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When Apple expanded its Find My network two years ago alongside its new AirTags, it also embraced a new lineup of third-party accessories and added enhanced location features to its own easily misplaced gadgets like AirPods.
Although you’ve been able to locate your AirPods in the Find My app since the very first model was released in 2016, that early integration was limited to making a lost AirPod emit a sound to help you audibly track it down. Plus, it only worked if one or more AirPods were out of the case.
However, even though Apple’s AirPods don’t pack in a U1 Ultra Wideband chip like the AirTags, Apple was able to add enhanced Find My features in iOS 15 that even enabled Precision Finding, allowing your iPhone to guide you to the specific location where your AirPods are hiding. It’s not quite as precise as locating an AirTag — you won’t get exact distance and bearing — but you’ll know if you’re “hot” or “cold” as you try to locate them.
While you aren’t likely to take the Siri Remote out of your house, it’s not uncommon for folks to lose it in a couch cushion or set it down in another room. Siri once provided some short-lived hints that it might be coming, but two years have passed, with a new third-generation Apple TV 4K being released in the meantime, and there’s still no sign of it. If misplacing your Siri Remote is a problem, you’ll still have to resort to slapping an AirTag on it.
There may be some good news for users of one of Apple’s other easily-misplaced accessories, as it looks like Apple is pondering ways to bring Find My support to the Apple Pencil.
‘Find My Apple Pencil’
While we can still hope that Apple might figure out how to put a U1 chip into its stylus, a new patent application suggests the company is exploring other ways to do this.
Perhaps the Apple Pencil simply doesn’t offer enough room for the hardware needed to incorporate the U1 chip, or maybe this is merely a matter of Apple experimenting with different technologies, but the patent in question proposes that the Apple Pencil could use an “acoustic resonator” to help you figure out where you may have set your stylus down in the room.
“Locating a lost stylus, or other peripheral input device can be made possible by acoustic resonators integrated within housing structures of the stylus. Acoustic resonators can be formed at an end of the stylus opposite its tip, and can include portions of the stylus outer housing that are thinned down to an engineered thickness that has a particular resonant behavior or frequency.
– US Patent Application 20230161545A1
According to the patent, a device such as the Apple Pencil would incorporate a passive component in the cap of the pencil designed to respond to specific acoustic frequencies. An iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch would emit a sound specifically designed to trigger those acoustic resonators in the pencil, which would help the owner locate the missing stylus.
In its simplest form, this would only allow you to locate an Apple Pencil nearby, but it could still be helpful for those who frequently misplace their stylus under a stack of papers or set it down absent-mindedly in their home or office.
However, as with most patent applications, Apple outlines several other possibilities, including having a request to locate an Apple Pencil received by an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch over the internet and using the microphones on those devices to pick up the signal from the acoustic resonator. Such an implementation could open the door to locating an Apple Pencil in close proximity to any other Apple devices owned by the seeker of the stylus or possibly even immediate family members in an iCloud Family Sharing group. However, it seems unlikely this would be as versatile as using Bluetooth LE as it’s hard to imagine Apple having every device on the globe emitting audio signals in search of lost Apple Pencils.
Of course, the usual caveats about Apple patent applications also apply here. Apple patents a great many things that never come to fruition, so while the company’s patent applications provide some fascinating insight into what its engineers are thinking, there’s no guarantee that we’ll ever see a Find My Apple Pencil feature, and even if we do, this may not be how it ultimately works.