TECH

Future Apple Pencil could work on iPhone and never need charging

Apple Pencil without battery can be made to work with iPhone

So, the way this upcoming Apple Pencil will avoid having to charge is by not using any power. And the way it will still be able to function is if the screen you write and draw on will do all the work, rather than the collaborative effort that exists now.

The patent application is for an “optical stylus system” that basically uses a screen “to detect one or more objects: target or touch location, centroid, aiming distance, tilt angle, azimuth and, in some cases, stylus orientation and rotation.”

Apple is even proposing to implement this technology in the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch

Apple specifically describes the passive stylus, meaning that it is, in fact, stupid stylus that does not require power. Instead, it reflects light back to the iPad or device it's used on, and the iPad does all the optical measurements.

It states that such a stylus, “including a diffractive (patterned) reflector, can also reflect light emitted by the optical sensing system.”

Given the “consistent pattern of reflected light…” Apple suggests that different “tilt and rotation angles of the stylus may produce different patterns of reflected light.” Therefore, the location and pointing distance of the pencil, and possibly the rotation, can be calculated.

The patent application then details problems where such detection is not possible or where it may be more accurate than existing systems. This also goes into detail — The patent application is 70 pages long, including 30 pages of drawings.

Nowhere does this go beyond using the Apple Pencil as a blunt stylus, however. Patent applications are about how something can be achieved, not why or what can then be done with that proposal.

In this case, there is a particularly obvious problem that is being ignored. If the future Apple Pencil does not have a battery and does not consume power, as detailed in this patent, it will not have any of the features that Apple has previously offered, such as touch controls.

For example, the second generation Apple Pencil has a double-tap feature. You can tap the pencil tip to open the iPad app you're using and switch to another tool.

Similarly, it has been reported that the Apple Pencil 3 may have a pinch gesture or perhaps even more.

It's entirely possible that a battery-free Apple Pencil could effectively emulate all of these options. For example, double-clicking a pencil will inevitably cause it to move, and this movement can be quite distinctive.

Apple offers the Pencil to be used not only in the iPhone, but also in the vintage iPod. These may not be Apple's most serious offerings.

However, they all actually require sensing and processing on the Pencil, and the processor and sensors require power on the device. So, Apple may be offering a simpler entry-level Apple Pencil here rather than a future replacement for the device.

Then, perhaps just a fancier idea: the drawings for the patent application show significantly increased use of the Apple Pencil. The pictures show a pencil being used on an iPhone, which could be a reference to previously rumored Apple Pencil for iPhone for $49.

But the pictures also show the use of the Apple Pencil on the screen of a MacBook Pro and even an Apple Watch. The patent application was filed in 2023, but it also includes a design for the Apple Pencil for the iPod, the latter of which was discontinued a year earlier.

This patent application belongs to three inventors, who therefore laugh at the iPod or make sure that their patent covers all possible uses that anyone could use.

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