Jony Ive: Why Apple Pencil won't replace your finger on iPad Pro

Jony Ive: Why Apple Pencil won’t replace your finger on iPad Pro


iPad Pro and Apple Pencil keep designers happy and eraser dust-free.
Apple Pencil has been one of the most-praised features of the iPad Pro.
Photo: iPad

Given that Apple Pencil critics love to whip out Steve Jobs’ quote about how, “If you see a stylus [on the iPad], they blew it,” it was always going to take a require a good reason for Apple to adopt the stylus, as it did for the iPad Pro.

In a new interview for design journal Wallpaper, Jony Ive lays out some of his thought process on the decision — which, from the sound of things, Apple didn’t exactly take lightly.

It’s a fascinating discussion, not because of what it reveals about Apple’s manufacturing process (aside from the interesting tidbits that Ive uses a Hermès ink pen as designed by his BFF Marc Newson, and a reminder that Apple doesn’t use focus groups), but because it’s Ive describing the user interface elements of the Apple Pencil to someone who understands design language.

One of my favorite answers relates to how the Pencil and the finger are designed to do different things on the iPad Pro:

“I think there’s a potential to confuse the role of the Pencil with the role of your finger in iOS, and I actually think it’s very clear the Pencil is for making marks, and the finger is a fundamental point of interface for everything within the operating system. And those are two very different activities with two very different goals.

So we are very clear in our own minds that this will absolutely not replace the finger as a point of interface. But it is, and I don’t think anybody would argue, a far better tool than your finger when your focus becomes exclusively making marks.

The traditional pencil could have been replaced by a dish of powdered charcoal, which you dipped your finger into to make marks with. And that didn’t happen.”

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the wave Apple solves design problems, the entire interview is worth a read — which you can do here. Ive talked more about the Apple Pencil in his other recent interview with U.K. newspaper, The Telegraph.

Have you had a chance to use the Apple Pencil yet? If so, have you changed your mind on Apple’s decision to use a stylus? Did you disagree with Jobs all along? Or has Apple “blown it” after all? Leave your comments below.