The controversial Touch Bar could return with Apple Pencil support

Apple dumped the controversial Touch Bar with the introduction of the 2021 MacBook Pros. However, it could return — on laptops and as a standalone keyboard — with support for the Apple Pencil.

Apple has been granted a patent (number 11,275,455) for “mountable tool computer input” that hints at such a device. This, of course, also hints at some sort of Apple Pencil support for the Mac.

About the patent filing

Apple says the patent filing involves input devices incorporating a stylus that’s removably mounted to a keyboard or similar device. The tech giant notes that a variety of handheld input devices are used to detect user input. For example, a stylus is often used to provide input by contacting a digitizer or touch-sensitive panel of an electronic device. Typically, a user can move one or more input devices, such as a stylus, across the touch panel in a pattern that the device translates into an input command. Some styluses can be touch- and force-sensitive to provide writing or drawing input to the electronic device. Functions of the stylus or electronic device can also be remotely controlled by interacting with a sensor on the stylus while the stylus is handheld. 

This image shows a perspective view of a lower housing of a computing device and a design that could hold an Apple Pencil.

Apple has repeatedly said there was little need for touch interfaces on a Mac. The company may have no plans for such products, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t experiment with them in their labs. Apple has been granted: a patent (number 11,221,752)  for “character recognition on a  computer device”; a patent (number 10,963,117) for a “configurable force-sensitive input structure for electronic devices”; a patent (number 10,915,143) for “systems and methods for customizing display modes for a touch-sensitive secondary display.” I; and others.

Summary of the patent filing

Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing with tech details: “Computing systems and input devices can include a chassis with a computing device and an input tool with a sensor, such as a pen- or rod-like input tool [that would be the Apple Pencil], that can be positioned relative to the chassis in multiple configurations. In one configuration, the tool can be spaced away from the chassis and its sensor output can cause a first output signal in response to input provided to the sensor. 

“In another configuration, the tool can be contacting the chassis and its sensor output can cause a second output signal in response to input provided to the sensor. For example, an input tool can be stowed in a recess of a keyboard housing or device chassis, and the input tool can produce a first output when it is in the recess and a second input when it has been removed from the chassis.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.