Steve Jobs probably would have liked the Apple Pencil

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

It is very easy, and often quite fun, to rag on Apple for the many times it has said it would never do something only to turn around and do it anyway years later. It happened with the original iPhone; it happened with the iPad mini; and now, it has happened once again with the Apple Pencil for the new iPad Pro. While there are good reasons to call hypocrisy on some of the past infractions, the same outrage may not be warranted this time around.

Obviously, there is no mistaking the words that came from Steve Jobs' mouth when introducing the original iPhone. He said, "Who wants a stylus? You have to get them and put them away and you lose them. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus." And, he was right about that, but only within the context of what he was talking about. 

The thing is: Jobs was not making a blanket statement about styluses. He was talking about using a stylus on a 3.5-inch display from 2006 and earlier; though even if he were talking about a modern 3.5-inch display, the idea of using a stylus on such a device should be an abhorrent thought to anyone reading this. But, it is most definitely not going to be used on a 3.5-inch display. Rather, the Apple Pencil is designed for a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is nearly 3.7 times larger than the display that Jobs was talking about. Even more, the original iPhone had a resolution of 320 x 480, which sounds prehistoric compared to the iPad Pro's resolution of 2048 x 2732. 

All that to say that what Jobs was talking about was a technology (a stylus on a small screen) that was clumsy and annoying and not nearly as good for what people needed to do that what was at hand, literally. As Jobs continued, he made it clear he was talking about what makes for the "best pointing device in the world", which he said was the human finger. And, again on that he was right. When using a phone from circa 2007, when the iPhone was first introduced, styluses were predominantly used for pointing and pointing only.

However, the Apple Pencil, while it is a stylus in a certain way, is not a "pointing device" at all. As Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc., said in a new op-ed for Re/code:

Steve Jobs himself may have not been a designer or an engineer, but many who worked with him have claimed throughout the years that he was a leader who knew how to get the best out of designers and engineers. The reason for this can be found in plenty of other quotes that Jobs had throughout his years that would be far more applicable when looking at why he probably would have approved of the Apple Pencil. 

For example: 

"Design is how it works." That's the essence of both why Jobs hated styluses being used in 2007 and also why he probably would have liked the Apple Pencil. Given the tasks they were needed to do, styluses in 2007 were a bad solution; a necessary evil for a time. Many displays in smartphones before the iPhone were resistive touchscreens, and pointing and tapping on such a display was easier with a hard, pointy stylus than it was to press hard with your finger. Also, given the size of the screens, you often had to hit a target much smaller than your finger, which was also easier to do with a stylus. 

But, as Jobs rightly said, the best pointing device in the world is the human finger; we just needed the right display technology to complement it, which is where capacitive touchscreens came in. Capacitive touchscreens (combined with an OS designed for the finger) allowed your finger to do the work much more easily, so the benefits of a stylus were wiped out, and all you were left with were the faults. 

The Apple Pencil is not a pointing device, it is a creation device, which incidentally, is why it is called the Apple Pencil. A stylus is a tool used to point and tap on a display, or perform rudimentary tasks like jotting notations or drawing arrows, which is about the best you'll get from the Galaxy Note's stylus by Samsung's own admission. The Apple Pencil works because it has a fundamentally different job description than a stylus. The described ways you can use it per the Apple website are for if you are "sketching in the park, painting a watercolor portrait, or drafting a blueprint." 

That's the job description of a pencil, not a stylus. And, with the advancements made in screen and stylus technology recently by Microsoft with the Surface Pro Pen and by the similarly named Pencil by FiftyThree, Apple was able to make a device that could perform tasks on a touchscreen device that a finger couldn't. And, that's the big difference: you could perform the same tasks on a Galaxy Note with the S Pen or your finger, which makes sense, because pens generally have more limited use than pencils (outside of work done by the most accomplished of artists). But, the only way to do the things that the Apple Pencil can do is with a more advanced tool - a pencil - be it Apple's or FiftyThree's. 

If you're willing to see it, it's pretty obvious that the Apple Pencil is more than just a stylus. It's also obvious that the Pencil is not for everyone, so the $99 price tag, while high, and certainly much higher than the Surface Pen, will only be an issue for a small minority of the public who really want what the device can help them do. 

At the end of the day though, Jobs may not have loved the Pencil. It does well enough with the problems of getting it out and putting it away with the magnetic connection to the iPad, but it doesn't do anything to solve the problem of losing it. On that front, Jobs may have wanted something added, like a Bluetooth tracker, but maybe he would have left that out as well, because a lost Apple Pencil is a specialized tool and comes with the equivalent cost to replace one. 

Related phones

iPad Pro
  • Display 12.9" 2048 x 2732 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A9X, Dual-core, 2260 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 10307 mAh



1. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2278; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Why did PA fire you last year, @Michael Huang? Not a bad article, btw.

9. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Who's Michael Huang?

26. neela_akaash

Posts: 1239; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

The article's writer....

32. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Pretty sure his last name is Heller, but who knows, maybe he changed his name. (See comment 40.)

44. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Funny. Mr. FanZone screwed up Michael H.'s last name in that article, too. Maybe he's got a Huang fixation.

74. steodoreben

Posts: 379; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

It's both bad and good article. I agree with COMMENTS 24 & 30. There are inconsistencies. "The Apple Pencil is not a pointing device, it is a creation device, which incidentally, is why it is called the Apple Pencil". The thought is illogical. You need a sharpener. Why Wacom's digital pen is called a pen or stylus then? S Pen isn't just a pointing device but a creation tool as well. More than just a stylus. In terms of COMFORTABLE GRIP and ANGLE DETECTION: +1 for the Apple Pencil. Whatever marketing names you would like to call it, Apple Pencil is a digital pen active stylus after all.

13. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

One thing about Jobs is that he was stubborn as fk (take his kid for example, who he still maintained wasn't his even on his death bed). If Jobs was alive, there is no way Apple would be pushing a stylus on the iPad Pro...

15. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Of course there would be no stylus. This one is even worse, you have can lose it, break it, and massive. If Jobs was alive Apple would probably still be good tech wise, he actually did care about tech. Now all they care about is money and their stock value.

23. Dingy_cellar_dweller

Posts: 339; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Of couse there would be, a $1 stylus selling for $99, instant convert.

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31299; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Why would you ask the man his personal business like that, in the comments section? That's pretty stupid of you dude. Respect people's privacy.

27. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

He can ask whatever the hell he wants, and it wasn't stupid of him.

33. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

One could also argue that the original iPad would be a great size to use with a stylus and under Steve reign he will hear nothing of it. That being said, i am glad that Tim Cook is opened to the idea of having an iPad Pro and Stylus. I would think that iPad Pro is now in direct competition with Wacom for Graphic designer mind share. Example a 13" Cintiq 13HD also start at $799.99 Woah! What a coincidence.

55. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

but cintiq is for professional work, using professional software like illustrator, photoshop, cad, 3d modelling and stuff, not like this toy who still run iOS

60. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Cintiq is not portable. Most designers are also Apple loyalists.

78. Toshi_TNE

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 22, 2015

I use a cintiq companion pro, i7, 8GB ram, portable, and runs full windows 10 so I can zbrush on the go.

34. tedkord

Posts: 17413; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Wrong name. And he wasn't fired.

48. QWERTYphone

Posts: 654; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

Steve Jobs doesn't like anything. He is a rotting corpse. Good Riddance.

2. kajam

Posts: 221; Member since: Jun 24, 2015

That just prove how apple and their applause crew are FS when steve job said that a big applause when apple pencil introduced another big applause

6. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

Because Jobs was a marketing genius. Also, if you watch the keynote, jobs was saying that PDAs and similar devices that needed a stylus in order to work were silly. And he was completely right.

49. QWERTYphone

Posts: 654; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

NO, Jobs was just a lying, manipulative, a$$hole. Anyone who actually knows anything about him will agree. I'm glad these movies, and upcoming articles and books, will expose him, and Apple, for the scum that they are.

16. jellmoo

Posts: 2622; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Be fair though, the situation in 2006 and the product it was referring to are nowhere near the same as in 2015.

53. kryme

Posts: 469; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

Wats different... Days before the apple pencil was announced they hated the galaxy note for the stylus... Hahaha now they stylus is the best thing... And they still hate the galaxy note because the screen is too small 12.9 inch is the perfect size.. One dude even say stylus done right... Lol

57. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

they hate stylus they hate phablet but they love money, theyll do anything to increase their money source

3. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

People often take out of context the meaning of the stylus and Job's distaste of using one. Jobs thought it would be dumb to BE REQUIRED TO NAVIGATE around the OS with a stylus, which is what devices at the time of the first iPhone had. And in all honesty, I think he would also appreciate the Note series a lot. No, you don't have to use the stylus for the Samsung note or the iPad, but it is simply there to use as a tool.

18. tedkord

Posts: 17413; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Jobs would not only not appreciate the Note series, he would consider it a product stolen from Apple and want to destroy it.

37. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Not all of them. I had Windows Mobile devices that had a stylus but you could still use your fingers, as long as they weren't sausages.

4. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

At the $799 price it is starting at, the pencil should have came standard. You're spending $1100 before tax if you got the pro with the keyboard and the pencil. At that point, why are you buying an ipad over a surface or a macbook?

7. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

100% agree. At 799 the iPad pro is ridiculously overpriced, especially when you consider the limitations of a mobile OS. The pencil is RIDICULOUSLY overpriced, as is that keyboard cover that supposedly isn't that great.

14. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

And, its not even running a fully blown OS like Windows 10 on the Surface.. Its just an oversized fatty iOS tab for the blind.

17. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Plus it probably costs them $250 to make seeing as how it is just an iPad in a larger body. Given that the iPads were their lower margin products, they needed a gimmick to get people to give them the same profit on all their stuff.

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