Why Apple Pencil Needs to Exist

Yesterday, Apple announced it’s fall lineup. All items except two were revisions of previously released technology. The new technology released was the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil has created a small uproar.

The fanboys are revolting. This is not the Apple they have grown to love. This is not the Apple that innovates everything and makes their lives much simpler in a beautiful way. The Apple Pencil doesn’t seem like innovation. It feels like Apple is trolling.

Someone created a meme yesterday with Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone asking the question, “Who wants a stylus?” This picture is juxtaposition against a photo of the Apple Pencil announcement.

By creating a stylus, Apple has confused their fanboys. The fanboys are asking, “Has Apple lost it’s way”?

Great Technology is Hard

Johnny Ive announced this product video yesterday. Although it’s a creation of marketing, [the video explains][apple-pencil-video] how much time went into creating the Pencil.

If you watch the video and think styluses are crap and this will be crap too. Congrats. You just committed the fallacy of composition.

You aren’t wrong. The styluses of the past have been complete crap. Previous styluses don’t integrate with the device they are “writing” on. There is no feedback loop. The Apple Pencil, however, has a feedback loop. The iPad can send pressure information back to the stylus. Apple can do some pretty cool stuff with this.

Apple has a great track record of taking existing product offerings and turning them into industry leaders. The iPod was not the first digital music player and many speculated at its announcement that releasing the iPod was the death knell for Apple. It wasn’t. The iPod transformed Apple from a Wall Street loser to its golden child.

Apple makes things seem easy when they aren’t. Society has grown accustomed to how easy technology is. We forget how much time and energy goes into making products easy to use.

As an aside: I purchased a Kevo for my home. Kevo’s elevator pitch is simple: Rather than using a key to unlock the door, what if you could use your phone. When you touch Kevo and it detects your phone Kevo unlocks the door.

This seems like an easy piece of tech. What I just described seems like any engineer would be able to make an elegant solution. After using the lock for a year, I understand how making technology seem simple is hard. The lock has constant issues.

Apple makes other companies believe they can build intuitive and simple products too. Society is in Steve Jobs’ (now Apple’s) Reality Distortion Field.

Humans Want Fine Granular Control

From an anthropological perspective, we have always used our fingers. When humans created cave paintings, we used our hands and our fingers. What separates humans from animals is the ability for us to use these small phalanges to create. Evolution has designed our brains to intuitively know how to use our fingers.

Here is a thought exercise: What would the physical size of a novel — over 40,000 words — be if the author only used his fingers to write the words? I believe early engineers created writing devices to make their creations (writing and art) portable.

Using a device to have fine control over what we create is a learned skill. A skill which is new comparative to human history. In the grand scheme of humanity, we are more accustomed to writing using our fingers than an external device. Which did you use first to create a picture for mom and dad: Crayons or finger paint?

I don’t know if Apple had these thoughts when creating the iPad. But, the iPad opened our eyes to using our fingers to create again, rather than an external device.

However, we yearn for fine control. Anyone who has tried to do a sketch with their finger on an iPad knows how hard it is.

Thus, a device for fine grain control is an inevitability. A writing instrument is something that we can’t escape from. We want that level of control for things we create. The Apple Pencil will sell well. Future Technologists will look back at the Apple Pencil the way we look back at the iPod today.

Originally published at bretthard.in on September 10, 2015.

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