Forget the iPad — it's the iPhone 16 Pro that needs Apple Pencil 3 support

Apple Pencil 2023
(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple holds its Let Loose event on May 7, we're not just expecting to see new iPads. There's also a pretty good chance that a new version of the Apple Pencil is going to make an appearance as well.

Assuming Apple finds the time to show off the Apple Pencil 3 alongside rumored updates like the iPad Pro 2024 and the iPad Air 2024, I hope that the new stylus offers more than just tablet support. It's time for the Apple Pencil to finally start working with Apple's iPhones — some of the new iPhone 16 models Apple is planning for the fall, specifically.

Such a sentiment is likely anathema around the Apple campus. "Who wants a stylus?" demanded Steve Jobs when introducing the iPhone back in 2007. "You have to get them and put them away and you lose them. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus."

That may have been true 17 years ago, especially when Apple was trying to convince everyone that a touchscreen was the way to go, even when it came to keyboards. But these days, there's plenty of reason for phones to have a stylus, especially now that screen sizes have almost doubled from the original iPhone's 3.5-inch display.

What's up with the Apple Pencil 3?

All this Apple Pencil 3 speculation stems from a report earlier this month that a new Apple Pencil was in the works, followed by a teaser tweet from Apple CEO Tim Cook. "Pencil us in for May 7!" Cook posted to X, along with a pencil emoji, which seems as good a clue as any that the new iPads are going to have some company at the Let Loose event.

The Apple Pencil 2 came out six years ago, with a USB-C version arriving last year. While it's true that there's only so much you can add to a stylus — hence, the long gap between Apple Pencil updates — Apple Pencil 3 rumors suggest a pressure-based feature in which you'll be able to squeeze or press down on the stylus to trigger shortcuts to actions like adding text, shapes or signatures.

But I can think of another feature that might be good to add to an Apple Pencil — iPhone compatibility.

Why the iPhone Pro needs a stylus

Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Future)

That's especially true with the iPhone 16 Pro models expected for later in the year. We've heard that both the smaller Pro and the larger Pro Max models will get bigger screens than the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Pro Max offer. Specifically, the iPhone 16 Pro is tipped to get a 6.3-inch panel, while the screen on the iPhone 16 Pro Max could grow to 6.9 inches.

That extra screen space comes in handy for a lot of things, not the least of which are productivity tasks. Whether it's note-taking, sketching or photo editing, you can perform those tasks more easily on bigger displays. Not coincidentally, those are also tasks where a stylus can lend a helping hand, giving you finer control that what you might enjoy with a mere finger.

You only have to look at the Galaxy S24 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 5 if you want to see what a stylus can do for a big-screen device. (Or if you want to go back even further, you could include the old Galaxy Note lineup that introduced the world to Samsung's stylus.) Owners of those phone can use an S Pen to jot down notes without even having to wake up the phone, annotate PDFs and more easily select things on their phones displays. There are translation tools, too, and if you've got the Bluetooth Low Energy-friendly stylus, you can use it as a remote control for music or presentations or for clicking the camera shutter. All of those tools are missing from the iPhone.

Apple Pencil 3 outlook

None of this is to say that the next Apple Pencil is going to work with the iPhone 16 Pro models, even if such a move would make sense and fit in with Apple's recent desire to make its Pro phones stand out from the standard iPhone. Old habits die hard in Cupertino as much as anywhere else, and we haven't heard any rumors suggesting Apple is about to reverse a decade-and-a-half of thinking about what devices do and don't merit a stylus.

While it's not probable, though, Apple Pencil support for the iPhone is certainly sensible. And as phone screens in size so will the need for a stylus that makes the most of that extra real estate.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • Kyracus
    If I have an iPhone and and iPad right in front of me I would use the Apple Pencil more than 90% of the time with the iPad since the screen is larger and has the charging capability directly with the iPad. Why would I want to carry around a Pencil to use with an iPhone? There is no gain at all with that added functionality.
    Reply
  • zdanee
    As someone who had used phones with styluses ever since the Nokia 5800xm I can confidently tell you that unless the stylus is stored within the phone or it's case you are never going to take the effort to take it out from your bag and use it.
    Reply