Apple patent hints at advanced stylus for iPhone, iPad

Chase Kell
The Right Click

A recently published patent suggests Apple is working on stylus support for future touch devices, the second rumour in as many weeks to directly conflict with the thoughts of the late Steve Jobs.

Rumours of an iPad Mini began to heat up when Apple reportedly hired two LCD panel suppliers to produce 7.85-inch touchscreens. It was no secret that Jobs did not support a miniaturized iPad, nor was he a fan of including stylus support with Apple's mobile devices.

But according to a CNET report, Apple has all but officially begun production of the iPen.

"Despite the late Steve Jobs' mockery of a stylus, Apple has been tinkering with the notion of an iPen complete with haptic feedback," writes Roger Cheng in the report. "That's according to a newly published patent application unearthed by enthusiast site Patently Apple."

Competitors such as Samsung and HTC have released mobile devices that feature stylus control, but the reported iPen is expected to advance the capabilities of this popular tool.

Haptic feedback is a technology that applies vibrations and other motions to the sense of touch. As Cheng explains, "users would feel a small vibration depending on how much pressure they applied to the stylus, or whether the stylus moved over a link on the screen, creating a more realistic experience."

In addition, the iPen could also include a small speaker that would simulate the sounds of pen and brush strokes.

A report from Gizmag highlights a small excerpt from Apple's patent: "an input device capable of generating haptic feedback may help a user navigate content displayed on the display screen, and may further serve to enhance the content of various applications by creating a more appealing and realistic user interface."

If Apple is indeed keen on the iPen, we're most likely to see it introduced with the next iPad. Given the pattern of their previous iPhone launches, industry pundits are expecting to see the next-generation smartphone anytime between mid to late 2012.

But Apple has been known to file patents for various technologies they might never use, and this specific patent was originally filed back in late 2010.

It's worth noting that Steve Jobs passed nearly a year later, which means the iPen patent had been filed during his reign as Apple CEO. This observation kind of makes you wonder how much Jobs disapproved of the stylus, after all.

(Photo credit: Patently Apple)