updated 12:09 pm EST, Mon December 31, 2012
Accessory would improve response without increasing costs
Engineers working for Apple have applied for a US patent on an "active" stylus, reports say. In most respects the concept is like any current stylus, but instead of simply blocking electric field lines on a capacitive touchscreen, the Apple stylus could generate an electric field, and/or act as a sense electrode for signals from drive rows and columns. The patent filing remarks that this could improve response on a touchscreen without "significant" extra cost.
Apple itself isn't named in the application, but both of the people involved, Jonah Harley and David Simon, are engineering managers for the company. Based on history, one possibility is that Apple will wait until the patent is granted to use its name. The company may have been hoping to throw off competitors looking to Apple patents for ideas.
At the same time, Apple has been strongly resistant to the idea of styluses; the original iPhone was consciously designed to eliminate the need for one, at a time when other smartphones often required them. Third-party styluses have become increasingly popular for iOS devices however, and Samsung is bundling its own styluses with devices like the Galaxy Note II. Most phones and tablets no longer require a stylus, but they can make drawing and notetaking more practical.