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Apple’s 2020 iPads could have a key edge on Microsoft Surfaces

Apple could be working on a huge update to the Pencil stylus used on its popular iPad tablets, according to a new US patent filing.

The filing appeared online earlier this week and includes a wealth of new features, that would radically improve the current Apple Pencil 2’s creative chops. The biggest is a new “touch input” control along the pencil’s long shaft. The patent explains:

“A touch sensor can be integrated into a stylus in a low profile form. Tactile input can be received at the user’s natural grip location. Furthermore, the stylus can effectively distinguish between tactile inputs from a user and disregard sustained tactile inputs that are provided while the user simply holds the stylus at the user’s natural grip location.”

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This would effectively let you use the stylus for a variety of different workflows, doing things like switching between layers, or zooming into specific areas while digital painting without having to touch the iPad’s screen.

“The input signal can change a setting of the external device based on the input signal. For example, the external device can change volume, brightness, display zoom, marking characteristic, or other features of the external device to an extent that is proportionate to the characteristic,” read the patent.

“For example, applying a user motion gesture in a first direction across the sensing elements can increase a setting value (e.g., volume, marking thickness, etc.) of the external device, and applying a user motion gesture across the sensing elements in a second direction, opposite the first direction, can decrease the setting value of the external device.”

This may sound small but it would let the new Apple Pencil offer equivalent, if not superior, shortcut functionality to the Microsoft Surface line of convertibles. Microsoft Surfaces feature Surface Pen stylus that use the less common N-Trig tracking tech. They have three customisable physical shortcut keys that can be customised to enact application specific commands.

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