Apple Pencil coming to iPhone? Apple patent shows stylus options explored

An Apple patent filed in 2015 shows that the Cupertino-based company has plans for the (already pretty cool) Apple Pencil that far exceed its current iPad Pro limitations. 

The patent uncovered by Patently Apple makes for a pretty dry read, but includes some exciting information, including multiple references to devices other than the iPad, including such explicit references as: “Exemplary embodiments of portable multifunction devices include, without limitation, the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices from Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Calif.”

This would be a big shift from the Apple Pencil’s current place in Apple’s range as an iPad Pro accessory. The patent also references applications of the pencil that would make it a much more useful piece of kit. 

The Apple Pencil at the moment is primarily used as a tool for artists, but if the patent is acted upon, it could gain functionality to be used in “ game playing, telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging,” and even “workout support”. Although what workout support the Pencil could give is currently pretty unimaginable.

Your friend is drawing...

The use of a stylus in instant messaging seems like an appealing proposition, with the patent referencing the ability to ‘draw’ an instant message rather than type it. With the use of emojis and stickers becoming more and more a part of the way people connect through messaging, the ability to draw little images would be a natural next step in expressing yourself through an instant message.

The Pencil already has good functionality in that the angle of the Pencil in relation to the screen can change the type of line that it draws, but according to the patent, this looks like it could be adapted to be used for gestural responses: 

“An electronic device with a touch-sensitive display and one or more sensors to detect signals from a stylus associated with the device: detects a positional state of the stylus, the positional state of the stylus corresponding to a distance, a tilt, and/or an orientation of the stylus relative to the touch-sensitive display... and in response to detecting the change, updates the displayed indication on the touch-sensitive display.”

This patent was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015, so there is the possibility that these functions were Apple’s ‘pie in the sky’ ideas for what the Pencil could be capable of. But we would definitely be interested to see if the Pencil is capable of delivering on any of these possibilities. 

  • If you want to see what the iPhone currently offers, check out our iPhone 7 review
Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.