.

              Finally, Apple’s approach to privacy is going to pay off big time, it will just take some time. Europe’s new privacy/data laws coming into effect in about a year are going to set a new global standard which is much more aligned with Apple’s approach.

            4. A roadmap changes over time. Having a 10yr roadmap is good but I’d bet after 3 years the endpoint of the remaining 7 years will have been changed quite a bit, even to the point of being a direction totally unimaginable 3 years prior. Brand recognition and mindshare from being first may not matter much to a large company like Apple, but for the smaller or lesser known Android OEMs it is quite a big deal and could be the difference between success and failure.

              As you say features may not be practical for Apple due to the scale they need. But that does not exclude smaller OEMS with just as close tolerances from manufacturing and implementing those new features in their devices due to their smaller scale. This could also be a reason for features being implemented in Android devices earlier than in iOS devices.

              Apple is far ahead in MOBILE silicon. When I say ‘for now’ I think that future development for chips will not only be in 2 dimensions. Google, Samsung and IBM all have a head start in 3D chip design and quantum computing. Apple is very proficient in optimizing the use of ARM chip components resulting in their current A series. There is no need for them to chase Apple since they are ‘skating’ to where they believe the ‘puck’ will be for their future devices.

              As for privacy, though it may make the consumer more aware with new laws, it will still be up to the user to choose for themselves what balance of convenience vs privacy for which they will settle.

    2. Well if we are going to simply leave out the Newton here then that’s a problem. Apple had the stylus long before Samsung got into even making smart phones.

        1. Near the end it was doing all the things we are using smartphones for now except making phone calls. So no not a phone. But it had a stylus. It did email. Used even the same family of processors. It was just before it’s time, cost too much in comparison to the layer and less capable Palm Pilot, and never overcame its weakness at pen inputs it was alleged to have.

          1. Since the jab I made is for devices that are current, Newton would hardly fit the bill as a proper ‘response’. Also the S-pen (could be said was followed by the Apple Pencil) is not a simple stick of plastic as the stylus were in PDA days.

            1. Sure move the goalposts. And I’ll pretend the trivial difference between one stylus and another matters. All they’ve done at best is steal the idea of a stylus Wacom made years ago for the Cintiq which was based on earlier pads without displays and expensive engineering stations long before all of them.

              The only thing Samsung did was put a stylus on a screen large enough to stand in for a paper notepad.

            2. The fact that you think there is a stadium is kinda em point. Speaking of firsts is pointless. None of the refinements Samsung has shipped have really moved the needle. As a package of refinements it is an excellent effort to be expected of a company dominating so many of the markets for the manufacture of components.

              But it isn’t much more than that. Even Apple has done little more than refine and resize its original configuration of multi-touch with no hardware keyboard.

              I’m hopeful that the True-Depth Camera system will inspire developers, but it may end up being as useless and poorly implemented as Samsung’s glance to scroll feature.

            3. I will agree that implementing new features, regardless of how well they are executed, are a great risk to the company doing so. Rumors are out that next year Samsung will release their ‘X’ phone with a foldable screen. That will be something to look forward to after about 7 years of development.

              It is difficult to come out with something truly ‘new’. Even the current True-Depth camera Apple has developed could be said to be a refinement/miniaturization of Microsoft’s Kinect. Perhaps developers that have used the Kinect will have an easier time working with True-Depth.

              The dual pixel system used in Google’s new phones also aren’t the first time it’s been used in a device according to some reports. Google has made great strides however in making innovative use of them through software to implement the ‘bokeh’ portrait mode found in devices with 2 cameras. One cool result is being able to do portrait mode with both front and back cameras.

            4. I was intrigued by Google’s use of machine learning algorithms to stand-in for additional sensors (in this case a second camera lens).

              Perhaps it can be applied to other areas to hold down hardware prices and extend that hardware’s service life.

              Samsung to me is always at a disadvantage not being in full control of its operating system. Any successful implementations will be stolen by others which defeats the implementation’s purpose as a differentiator in the Android market.

              Any failed or successful implementations never get optimized or widely accepted by developers because they aren’t able to be leveraged over the entire ecosystem.

            5. Maybe it will lead to dual camera systems doing something even more interesting with each camera having dual pixel implementations.

              It’s not as if Samsung hasn’t tried a few times to separate itself from Android with their Tizen projects (yes, multiple). Some Samsung exclusive features have been licensed and rolled into Google Android, most notably KNOX, the Android software equivalent of Apple’s Secure Enclave.

              From early on the large number of OEMs producing Android devices have been called the ‘Android Army’. Perhaps Samsung might be considered an officer leading some feature pushes.

  6. iPhone 2007 introduction, “We’re gonna use a stylus right? We’ll use a stylus. No! Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put it away, and you lose ’em. Yuk! We’re gonna use the best pointers in the world; We’re born with 10 of them.” – Steve Jobs

    1. When I think back on that, sometimes I feel that they didn’t use a stylus because they had no time to develop one that would work reliably on a capacitive display. Those days many touch displays were resistive in nature.

      1. I think that choice was also strategic with respect to Microsoft who had already committed their developers to the easier and more precise pointing tool of the stylus as the new mouse.

        Apple had no market share worth transferring from the Mac and thus no migration worries for long time developers.

        Multi-touch by fingers meant that MS developers could not transition cheaply to power-sipping processors and also write to a new interaction metaphor.

        Apple could start with a clean sheet and make the stylus optional and an expensive second SKU.

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