Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Jony Ive talks Apple Pencil, calls other tools ‘poor representation of the analog world’

Alongside iPad Pro, Apple revealed a new tool to accompany the device, the Apple Pencil. While Apple Pencil has been hard to come by in terms of availability, those who have managed to get their hands on one have seemingly been impressed with the $99 Jony Ive-deisgned accessory. Now Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, has sat down with Wallpaper Magazine and The Telegraph to discuss his inspiration to make Apple Pencil…

One big thing Ive made sure to note during his interview with Wallpaper Magazine was that the Apple Pencil is not meant to replace the finger as the main input device of the iPad Pro. Apple Pencil is meant to accompany the finger as an input device used when a user is “exclusively making marks.”

I think there’s a potential to confuse the role of the Pencil with the role of your finger in iOS, and I actually think it’s very clear the Pencil is for making marks, and the finger is a fundamental point of interface for everything within the operating system. And those are two very different activities with two very different goals. The traditional pencil could have been replaced by a dish of powdered charcoal, which you dipped your finger into to make marks with. And that didn’t happen.

Regarding the name of Apple Pencil, Ive explained how me felt the word pencil better exemplified Apple’s goal than “stylus” or “pen” did. Ive noted of how everyone associates the word “stylus” with technology, whereas they associate pencil with the very simple and analogue idea of tasks like painting and drawing.

I like the name Pencil much more than stylus because stylus seems a product that’s about technology. Pencil, to me, seems very analogue in its association. But what is challenging is that it will become many things. There’s an incredible painting app and very powerful drawing apps. For some people it will be a graphic instrument and to others it will be a fountain pen. One of the technologies within the Pencil means that as well as detecting pressure, we are also detecting the angle of the pencil.

Ive’s comments on the use cases and name of Apple Pencil really explemify how the company doesn’t believe it went against Steve Jobs’ early saying of never needing a stylus to use an iOS device when he introduced the original iPhone in 2007.  Apple really believes that its Pencil tool is far more than just a stylus.

Ive also was sure to point out that while the design of Apple Pencil is simple, there’s a lot going on inside the device to give it the ability to do what it can do. One thing Ive said he was proud of was the device’s charging capability. Often mocked, Apple Pencil can be charged by simply being plugged into the Lightning port of the iPad Pro:

And one thing that I was excited about is the ease of charging. If you are in the middle of drawing something, you can easily just plug it into the iPad Pro and it recharges extremely fast. Just that alone, having the very fast recharge, was an important attribute so that you could work with confidence and not feel that you would have to manage a number of battery lives. I think you relax knowing whatever happens, you can very quickly recharge it.

This comment specifically shows how Ive really believes that Apple knows what the consumer wants more than the consumer knows what he or she wants. Charging the Apple Pencil by plugging it in to iPad Pro was slammed when the device was originally announced, but Ive still stands by the notion that it’s the best way to charge the accessory.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Ive explained of how Apple Pencil has led many on his design team to start using iPad to sketch. Ive told of how his team has almost exclusively used paper and pencil to sketch in the past, but the combination of iPad Pro and Apple Pencil is leading some to change their habits. This, Ive said, is due in large part to every other stylus being a “pretty poor representation of the analogue world.”

“Many of us in the design team have worked together for 20 plus years. We’ve always drawn in our sketchbooks, and for the first time – despite flirting with some alternatives a couple of years ago – I’m seeing people starting to use the iPad and Apple Pencil. Our personal experience has been that there are definitely affordances and opportunities now that you have a much more natural and intuitive environment to make marks, there are clearly things you can do sketching and writing on the iPad which you could never dream of doing in the analogue world.”

To get the most out of Apple Pencil and iPad Pro, Ive encourages users to just “start drawing.” The Apple executive believes that until you start using something with a sense of carelessness, you won’t get the most out of it. You have to stop thinking about what you’re doing and just draw.

“I always like when you start to use something with a little less reverence. You start to use it a little carelessly, and with a little less thought, because then, I think, you’re using it very naturally. What I’ve enjoyed is when I’m just thinking, holding the Pencil as I would my pen with a sketchpad and I just start drawing.

When you start to realise you’re doing that without great intent and you’re just using it for the tool that it is, you realise that you’ve crossed over from demoing it and you’re actually starting to use it. As you cross that line, that’s when it actually feels the most powerful.”

Ive’s comments on Apple Pencil show just how much Apple is buying into the idea that iPad Pro truly is the best device for the creative professional. Ive makes it clear that Apple worked hard to perfect the features of Apple Pencil, like palm rejection, pressure sensing, and angle sensing.

Of course, Apple Pencil is still very hard to find. The accessory is listed as shipping 4-5 weeks after you purchase, with Apple Stores only getting random shipments of it. In the meantime, check out Zac’s hands-on with Apple Pencil here, as we was lucky enough to win the Pencil lottery.

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