When will the Apple Pencil 2 come out in the UK? What will be the differences between the Apple Pencil and the Apple Pencil 2?
Apple's stylus for the iPad Pro, called simply the Apple Pencil, is arguably the best tablet stylus in the world right now. But we don't want Apple to rest on its laurels, and we're keen to see what Sir Jony Ive's design team comes up with when the Apple Pencil 2 is unveiled. In this article we look at the rumours, clues, patent filings and more evidence to suggest when the Apple Pencil 2 will launch and the design changes and new features it's likely to incorporate.
Apple Pencil 2 new features and release date rumours: Release date
The first Apple Pencil was unveiled alongside the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in September 2015, so the most obvious time to expect an update is in autumn 2016. That's what we'd put our money on, if we were betting men and women here at Macworld.
In our iPad Pro 2 rumour roundup, however, we consider a number of theories about when Apple will update the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch versions of that device, and these could have implications for the stylus accessory.
One is that Apple does an iPad update in September 2016 but it's explicitly a minor one - just to bring the Pro 12.9 (which doesn't have all of the display and camera features of its newer, smaller cousin) up to the standards of the 9.7. Then the iPad Pro 2 proper comes out in March 2017, and from then on is updated on a yearly basis.
If we're right about that - and it's just a theory - then it would make more sense for Apple to unveil the Apple Pencil 2 alongside the full iPad Pro 2 update in spring 2017.
Apple Pencil 2 new features and release date rumours: New features
So much for the Apple Pencil 2's release date. But what new features can we expect?
Like most tech journalists, I suspect that the development and launch of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was at least partly a response to the relative success of Microsoft's Surface line of tablets, which also have large screens and latterly come with styluses. (And are marketed at business users.) But the stylus for the Surface Pro 4, while weaker in many respects than the Apple Pencil, has one clear advantage: the option to buy interchangeable replacement nibs of various sizes and shapes. (You can buy replacement nibs for the Apple Pencil but they're always the same default size and shape.)
An Apple patent has been discovered, however, which suggests that future Apple Pencils may offer a similar feature.
Patent 9,329,703, filed in 2011 and published on 3 May 2016, describes an "intelligent stylus" where each nib has its own sensor, which pairs with a separate sensor in the body of the stylus.
"The stylus 110 can include multiple sensors to provide information about its condition, where the sensors can be selectively used alone or in various combinations," reads the patent's detailed description. "The ability to provide information beyond simply touch input information, particularly information about the stylus's condition that the stylus determines itself, gives this stylus an intelligence absent from a traditional stylus."
Returning to patent 9,329,703, Apple also mentions the possibility of turning the back end of the Apple Pencil into an erase.
From the detailed description: "For the additional contact/proximity sensor at the stylus non-tip end, the MCU can determine the stylus's condition at the non-tip end as touching or hovering over a surface, e.g., to emulate an eraser."
One last titbit from patent 9,329,703's detailed description: "…the MCU [microcontroller unit] can extract fingerprints from the touch measurement and can identify the user of the stylus. The MCU can transmit the user identification to the touch sensitive device. The touch sensitive device can then perform some action based on the identification. For example, the touch sensitive device can authenticate the user of the stylus and can accept stylus input if the user is authenticated and deny stylus input if the user is not. The touch sensitive device can also display or speak the authentication result to the user."
Sounds like a stylus version of Touch ID to us.
Mac trackpad input
Another one from a patent filing. Patently Apple has cleverly spotted what it believes to be a reference in a 2014 Apple patent filing to a stylus that can control the trackpad on a Mac. We've wondered for a while if the Apple Pencil will gain the ability to control iPhones and other iPads other than the Pro models, but the Mac range is a bigger leap than most of us expected.
The patent, for a 'Stylus With Inertial Sensor', includes drawings that show what appears to be a Mac and trackpad setup:
It seems unlikely that we'll see Apple Pencil compatibility on the Mac Magic Trackpad before we see it on the iPad mini, for example, but watch this space for further developments.