“Who wants a stylus?” Steve Jobs once said while introducing the iPhone. “You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.” That was 2007. Now after a decade, it looks like Apple wants to head the path which its creator abhorred, if only to put down arch rival Samsung. A patent filed by Apple reveals a stylus-based iPhone which would threaten Samsung’s much-liked, but now in jeopardy, Galaxy Note-line of phablets. Also Read - Apple shines in June quarter, posts record sales for iPhones, Macs and iPads
Published this week, the patent application titled “Devices and Methods for Manipulating User Interfaces with a Stylus” describes the stylus-based interface Apple is reportedly working, complete with 150 pages of illustrations. Apple describes how a stylus could be used to improve a user’s interaction with the iPhone. Given Apple’s shift at going phablet-sized with its iPhone 6 Plus and beyond, the idea of experimenting with a stylus seems to hint at a future where the display size would be stretched some more. Although there have been smartphones such as the Lenovo Phab 2 Plus and the Xiaomi Mi Max, both at 6.4-inches, an Apple iPhone particularly attempting at a larger display would mean a size which is more feasible for a smartphone, like 5.7-inches as seen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the now discontinued Galaxy Note 7. While the iPhone 6 Plus and the latest iPhone 7 Plus don’t exactly rival the Galaxy Note line of phablets, the purported stylus-based future iPhone could possibly leave no stone unturned in offering users what Samsung has on the plate, albeit with iOS. Also Read - Friendship Day gifting ideas for your young tech-savvy besties under Rs 5,000
According to the patent, the purported stylus could be used for a number of purposes including text entry, doodling, photo annotation, instant messaging, and even video editing; pretty much all that the existing stylus-based smartphones allow. Apple has detailed certain modes which allow the user to use the stylus directly on the locked screen of the iPhone to launch a specific app, such as Notes. Samsung too had showcased a similar feature in the Galaxy Note 7 earlier this year. Also Read - Apple releases important iOS 14.7.1 update: iPhone users must download it right now
Now this brings us to the question of whether it envisions a future where authentication would be customizable based on apps or would it mean a stylus that is embedded with some form of authentication software in it for seamless access. The patent details that the iPhone and the stylus would be able to recognize each other and the iPhone could identify the pen before it actually touches the screen and display a specific menu for the user when certain gestures are detected.
In light of the recent Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Google was at advantage with its Pixel line of smartphones. With Apple directly aiming at introducing a phablet-sized iPhone with stylus support, Samsung could be in for a stiffer competition in the near future. Although the patent has been filed in 2015, it doesn’t mean the technology would make it immediately onto the next iPhone 8 or that the stylus-interaction will be rolled out with the iOS 11.
Currently, the largest display size an iPhone has is at 5.5-inches. Given the display requirement for a stylus, we can’t be sure if the purported hardware will be limited to the Plus-sized variants or would it compel Apple to go beyond the 5.5-inch and introduce a larger iPhone that support a stylus. Last year, Apple introduced the Apple Pencil for its 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is aimed at making it easier for artists to interact easily with the supersized tablet. Based on the patent, it is unclear if the stylus-identification feature will be extended to Apple’s existing hardware including the Apple Pencil.
All images: USPTO