Apple has received a patent that could change the way the Apple Pencil is used. Titled "Multipurpose stylus with exchangeable modules," the patent covers the tips (or nibs) used on the Apple Pencil. There are various reasons why an Apple Pencil user might want to change the nib on the (with all due respect to the late Steve Jobs) stylus. One, the current nib on the digital pencil could be wearing down and a replacement needed. But another reason to change the Apple Pencil tips would be to change the functionality of the accessory.
Apple receives a major patent for the Apple Pencil digital writing instrument
Or as Apple explains it in the patent, "The stylus can provide interchangeability of various removable components, such as removable functional end modules that cover a connector for charging and communicating with the stylus. The various removable components each provide distinct features, thereby allowing the user to select various capabilities by employing each of the various functional end modules."
Some of the changes that Apple discusses in the patent includes "a color, a shape, a thickness, a size, a brightness, or an opacity." The nib (called the "end connector" in the patent) would be removable from the main body and would have a number of sensors. A tactile sensor would detect when the nib touches a surface. Other sensors listed in the patent include a "contact sensor, a capacitive sensor, a touch sensor, a camera, a piezoelectric sensor, a pressure sensor, or a photodiode." Other possible features found in the accessory could be a an orientation detector, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a biometric reader, a display, a switch, a button, a speaker, a compass, a microphone, a camera, or a voice coil.
Currently, Apple offers two different generations of the Apple Pencil which are compatible with certain iPad models. Offering interchangeable tips might not only be a revenue-generator for Apple, it obviously could be an easy way for users to expand the functionality of the accessory. The million dollar question (which might actually be a millions dollar question as far as Apple is concerned) is whether Apple will finally add Pencil support to the iPhone. Consider that Samsung's multi-functional S Pen now works with the 6.8-inch screen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. However, unlock the Galaxy Note line throughout the years, the accessory has to be purchased separately and there is no place to house the S Pen on the phone.
While there have been rumors for years about the Apple Pencil coming to the iPhone, this has not taken place yet. Is Apple trying to honor the memory of its late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs? The executive famously put down the use of a stylus when he introduced the iPhone in January 2007. At that time, before the touchscreen was widely used, many smartphones came with a stylus to help the user navigate through the UI. It needs to be pointed out that these styluses were not as multi-functional as the digital pens are today. Most were merely made of plastic with a sharp tip.
There are some manufacturers who build phones today that come with a stylus. One popular mid-range model is the LG Stylo which early this year is expected to launch a 5G version of the phone which will be the seventh-generation of the model. Last year, Motorola released the mid-range Moto G Stylus.
Just because Apple has received a patent for this technology, it doesn't mean that it definitely will be used. Still, it seems like offering exchangeable tips for the Apple Pencil could be a win-win for users and for Apple. The patent number is 10,921,907 and the technology was originally filed for protection by Apple back in April, 2017.