Although rumours of Apple working on a folding iPhone have been swirling for years, they’ve gained a fair bit of steam over the past few months as credible reports have begun to reveal that Apple is now in the process of actually testing and prototyping several possible designs. Now, however, a somewhat dubious new analyst report is making the plausible suggestion that this could also finally herald the arrival of Apple Pencil support for the iPhone.
To be clear, this is another one of those rumours we’ve been hearing for years — almost from the very day the Apple Pencil first came out for the iPad Pro back in 2015, especially after Apple CEO Tim Cook slipped the word “iPhone” into an interview while discussing the new stylus.
Of course, with that comment having been made five years ago — back when the iPhone 7 was the cutting-edge in Apple technology — it’s apparent now that Cook’s comments were simply a misstatement and not an indicator of things to come. Still, it seems like each year there’s at least one new rumour that suggests that it’s coming to the very next iPhone model, and yet after more than four years of rumours, from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone 12, it has yet to arrive.
Mind you, just because we haven’t yet seen an Apple Pencil for the iPhone doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t working on the idea. Apple has patented several possible approaches over the years, and it’s definitely not a huge technical hurdle for Apple to overcome, so we suspect the biggest question is not whether Apple can add support for its stylus to the iPhone, but whether it should do so.
Apple has traditionally shied away from stylus-based designs; in fact, Apple’s legendary co-founder Steve Jobs clearly despised the very idea of a stylus, but of course Jobs is no longer around.
Some would argue that the Apple Pencil wouldn’t even exist today if he was, but it’s also important to keep in mind that Jobs disdain for styluses came from the era of small devices that relied on them as a primary input method, but it seems unlikely he would have objected to the Apple Pencil as it exists today, which for all intents and purposes is a secondary input method that’s still largely targeted at very specific use cases like sketching and drawing.
However, this is where the iPad fundamentally differs from the iPhone, and it’s worth keeping in mind that when the Apple Pencil first arrived in 2015, it was exclusive to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as Apple had yet to introduce a smaller version of its high-end tablet.
Even after Apple introduced the 9.7-inch, and later 10.5-inch iPad Pro models, the Apple Pencil remained exclusive to the “Pro” iPads until early 2018, when Apple added it to the entry-level sixth-generation iPad, largely for its usefulness in the classroom environment.
Folding iPhone and Stylus Combo
So, the need for an Apple Pencil on an iPhone is still very much open to debate, but it hasn’t stopped years of reports that an “Apple Pencil Mini” could come with each year’s iPhone model.
A new report from a U.K.-based market research firm Omdia, however, has suggested that the folding iPhone, which it predicts is coming in 2023, will be the first model to gain Apple Pencil support.
The Omdia report, which doesn’t yet appear to are publicly available, was first noted by Chinese analyst firm EqualOcean, which has offered up only a brief abstract of the high points, which predict that the foldable iPhone will also feature a 7.3–7.6-inch display, and an “activity pen.”
If true, the larger display, which would be a noticeable jump over even the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, could very well be part of what’s driving the move toward including some version of the Apple Pencil. Certainly, a foldable iPhone would allow for a larger display without creating too much of a “phablet” sized device, as even a 7.6-inch display could conceivably fold into something about half that size, subject to the actual screen dimensions.
Still, while this rumour certainly seems plausible given that we know that the folding iPhone is already in development and that Apple has been tossing around ideas for bringing an Apple Pencil to the iPhone, we’d still say that this one should be taken with a really healthy dose of salt, especially since it’s still years away.
After all, even if Omdia’s information is based on reliable information — and it’s hard to know whether they’re citing actual sources or just guessing — with two years to go, chances are that any discussions within Apple are still in the spitballing stage, and no final decisions have been made.
It’s also hard to say with any certainty what Omdia’s track record is. It’s a relatively new research firm in its own right, but it was also formed from the coming together of several other market-leading analysts, including Ovum, Heavy Reading, Tractica, and a good chunk of IHS Markit.
While most of those firms haven’t traditionally dealt in Apple rumours, the last one — IHS Markit — has previously suggested that Apple is working on a folding 5G iPad, although we’ve heard very little to corroborate that. However, it’s worth noting that they did nail down the late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro a few months before its release.
At this point, however, the only thing we can be really confident about is that Apple is working on a folding iPhone, and while 2023 lines up with other recent reports we’ve heard, the addition of Apple Pencil support still seems like something that could go either way, but it’s also likely that Apple is still throwing around different ideas for what the 2023 iPhone is going to look like in the first place.