Yes, I am 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’ve covered the rumors and predictions and I’ve complained when they are ultimately shot down. There understandably haven’t been many amid the craziness of 2020, so I haven’t 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 bone.
However, with new iPhones set to be announced tomorrow, I can’t help but think about the fact that Apple is missing an opportunity again.
I guess using the Surface Duo over the last week is what brought this back to mind. While it doesn’t have any way to dock, store or charge a stylus like the Samsung Note, the Duo does include Microsoft Surface Pen compatibility. It’s a handy addition for someone who wants or needs it, but it doesn’t get in the way for anyone who doesn’t.
Sure, you have to carry around a Surface Pen separate from the Duo, but someone who really wants to work with digital ink will do it. I’ve kept my Surface Pen in my laptop bag the last few days and it’s there whenever I need it. It really isn’t that big of a deal, so I can’t understand why Apple won’t add the same functionality to the iPhone Pros.
I do understand that there is additive screen cost that comes with adding Pencil compatibility. However, this also isn’t anything new for Apple. The Pencil is almost 5 years old now and it has made it all the way to the bottom of the iPad lineup over that time. Not only that, but the cost of the low-end iPad has never increased because Pencil compatibility was added. That tells me that Apple could pull this off without raising the cost of compatible iPhone if they really wanted to.
And that is the tough part of this for me. Apple could add Pencil support to the iPhone without piling on tons of thickness and additional cost. They could, but for some reason, they won’t. I don’t pretend to know what the reason is, but there is obviously something holding back what seems like a no-brainer feature addition to me. And if Apple hasn’t pulled the trigger by now, it feels like they never will.
Why do I care? Personally, I’m a big fan of the Apple Pencil hardware and its capability. It works so well with the iPad and I know it could deliver similar performance on the iPhone. The Pro Max could be an amazing digital equivalent of the old pocket scratchpad.
Beyond that, I also believe this is the only way for Apple to push the Apple Pencil further forward and get more developers thinking about doing new and interesting things with it. While the Pencil is no longer relegated to only the iPad Pros, there is still a much larger market for iPhones than tablets and that will likely never change. The way for Apple to drive adoption and get developers fully on-board across their product lines is to bring the Pencil to their 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 figured it would be the XS Max, after Apple worked out the kinks and offered a model with a larger screen. Nope. When I heard that Apple would use the iPhone Pro name last year, I thought that surely indicated the inclusion of Pencil support, like the iPad Pro. Wrong again. This year, I had no hope even before COVID-19 hit.
I keep talking about Apple Pencil support for the iPhone because I believe it really would be a valuable addition to the Pro lineup. I know it isn’t for everyone, but it really would be valuable for some of us. I just wish Apple would acknowledge that as they continue to add features that appeal to niche groups of users.
Unfortunately, at this point I really don’t 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 won’t believe it’s real unless I see Tim Cook demoing it at an Apple Event. Whatever happens in the future, I think we know with near certainty that it won’t be coming this year.