It's time for Apple to give me a Pencil for my iPhone – and iOS 17.4 could make that possible

Apple Pencil and iPhone 15 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

It looks like Apple is finally ready to make my little dream of using the Apple Pencil on an iPhone come true – maybe.

Recent reports on iOS 17.4 indicate that the next iPhone platform update will add the ability to locate your missing Apple Pencil using Find My. What's more interesting is that the Pencil in question is possibly a new version of the digital stylus. 

There are no reports or direct indications that this "Apple Pencil 3" will be designed to work with your best iPhone, but I think it's not unreasonable to assume that Apple is opening the door to that possibility with this first bit of iOS integration.

Sure, you can now use your iPhone to find lost AirPods and all the AirTags you dropped into your backpack, wallets, and luggage, but Apple doesn't often add new hardware to the Find My corral. 

As for why I want to finally use Apple Pencil on an iPhone, I think the answers are obvious.

Art's the thing

Back in 2009, talented digital artist Jorge Colombo drew a New Yorker magazine cover on his tiny iPhone 3GS using just his finger. This was quite a feat considering the phone's puny 3.5-inch screen. He didn't even have Procreate (he used an early app called Brushes).

That work inspired me to start drawing on the iPhone with my fingertip. My work was not good and soon I started buying a collection of analog, soft-tipped styluses that I could use on the tiny screen. I had more control but it still wasn't great. After the iPad launched in 2010, I immediately adopted it as my new drawing platform and continued using those dumb styluses. It would be another five years before Apple unveiled the first Apple Pencil. It instantly transformed my ability to draw in the digital space. By 2017, Jorge Columbo was also drawing New Yorker Covers on an iPad with the Apple Pencil. His work was much better than mine.

I often wonder if artists like Colombo are like me and sometimes still wish that they could draw with an Apple Pencil on their iPhones. The iPad is a wonderful canvas, but I'm not carrying it in my pocket, and what if inspiration hits and I want to quickly sketch something? I'm not carrying a pen and paper. I could carry the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. It has an excellent built-in S Pen and there are some great Android art apps like Autodesk Sketchbook – but not my go-to Procreate. And, to be honest, I'm still primarily an iPhone user and I really want to draw on my iPhone 15 Pro Max's 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display.

Which brings me back to this bit of news.

Ready for iOS 18

This rumored Apple Pencil 3 that we now "know" will work with the iPhone in some fashion could be more than just another minor upgrade with USB-C support and maybe a new SoC. It could fit with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

You might have noticed that your iPhone's MagSafe charging magnets attract the magnets in your Apple Pencil, but it would make more sense for Apple to introduce a new case that can accommodate the Apple Pencil 3. To do that, though, this new Pencil has to be under 6.29 inches long. The current Apple Pencil 2 is roughly 6.5 inches long. So it has to be shorter, but not necessarily thinner.

I think the perfect time to introduce this new Pencil would be during WWDC 2024 when Apple could unveil iOS 18 and, perhaps, a whole bunch of Pencil-gesture-based features. Those would all be great but I'd be most excited about the ability to finally draw on the iPhone with some real control and tilt and pressure sensitivity.

I know it's a long shot, but iOS 17.4, an Apple Pencil 3, and support for Find My Apple Pencil have me dreaming about making art on my iPhone.

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Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.