When the iPhone first came out, Steve Jobs — quizzed why Apple had eschwed a stylus — famously quipped that in his opinion, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.”
It’s a great quote, but in reality, it’s always been a little too dismissive of the benefits of styluses. In truth, there’s a lot of uses for a stylus on a touchscreen — for example, in creating digital art. Styluses are also of great people to people trying to use touchscreen devices who can’t keep their hand steady: my mother, for example, has a hard time typing on her iPod Touch without one because she has had tremors since a stroke a few years back.
It’s nice to see, then, that Apple is softening a little bit on their position against styluses… at least when it comes to filing patents.
Their latest patent, in fact, is for a graphics pen with a pivoting, capacitive tip which would allow it to be used with existing iPhone apps. The stylus does more than your average Pogo, though.
One of the ways in which the iPad isn’t quite as good for creating digital art as a Wacom tablet is because the iPad can’t detect pressure, or how hard the “pen” is being pressed down. Apple’s patent stylus solves that problem with built-in pressure detecting circuits, which would presumably communicate with an iPad via WiFi or Bluetooth.
Another cool flourish described in the patent? An accelerometer built into the stylus, making it potentially useful for gaming, as well as built-in squeeze buttons that would work as shortcuts for things like changing brushes or e-ink colors.
Like most Apple patents, I expect this to sit in a patent file almost indefinitely, but it would be nice if Apple would release at least the option of an iStylus. I know quite a few people who would spring for one.