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Apple Patent Reimagines MacBook With Apple Pencil Replacing Function Row

Apple has reportedly applied for a revamped patent that would support an Apple Pencil mounted above the MacBook keyboard. The claims include the ability to magnetically retain or secure the Pencil when it is placed the storage area and use the pencil as function keys while housed in the chassis. The patent, which the company first applied for last year, imagines the Pencil as a replacement for the function keys row. There’s no word from Apple on plans to incorporate the technology in upcoming MacBook models.

According to a report by Patently Apple, the Cupertino giant has added 20 new patent claims to the invention, as part of continuation patent number 20220171474. The patent explains that the input tool could be stored in a recess of the keyboard housing or the chassis, and that the application is a continuation of Apple’s 2020 patent application for a “Mountable tool computer input”.

apple macbook pencil patent 20220171474 patentlyapple apple macbook  apple pencil

Apple’s patent application suggests the compant could use the Pencil as an input tool when it is housed in the chassis
Photo Credit: Patently Apple

With the newly filed patent continuation application, Apple has illustrated a system where the Apple Pencil can be stowed away in a retainer, or along the chassis of the MacBook. While the company’s latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models got rid of the Touch Bar in favour of function keys, the application says that the retainer can support a high-end lighting system, to allow the Pencil to replace the function-key row on the MacBook.

In its patent application, the Cupertino company has envisioned an input tool whose rotation can be measured and tracked as user input. For example, rolling the input tool (like an Apple Pencil) could perform actions like scrolling, zooming or adjusting size. This is shown in the third figure in Apple’s application. Meanwhile, figure 11 suggests the Apple Pencil could be illuminated when placed in the recess to show function keys, system function controls, application settings, and more.

While Apple releases tablets with touchscreen and Apple Pencil support, there’s no word on whether the Cupertino company will actually add touchscreen or Apple Pencil support on the MacBook. As is the case with many patents filed by companies like Google and Apple, there is no guarantee that the stylus-centric design for input on will make its way to Apple’s MacBook models in the future.


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss iPhone 13, new iPad and iPad mini, and Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean to the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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