It's a shame the new iPad Pro 2021 won't have this patented Apple Pencil 3 feature

We're not getting a new Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro 2021, and this patent shows what we're missing out on

Apple iPad Pro 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple announced its new iPad Pro (2021) last week, along with the Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021) and Apple AirTags, but there was one thing we expected from the announcement but didn't get: an Apple Pencil 3.

There were image leaks of a new Apple Pencil leading up to the event, but Apple had nothing to say on the matter – and the launch of a new iPad Pro seems like it could be the perfect time to introduce a new model, of course. But perhaps it was just a bit early, because now Patently Apple has unearthed a patent from Apple describing a new feature for a next-gen Apple Pencil.

It describes a new touch gesture you can perform on the Apple Pencil, called a 'Slide'. It's exactly what it sounds like: you'd be able to slide your finger up and down a portion of the Apple Pencil to tweak a setting in an app – the patent gives 'Increase Opacity Level' and 'Decrease Thickness Level' as examples.

Apple's patent includes a panel showing a menu for controlling what this gesture does alongside a menu for the existing ability to 'double tap' the Apple Pencil 2 to switch tools.

Apple Pencil 3 slide patent

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Apple has always unveiled its Pencil models right with an iPad that's designed to work with them, and that iPad has been a Pro both times, so we might be waiting for 2022 to this new model in action.

The previous leaked images of the Apple Pencil 3 suggest a design very similar to the current Apple Pencil 2, but with a glossy finish instead of a matt finish. We hope this might mean it's backwards compatible with previous iPads – so perhaps the 2021 version and even the iPad Pro (2020) and iPad Air (2020) will be able to benefit from whatever upgrades the Apple Pencil brings, whether that's a slide gesture alone or any other benefits.

If it is compatible with any flat-edged iPad, it might actually mean the new Pencil gets launched alone some time in the future away from the launch of a new iPad, because people can just buy one to upgrade to whenever they want.

It's possible it might even launch at Apple's WWDC event in June alongside iPadOS 15 – with the new software perhaps key to enabling the new slide feature – though it seems unlikely to us that Apple would launch it so close to the iPad Pro itself, but not with the iPad Pro.

Perhaps it'll appear later in the year, which is when we think we might see AirPods 3. It might be a glossy white Christmas for Apple-loving creatives…

Matthew Bolton
Matthew Bolton

Matthew runs T3's magazine side putting the best gadgets in ink every month, having worked across on many tech mags over the last decade. He's also our resident Apple expert, and you absolutely should not get him started about Lego or board games unless you have a free afternoon and endless patience.