The Touch Bar is on its way out, an now new reports and concepts are pointing toward an interesting replacement for it: A slot for the Apple Pencil.
According to a new patent published earlier this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple is interested in the idea of the Touch Bar being replaced by a dock or case for Apple Pencil.
The patent shows the Apple Pencil housed in its dock and explains that it could “act as a mouse to move a cursor.” Even more interestingly, the patent describes the Apple Pencil as a feature that could replace the F-key row. This means it could host functional keys that you can interact with right on the side of the stylus.
The patent was initially spotted by Patently Apple, which includes the following statement: “The present invention relates to incorporating an Apple Pencil that is removably mounted to a MacBook keyboard. While the Pencil is in its retainer, it could act as a mouse to move a cursor. Uniquely, a high-end lighting system is built-into the retainer and the Apple Pencil wherein the Pencil can replace the top F-Key row with the functional key symbols illuminated on Apple Pencil with full functionality.”
The patent also would allow Apple to use the side or the bottom of the laptop’s body as possible locations for housing the stylus, as we’ve seen other laptops do.
It’s all interesting, though there’s a rather large elephant in the room. As of now, the Apple Pencil works exclusively with iPads. MacBooks famously don’t have touchscreens, meaning a lot would have to change for this to make sense.
Patents, of course, aren’t proof that Apple has actually developed any of these ideas into possible product designs.
Inspired by the patent, designer Sarang Sheth brought the imagined concept to life in some 3D images. The images show how the Apple Pencil could slot easily into the space where the function row used to be. Interestingly, these concepts also keep a smaller version of the Touch Bar for quick access to Siri and other useful apps.
The imagined concept of the new MacBook Pro looks very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro X released in 2019, It features a Surface Slim Pen that is stored and charged in a built-in stylus dock that runs along the top deck of the laptop.