With yesterday’s release of the latest iOS 9.3 beta, one thing is looking more and more likely: Apple has intentionally debuffed the Apple Pencil so it can no longer be used to navigate through iOS.
Now, it’s only meant for drawing and writing within apps.
When iOS 9.2 first introduced support for the Apple Pencil, it was possible to use the stylus just like a finger (or any other stylus) on any screen you wanted. That meant swiping between apps, tapping on buttons, and so forth.
With the earliest iOS 9.3 betas, though, this functionality went away. Users at first assumed it was a bug, but in a recent podcast, Relay.fm co-founder Myke Hurley said the changes in iOS 9.3 were intentional.
“Sources in the know confirm that removing the functionality of the Apple Pencil is a decision inside of Apple,” he said. “It is not a bug they have overlooked for three betas. It is a decision.”
It seems absurd. With this change, in iOS 9.3, there are now some ways in which the Apple Pencil is more limited than the cheapest third-party stylus. Even for the professionals whom Apple is marketing the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro toward, this is a dumb move. As iMore’s Serenity Caldwell points out:
[The changes make] the Pencil useless for video and audio editing, creative pursuits that I’d hoped to explore further on the iPad Pro. I’d initially enjoyed editing and cutting several videos in iMovie for iOS with the help of the Pencil; now, you can only select and drag clips. You can’t cut a clip with the downward swipe gesture, nor can you scroll the timeline.
Apple, you’re supposed to use software to make your hardware more powerful over time, not less. Get it together.