Tech giant Apple has released its latest series of hardware updates – including the first Apple Pencil, a stylus designed for technical drawing (+ movie).
Apple's annual hardware launch event took place in California yesterday, with the release of two new versions of its current iPhone 6 design – the iPhone 6s and the larger 6s Plus – as well an Apple Watch collaboration with luxury fashion brand Hermès, which reinforces Apple's desire to position its smartwatch as a luxury product rather than a gadget.
It also revealed a larger version of its tablet computer, called the iPad Pro – described by Apple CEO Tim Cook as "the most capable and powerful iPad ever created".
But the only entirely new product reveal of the launch was Apple's first stylus since the early 1990s, the Apple Pencil. The Pencil is designed to be used with the larger iPad, which is aimed at professional artists and designers.
According to Jonathan Ive, Apple's chief design officer, the Pencil will allow a new precision in drawing on the screen of the iPad, responding to different levels of pressure and different angles.
"Highly responsive sensors built into the tip of the Apple Pencil work with the iPad Pro display to detect position, force and tilt," said Ive in a movie shown as part of Apple's product presentation yesterday. "With force data you can press lightly to get a thin stoke or press harder to get a darker, bolder stroke. Signals emitted from two locations in the tip calculate the angle and orientation to produce broad or shaded strokes."
The technology that reads the touch on the screen has been redesigned to recognise the difference between different Pencil strokes and a finger touch.
"Its unique tip signature allows it to be used simultaneously with your finger and, with incredibly low latency, it has a responsiveness that feels like a true writing or drawing instrument," said Ive. "Apple Pencil is designed to look and feel like a familiar tool, yet with its carefully engineered technology, working with our most advanced multi-touch display, it delivers something extraordinary – precision that actually gives you the ability to touch a single pixel."
The top of the Pencil contains sensors that feed information back to the tablet device, and it can be recharged via a Lightning connector – Apple's super-speed re-jig of the standard USB connector. It will be sold separately from the iPad Pro for $99.
There was no mention in the presentation of previous anti-stylus comments made by Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.
In 2007, unveiling the iPhone's multi-touch technology, Jobs dismissed the need for a stylus device outright.
"Who wants a stylus?" said Jobs. "You have to get them, and put them away, and you loose them, yuch. Nobody wants a stylus, so let's not use a stylus. We're going to use the best pointing device in the world. We're going to use a pointing device that we're all born with – we're born with 10 of them – we're going to use our fingers."
In a Q&A about the fourth operating system for the iPhone in 2010, Jobs added: "If you see a stylus, they blew it."
Apple launched its first iPad five years ago. Among the famous artists who have since adopted the touchscreen products for more detailed work is David Hockney, who recently staged an exhibition of paintings produced on Apple devices.
"In just five years, iPad has transformed the way we create, the way we learn and the way we work," said Apple CEO Tim Cook during last night's presentation in San Francisco. "iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing."
The iPad Pro is 9.6-millimetres thick and features a 12.9-inch screen. According to Apple, it will have a 10-hour battery life and a new processing chip that makes it faster than Apple's iPad Air. A full-size keyboard is also available to use with the device. Both products will be released in November.
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