What better accessory for your new iPad than the Apple Pencil? The brand’s smart stylus brings extra functionality to the tablet, allowing you to make quick notes and drawings. While not necessarily the most exciting gadget to come out of Cupertino, it’s one that many iPad users find themselves using every day. While we just saw a USB-C version of the stylus land, there’s a new version of the Apple Pencil in the pipeline.
The third-gen Apple Pencil is set to arrive with upcoming iPads packing a ton of extra functionality. Here’s everything we know so far about Apple’s third-gen smart stylus.
What to expect from the Apple Pencil 4
While Apple has kept tight-lipped about the upcoming Apple Pencil, we’ve seen a number of rumours come to light. The tech giant also regularly files patents for its smart stylus, which helps us to work out what features are on the way.
One big addition to the third-gen stylus is reportedly Find My integration, according to a patent spotted by Patently Apple. Rather than using an ultra-wideband chip, such as the U1 inside AirPods and AirTags, the plan is to use acoustic signals. This would involve placing acoustic resonators in the tip of the stylus, which will push out acoustic frequencies to a listening device, such as your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, your device will “listen” to the lost Apple Pencil. However, it comes with one big drawback – you’ll only be able to find an Apple Pencil if it’s in “listening” range of your device. This means if you’re not nearby, you won’t be able to find it. It’s also unclear how this could work with the Find My network – which uses all Apple devices to locate lost accessories.
Another major feature reportedly in the pipeline is colour detection. A US patent details a future Apple Pencil that samples colours and textures from the real world. The stylus would use colour sensors in the tip to detect the colour of objects, and then send that information back to a connected iPad. Ambient light sensors and light emitters would also help the Pencil to detect the texture of an object’s surface.
There are some more minor refinements set to appear as well. One patent details an Apple Pencil with haptic feedback, where it’ll vibrate based on what you’re doing on-screen. The same patent also mentions that the squeeze controls from AirPods Pro could make their way to the Pencil, replacing the current tap control. Interchangeable nibs may finally appear, allowing you to physically change brush or pencil size. iOS 17 code suggests the fourth-gen Apple Pencil may support the iPhone, finally. And we’d expect that the Pencil will be compatible with the Vision Pro headset to create 3D objects in the virtual reality.
Of course, lots of these rumours come from speculation as well as patents. And just because the patents are filed, it doesn’t mean Apple will use them, or use them all in the fourth-gen Apple Pencil. We’d expect a mixture of these features to make it into the final product that sees the light of day.
Pricing and release date
The first-gen Apple Pencil hit the market at $99/£109, and the second-gen release bumped the price up to $129/£139. And the USB-C model arrived at $79/£79 as a more budget-friendly offering. Unlike the USB-C Pencil, the second iteration brought plenty of new features, which required some extra hardware. So, Apple’s price bump seemed pretty fair at the time.
For the fourth-gen smart stylus, we wouldn’t be surprised to see another price bump. Given the extra hardware that’s rumoured to appear, a price of $149/£159 seems most likely. Of course, we’ll have to wait until launch to find out how much it’ll cost for certain.
Speaking of which, when should we expect the next Apple Pencil? Since the stylus is an iPad accessory, it’ll debut alongside future models of the tablet. We’re most likely to see it appear next to the M3 iPad Pros, which are expected in early 2024.