Apple recently announced the release of the highly anticipated iPad Pro, the company’s largest tablet to date, coming in at a pretty hefty 12.9-inches. The iPad Pro was generally what we expected, but packed with many technological advances and one major surprise.
The new tablet is being targeted at the media professional, and will be especially helpful for people like graphic designers and artists; but could really be used as a laptop replacement when coupled with a keyboard. There’s one thing that really sets the iPad Pro apart from laptops, other tablets, and even iPads: That’s the Apple Pencil.
Now, it’s important to consider the backstory of the Apple Pencil and of Apple’s relationship with styluses in general. Apple has rather famously been against the stylus for years, with its objection to them tracing back to the release of the first iPhone. During the release event, the late Steve Jobs spelled out why, saying, “Who wants a stylus? You have to get em’, put em’ away. You lose them. Yuck.”
It makes sense considering this, that when Apple’s Phil Schiller announced that the company would be releasing a stylus called the Apple Pencil there would be audible laughter. Even the product video for the Apple Pencil looked like a spoof for an Apple product video, largely because of how dramatic the video depicted, well, a simple stylus.
Still, it’s important to remember at what point in Apple’s history Jobs was against the stylus. Using a stylus on a 3.5-inch smartphone display perhaps doesn’t make much sense. Not to mention the fact that previous phones that had touch screens and used styluses had been blown out of the water by the iPhone’s new technology.
In fact, using a stylus on a smartphone still doesn’t really make much sense. Jobs was certainly right about the fact that using our fingers is far more convenient and natural on a display that size. Not only that, but this was also the first time people had seen gestures like pinch to zoom. Trying to zoom with a stylus certainly would be “yuck.” Even when the iPad was originally released, it wasn’t really marketed as being something for the digital artist, but more a device with a larger screen for things like watching movies or browsing the web at home.
When it comes to the iPad Pro, we’re not talking about the average user, something that’s highlighted by the fact that the iPad Pro doesn’t ship with the Apple Pencil, which is instead available as an extra. The iPad Pro isn’t designed to fit in our pockets and be our daily communication device. It’s designed to create. Of course, watching a movie on the iPad Pro is sure to be a treat, especially considering the display size, but again, that’s not the purpose of the device.
One of the main purposes of the device is arguably to draw, and if there’s one thing that doesn’t feel natural, it’s trying to draw using your fingertip.
Then there’s the fact that the Apple Pencil is pretty advanced. It’s able to detect things like position, force, and even the tilt of the pencil, enabling it to draw thinner or thicker lines depending on how the user positions the device. Arguably, the stylus could replace drawing on paper, making it not only easier to store and share pieces of art, but while also being better for the environment.
The Apple Pencil also has applications beyond drawing. For example, as demonstrated by a Microsoft official on the stage at the Apple event, a user can write using their genuine handwriting, after which the software will translate that into typed words. This is great for those who prefer to actually write, and will again save on paper, however it’s unknown how many people will actually use this considering the fact that most people can type faster than they can write.
The iPad Pro was designed to be a paper replacement, and the Apple Pencil was designed to be, well, a pencil. As artists continue to turn to technology to their art to the next level, the Apple Pencil was a necessary invention. Now, whether or not it has a reasonable price tag is another question entirely, but hey this is Apple we’re talking about.
The bitter truth is that Apple generally waits on market trends until it has a chance to capitalize on them. This has been true for many things, including larger phones, smaller tablets, larger tablets, and smartwatches. Digital design is a trend, and in reality, the Apple Pencil was bound to capitalize on it.