It’s About Time For An Apple Pencil Upgrade

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Will it arrive this Spring?

For an accessory many thought Apple would never touch after Steve Jobs’ famous comments mocking the stylus, the Apple Pencil has certainly become a mainstay. It has spread from the original iPad Pro to the iPad , the iPad Air updates and even the iPad Mini. It’s pretty much the only thing that all models of the iPad have in common besides iPadOS, even if the compatible model differs between them.

So where is the Apple Pencil headed? While the original was great as a stylus, its charging method was kludgy and there was no built-in way to carry it with an iPad. The Apple Pencil 2 was a huge improvement, with its magnetic charging connection to the 2018 and newer iPad Pros and the latest iPad Air. However, while the 2nd gen Pencil is still one of my favorite Apple accessories, two years is still an eternity when it comes to mobile technology. It’s about due for a fresh coat of paint.

Now we have a new rumor from a source with a solid track record that Apple is hard at work on an Apple Pencil 3.

This rumor comes from the mysterious “Mr White” on Twitter. I wasn’t aware of this leaker before, but the person behind this account has leaked legitimate pre-release product photos before, including one of the iPad Mini 5. No guarantees, but this is definitely a credible source.

The most obvious physical change to this updated Pencil seems to be newer style replaceable tips. It will be interesting to see what added functionality or options may come with these new tips, if this report turns out to be accurate. There are plenty of directions Apple could go with such a feature, including offering multiple tips for different types of writing or artistic tasks.

There is also an Apple patent that made the rounds a few months ago that would be a very interesting upgrade to a new Apple Pencil. It covers the addition of a color sensor to the tip of a stylus:

According to the patent, the stylus would detect the color and then put it in a color palette in a drawing program, where the color could be assigned to a brush. Apple also suggests that color sensor could perhaps be used for other purposes such as calibrating displays, calibrating printers, making health-related measurements, and identifying paint colors for home projects, which would make the ‌Apple Pencil‌ even more versatile.

While you never can tell which Apple patents are vapor and which will eventually become real products, this one seems to have a natural connection to the latest rumor of a Pencil with exchangeable tips. A new sensor that could detect colors on an iPad’s screen and allow the user to work with them would be a notable upgrade for artists and designers.

There are also plenty of small internal upgrades that could also be added to a new Pencil to round things out. Apple has always bragged about the Pencil’s speed and precision, so I would expect them to lean into that a little more with a new model. There have also been other rumors in the past relating to mics and speakers added to the Pencil, as well.

The only other change we can tell from the photo above is that the exterior has returned to a glossy finish, which Apple used on the first gen Pencil. I’ll be honest, I would personally prefer that they stick with the matte finish of the Pencil 2, but that’s just me. If Apple is really looking to shake up the looks of the Pencil, forget the finish. How about some new color options?

If a new Apple Pencil is coming this spring, I expect this will be the first of a string of rumors talking about it over the next two to three weeks. If it’s really coming soon, then it’s already in production and supply chain rumors will follow. It would also almost certainly be released alongside a new iPad. If the 2021 iPad Pros arrive this month as we all expect, then a 2021 Apple Pencil update would surely arrive with them.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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4 thoughts on “It’s About Time For An Apple Pencil Upgrade”

  1. Forgive-me, but why does a pencil need a upgrade? I have a 1st gen since 2017 and I am very satisfied. I bought a extra cable with a female plug since than I never charge it at iPad Pro.

    1. The swappable tips would be a nice update to the existing design that would add value for artists and designers.

      Like I said, the first gen Pencil worked great, but the design had some shortcomings. The Pencil 2 was a perfect upgrade that kept the functionality and greatly improved the design. Another update would likely keep that basic design and the Pencil 2 would remain backward compatible. It would just add more features.

  2. Well then “one pencil to rule then all…”
    If the rumors of an iPad Mini Pro are real then this pencil would work with that also.
    My feeling is there will be two iPad minis.
    The iPad mini 6 (same as the 5) but with a faster processor and wifi 6 (maybe 5G)
    And a Pro version! Smaller bezels, finger unlock on power button, newest processor, USBC, wifi 6, flash for cam, and 5G.
    Now that would be awesome!
    The only iPad I like use is the mini, so I an hopeful.

    1. This would make sense and fit with the diverging rumors of an Mini with a minor design update and spec bump, with others talking about an Air-like redesign. That’s what I thought about when I saw those rumors yesterday, as well.

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