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Apple submits surprise optical stylus patent application

updated 08:06 am EDT, Thu May 24, 2012

Apple files for optical stylus patent

In a surprise, an Apple patent application for an optical stylus has turned up on the USPTO website. Steve Jobs had derided the stylus as an input method for the iPhone and the iPad once famously saying that 'If you need a stylus, you've already failed.' However, Jobs was well known for throwing the opposition a curve ball from time to time speaking out against an idea, only to have been developing a concept behind the scenes. One example was when he said that consumers liked having a separate iPod while also carrying their phone, only to reveal the ultimate convergence device in the iPhone a couple of years later.

Until the emergence of this patent application, it has been widely believed that Apple would never deliver its own purpose-made stylus for its iOS devices. Third-party styli have sold quite well for the iPad, with a number of vendors offering different solutions. However, none of these work as well as the S Pen Samsung co-developed with Wacom for its Galaxy Note 5.3 (also due to make an appearance on the Galaxy Note 10.1). Further, the success of the Galaxy Tab 5.3, which has shipped 5 million units in its first five months on the market has captured wide-spread attention.

The Apple patent application describes a stylus that incorporates image capture along with an on-board image processor, while also capable of sensing pressure. It would include an accelerometer and an antenna to help relay the relative position of the stylus in relation to the device. Also included is haptic feedback to help the user sense how much pressure they are applying. Apple is also well-known to file patents for products, or technologies, that may never see the light of day. However, creative professionals, and other users would probably welcome an Apple stylus if it was released. The aftermarket stylus ecosystem the iPad and the iPhone, along with an interesting stylus project at Kickstarter and the forthcoming Adonit Jot Touch suggests that the demand is indeed there. [via Engadget]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969


    if apple does a stylus

    it will be the sexiest stylus we have ever seen, and we will love it because it just works.

  1. Zkatz007

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wow. Very wrong.

    The quote isn't "If you need a stylus, you've already failed." - it's "If you see a stylus, they blew it."

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    "Curve ball"?

    >>>Jobs was well known for throwing the opposition a curve ball from time to time speaking out against an idea, only to have been developing a concept behind the scenes.

    In other words, Steve Jobs was full of hypocritical BS.

  1. DaJoNel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Funny that you of all people mention bs in a negative way...

    And yes, with companies like Samsung constantly copying work, Apple has to lie in order to release new products.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just one thing...

    When Apple comes out with a stylus on the iPhone or iPad;
    will ALL iFans admit it came AFTER the Galaxy Note 5.3?

    Or will Samsung's stylus incorporation into the highly successful Note be part of some time travel plot where Samsung sent spies to the future to get a hold of Apple tech and incorporate it into the Note thus fooling an external observer into believing Samsung came up with the design & tech BEFORE Apple did?

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ah, even one more thing...

    You can get a replacement Galaxy Note 2.3 Stylus for about $15.
    The Galaxy Note 10.1 Costs about $30. It has a second programmable button and works as an eraser when you flip it.

    Both have no batteries or any optical elements to get dirty.
    They are essentially a passive transponder with very simple and rugged electronics.

    Actually less expensive than some professional mechanical drafting pen/pencils.

    How much would a replacement stylus with the Apple patent be worth? Add to that Apple's premium...

    A stylus with Apple's patent not only would be more complex,
    require batteries, need some maintenance of the optics, and obviously be quite a bit more expensive than practically any current project on KickStarter.

    In short a Kludge.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ok this IS the last one...

    You probably do not know this unless you have used a Cintiq, but the high end tablets can even derive 2 axis inclination information from the inductive layer conductors and the pen coils, with no need for accelerometers...

    And of course since the whole thing is based on electromagnetic inductance, the display can track the stylus position OVER opaque media that you would like to trace over.

    Apple should just license the Artists already use and love found in the Cintiq tablets,
    Wacom inductive layer.

    It would turn the awesome 3.2 megapixel display on the iPad into an artist dream come true.

  1. sbarton05

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And Yet....

    With all that technology they threw into the Galaxy Notes - Still no useable palm rejection and not 1 single note taking app in the _entire_ android ecosystem thats worth a c***. Then look iPad and you'll find at least 5 *great* note taking apps, and 2 of them with near perfect palm rejection implemented _IN SOFTWARE_ (PenUltimate & Bamboo Paper).

    Previous owner and completely dissatisfied owner of a Galaxy Note 10.1 and 8.9. Now VERY HAPPY iPad 3 owner with apps that are awesome and just "work".

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re:And Yet....

    You should educate yourself before writing,
    if you did:
    1- your rudeness might disappear
    2- you would be less ignorant
    3- might actually be perceived as less ignorant.
    4- realize the foolishness of your lies.

    For the Note 10.1 is not out yet and will most likely come out in the fall.

    Palm rejection in software is is a needless strain (and kludge) on the CPU when having 2 separate the hardware detectors for finger & stylus - does the part elegantly and without any intervention from software whatsoever.

    There are quite a few illustration and apps available for both platforms, iOS & Android, the most popular ones being available with an identical set of features for both platforms, save for one: Pressure Sensitivity - the killer one.

    There are no applications for iOS with PS simply because Apple has not implemented it on any APIs.

    Furthermore Android 4, Icecream Sandwich has stylus support, pressure sensitivity, and even tilt stylus axis tilt sensing built into the OS; so unlike the clever but not too elegant solutions you might find on KickStarter the OS handles all these smoothly as long as an inductive digitizer layer is built into the display surface.

    iOS will no doubt keep a very great number of wonderful software for almost anything you can imagine, but as far as artists are concerned, the platform to get is Android 4.

    Nevertheless I am positive you will still be happy repeating your favorite marketing rants, for your lack of interest in actual unbiased researched will do more to lock you in than any hardware Apple might come up with.

    Enjoy your ignorance, but please save us from your rude language.

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