Yes, I’m a broken record. I’ve written about my desire to see Apple Pencil support come to the iPhone many times over the last three years (like here, here, here and here). I have covered the rumors and predictions, and I have complained when they are finally shot down. Understandably, there have not been many in the middle of the madness in 2020, so I have not had much to talk about this year, not that I have much hope left that Apple will throw holdouts like me who want this a leg.
However, with new iPhones to be announced tomorrow, I can not help but think of the fact that Apple is missing an opportunity again.
I guess the use of the Surface Duo the last week is what brought this to mind. Although it has no way to dock, store or charge a pen like the Samsung Note, the Duo includes Microsoft Surface Pen compatibility. It is a convenient addition for someone who wants or needs it, but it does not get in the way of someone who does not.
Sure, you have to bring a Surface Pen separately from the Duo, but anyone who really wants to work with digital ink will do so. I’ve kept my Surface pen in my bag for the last few days, and it’s there when I need it. It really is not that big of a deal, so I can not understand why Apple does not want to add the same functionality to the iPhone pros.
I understand that there is an extra charge for the screen that comes with adding pencil compatibility. However, this is also nothing new for Apple. The pencil is almost 5 years old now, and it has reached the very bottom of the iPad series over that time. Not only that, but the cost of the low-end iPad has never increased because pencil compatibility was added. It tells me that Apple could pull this off without increasing the cost of compatible iPhone if they really wanted to.
And that’s the tough part of this for me. apple could add pencil case to iPhone without having lots of thickness and extra charge. They could, but for some reason they will not. I do not seem to know what the cause is, but there is clearly something holding back what seems like a no-brainer addition to me. And if Apple has not pulled the trigger now, it feels like they will never do it.
Why do I care? Personally, I’m a big fan of Apple Pencil hardware and its capabilities. It works so well with the iPad, and I know it can deliver similar performance on the iPhone. Pro Max can be a fantastic digital equivalent of the old pocket scratch pad.
Beyond that, I also think this is the only way Apple can push Apple Pencil further and get more developers to think about doing new and interesting things with it. While the pencil is no longer referred to just the iPad pros, there is still a much larger market for iPhones than tablets, and that will probably never change. The way for Apple to drive adoption and get developers fully on board across product lines is to bring the pencil to its largest audience with iPhone compatibility.
When the iPhone X was first rumored, I thought it would be the one to get Pencil Compatibility. Then I realized that it would be XS Max, after Apple has trained kinks and offered a model with a larger screen. No. When I heard that Apple would use the iPhone Pro name last year, I thought it probably indicated the inclusion of pencil support, such as the iPad Pro. Error again. This year I had no hope even before COVID-19 hit.
I keep talking about Apple Pencil support for the iPhone because I think it would really be a valuable addition to the Pro series. I know it’s not for everyone, but it would be really valuable for some of us. I just wish Apple would acknowledge that they continue to add features that appeal to niche groups of users.
Unfortunately, I really do not have much hope left that Apple will ever add pencil support to the iPhone. Hopefully they will surprise me one day, but until then I will not think it’s real unless I see Tim Cook demonstrate it at an Apple event. No matter what happens in the future, I think we know for sure that it will not come this year.