Pencils don’t exactly scream high-tech, but Apple’s iPad-friendly stylus is an exception.
It’s a handy add-on for artists looking to add some finesse to their digital doodles, but the sequel could be a whole lot better.
Right now, the Apple Pencil picks up angles, pressure and force, so you can draw delicate lines or slap down thick strokes, but you’ve got to jump into the onscreen toolbox if you want to change brushes, or to grab the eraser when you make a mistake.
The new Pencil could arrive with interchangeable tips, which would be a lot more natural. The iPad would work out which tip you’re drawing with, and change its digital brushes to match.
It won’t just be felt tips, paint brushes and pencil nibs, either. Apple’s got a few wilder ideas, including a force-sensing bristle brush, motion-tracking camera and even a flashlight.
Designers will appreciate the colour sensor, which should pick out any shade you slide the Pencil over.
A second sensor at the other end of the Pencil (currently just a cap that covers the Lightning charging adaptor) would act as an eraser, so you wouldn’t need to swap away from the brush you’re working with.
Finally, fingerprint recognition could be on the cards. This would let an iPad know who’s using which Pencil, in case more than one person is crowded round an iPad at once, and would stop any inputs unless it picks up the right fingerprints.
It looks promising, although there’s a teeny tiny problem: the patent was granted this week, but Apple filed it all the way back in 2011.
A lot of these ideas could simply be Apple covering its back, and there aren’t actually any plans to put them into production.
It doesn’t mean this isn’t a sign of things to come, but digital artists shouldn’t trade in their Cintiq for an iPad Pro just yet.