Apple Pencil may soon get additional touch-sensitive controls

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A proposed Apple Pencil with more controls.
The second-gen Apple Pencil has a single capacitive button, but Apple is considering several more.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Building on the capabilities of the Apple Pencil active stylus, Apple proposes adding additional touch-sensitive controls to the exterior. This would expand the capabilities of this drawing tool for the iPad without making it more difficult to use.

This is just one of several ways Apple is considering to improve the Pencil.

A more controllable Apple Pencil

Apple applied for a patent this morning for a “Touch-based input for stylus.” The documentation included with this filing points out that holding an Apple Pencil in one hand and an iPad in the other can limit the ways the user interacts with the tablet. One solution to this is building additional controls into the stylus.

The second-generation Pencil released in 2018 has a single touch-sensitive button. Apple patent filing proposes increasing this number, along with sliders and other controls.

These would be capacitive buttons so they wouldn’t interfere with drawing with the stylus. And these could even be located where the user normally places their fingers because “the stylus can effectively distinguish between tactile inputs from a user and disregard sustained tactile inputs that are provided while the user simply holds the stylus at the user’s natural grip location,” according to Apple’s filing.

The patent doesn’t explore what the additional controls on the stylus would do. Just as one possible example though, the line to be drawn by an Apple Pencil on the iPad display could be made thicker or thinner by moving a finger up or down the stylus. Currently, changing this setting requires opening a menu on the tablet.

More tinkering with Apple’s stylus

This isn’t the first patent application the company has filed with possible Apple Pencil improvements.

Last fall, it proposed adding a touchscreen to let the user know what color they’re about to draw with, and change the color. And the company even considered an Apple Paintbrush to to with the Pencil.

Whether any of these changes will become part of a real product is anyone’s guess. Companies regularly patent ideas that are never heard from again.