iOS 10.3 beta hints at more fluid Apple Pencil with next-gen iPad Pro models

Posted:
in iPad edited March 2017
Code discovered within Apple's latest iOS 10.3 beta shows tools that will allow developers to run their apps at variable framerates, suggesting that higher-fidelity Apple Pencil support could be coming to the company's soon-to-arrive iPad Pro refresh.




With new iPad Pro models expected to arrive in the coming weeks, developer Steven Troughton-Smith revealed on Twitter the changes found in pre-release iOS 10.3 betas. As a result, he said on Wednesday that he is "reasonably convinced" that Apple could introduce new devices with screen refresh rates higher than 60Hz.

As for why Apple would be pursuing these capabilities --?particularly in iOS 10.3, which is set to launch any day now -- a likely explanation would be better better Apple Pencil support for new iPad Pro models.

I remain reasonably convinced that an iOS device screen refresh rate higher than 60Hz is possible this year pic.twitter.com/k9W4q8rxcm

-- Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith)


Current iPad Pro units feature a unique display with a variable refresh rate, which is cut from 60 frames per second to 30 when content is displayed static. Increasing the refresh rate beyond 60 frames per second, on the other hand, would be less power efficient, but could allow for a greater response time when writing and drawing with the Apple Pencil.

Framerates beyond 60Hz would be impossible with current hardware, so the iOS 10.3 code discovered by Troughton-Smith would suggest new devices are needed to take advantage of a refresh rate higher than 60Hz.

The Apple Pencil polls input at an extremely high 240Hz for precision --?much higher than the screen refresh capabilities of the current iPad Pro. It's highly unlikely that Apple would introduce a display with a 240Hz refresh rate, considering how taxing it would be on graphics processing and battery life.

But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.




Beyond the Apple Pencil, it's also possible that Apple could be pursuing higher framerates in iOS devices for augmented reality and virtual reality applications. Faster response times are crucial for AR and VR applications for a more fluid, less headache-inducing experience.

However, Apple isn't expected to play its AR or VR cards until this fall's "iPhone 8" refresh at the earliest, which will likely ship with iOS 11. In the interim, iOS 10.3 betas offer a glimpse of what could be coming in a matter of weeks with new iPads.

Apple introduced a new low-end iPad on Tuesday, priced at $329 and with an A9 processor, with little fanfare. That 9.7-inch device does not have the dynamic display of the iPad Pro, leaving it without Apple Pencil support.

But separately, Apple is rumored to be planning a special event in April where it could introduce new high-end iPad Pro models. Specifically, the company is said to be working on a complete redesign, with a 10.5-inch screen squeezed down to the form factor of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but with smaller bezels.

Another rumor from earlier this year suggested the Apple Pencil hardware could also be getting an upgrade, claiming it will feature built-in magnets to attach to the exterior of an iPad when not in use. It was also said that Apple is looking to add a pocket clip, as with a traditional pen.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,858member
    But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.
    So, 120Hz, or am I missing something with this vague statement that implies that anything between > 60 Hz and < 240 Hz is foreseeable?
  • Reply 2 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,125member
    There's no problem with the refresh rate, the problem is apps/developers cannot prevent accidental input from fingers and palms during Pencil use. Speaking for myself, I seldom break out the Pencil due to the inaccuracies during use, unless I am wearing a glove on one hand to prevent casual unintended input. One possible solution would be to reject all input except for the Pencil.
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 3 of 17
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,595member
    There's no problem with the refresh rate, the problem is apps/developers cannot prevent accidental input from fingers and palms during Pencil use. Speaking for myself, I seldom break out the Pencil due to the inaccuracies during use, unless I am wearing a glove on one hand to prevent casual unintended input. One possible solution would be to reject all input except for the Pencil.
    Or at least offer that as an option.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 4 of 17
    Or at least offer that as an option.
    That option already exists within individual apps. For example, Procreate has an 'Advanced gesture controls' section where you can pick and choose what type of inputs are allowed for the stylus and for touch. It's easy to set it so that it completely ignores any touches other than the stylus for drawing and painting.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    loekfloekf Posts: 36member
    Soli said:
    But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.
    So, 120Hz, or am I missing something with this vague statement that implies that anything between > 60 Hz and < 240 Hz is foreseeable?
    Nyquist.... ?

    60 Hz vs. 240 Hz in the pen means 4x oversampling, actually not a bad choice from a SNR perspective. They probably decided that 4x gives less loise, better response. You need 2x at least (Nyquist).

    Personally I doubt whether a refresh rate of 120 Hz is do-able without changing the pen design. Nice market fragmentation. An iPad Pro with a Pen 2016 model and a iPad Pro 2017 with a Pen 2017 using the same design.....
  • Reply 6 of 17
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,697member
    There's no problem with the refresh rate, the problem is apps/developers cannot prevent accidental input from fingers and palms during Pencil use. Speaking for myself, I seldom break out the Pencil due to the inaccuracies during use, unless I am wearing a glove on one hand to prevent casual unintended input. One possible solution would be to reject all input except for the Pencil.
    I don't have those problems. Palm rejection is pretty good.

    my solution to the "Where do I put this thing?" Problem.


    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 17
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,697member
    loekf said:
    Soli said:
    But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.
    So, 120Hz, or am I missing something with this vague statement that implies that anything between > 60 Hz and < 240 Hz is foreseeable?
    Nyquist.... ?

    60 Hz vs. 240 Hz in the pen means 4x oversampling, actually not a bad choice from a SNR perspective. They probably decided that 4x gives less loise, better response. You need 2x at least (Nyquist).

    Personally I doubt whether a refresh rate of 120 Hz is do-able without changing the pen design. Nice market fragmentation. An iPad Pro with a Pen 2016 model and a iPad Pro 2017 with a Pen 2017 using the same design.....
    Im not so sure the Pencil itself cares at what the refresh rate is. The refresh rate involves the iPad being able to read the Pencil input, and display it properly.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,858member
    loekf said:
    Soli said:
    But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.
    So, 120Hz, or am I missing something with this vague statement that implies that anything between > 60 Hz and < 240 Hz is foreseeable?
    Nyquist.... ?

    60 Hz vs. 240 Hz in the pen means 4x oversampling, actually not a bad choice from a SNR perspective. They probably decided that 4x gives less loise, better response. You need 2x at least (Nyquist).

    Personally I doubt whether a refresh rate of 120 Hz is do-able without changing the pen design. Nice market fragmentation. An iPad Pro with a Pen 2016 model and a iPad Pro 2017 with a Pen 2017 using the same design.....
    I think Melgross is likely correct about Pencil, but man that would suck if it had to be replaced due to technical issues. The bellyaching alone, even though I'd assume that a 2016 Pencil would still work on a 120 Hz iPad Pro, just with a lower accuracy. Still, I hope it isn't an issue because it would both feel kludgy and likely mean they move back the release a bit.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    loekf said:
    [...] Personally I doubt whether a refresh rate of 120 Hz is do-able without changing the pen design. Nice market fragmentation. An iPad Pro with a Pen 2016 model and a iPad Pro 2017 with a Pen 2017 using the same design.....
    One rumor is the magnetic smart dock will be used to store/charge the 2017 pencil (no lightning port).  Pencils would then be different by interchangeable.  and if there are functional differences one could consider that each pencil has a different bluetooth recognition that iOS would see and be able to adjust (or ask the pencil to adjust) accordingly for optimal use
  • Reply 10 of 17
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,697member
    Soli said:
    loekf said:
    Soli said:
    But a bump up in frames over 60Hz, still far less than 240Hz, could give a more responsive and lifelike, pen-and-paper feel for Apple Pencil users.
    So, 120Hz, or am I missing something with this vague statement that implies that anything between > 60 Hz and < 240 Hz is foreseeable?
    Nyquist.... ?

    60 Hz vs. 240 Hz in the pen means 4x oversampling, actually not a bad choice from a SNR perspective. They probably decided that 4x gives less loise, better response. You need 2x at least (Nyquist).

    Personally I doubt whether a refresh rate of 120 Hz is do-able without changing the pen design. Nice market fragmentation. An iPad Pro with a Pen 2016 model and a iPad Pro 2017 with a Pen 2017 using the same design.....
    I think Melgross is likely correct about Pencil, but man that would suck if it had to be replaced due to technical issues. The bellyaching alone, even though I'd assume that a 2016 Pencil would still work on a 120 Hz iPad Pro, just with a lower accuracy. Still, I hope it isn't an issue because it would both feel kludgy and likely mean they move back the release a bit.
    I've been using Wacom tablets since the early 1980's (with my Atari ST, which was THE graphics, music and publishing computer to use), when the 12x18 model cost $1,200, and had no features other than an electrostatic surface to hold paper down, other than the clear soft plastic cover other models used. As generation went on, the models underwent major improvements. Sometimes the older styluses failed to work on the new models, or only worked in the most basic way, as Wacom changed the way the interaction occurred.

    i suppose it depends on whether you're a REAL pro or not. If you are a pro, then you have depreciation on this, so buying a new one isn't a major deal. And if you're earning a fair portion of your income with this, it's just another tool you need to buy. $99 really isn't all that much, after all, if it earns you money.

    if you're just buying it for your amusement, then I understand that you may not want to buy another Pencil. But the Pencil is just about 10% of your investment in a new pro tablet, depending on which one you get. It shouldn't be a deal breaker. If you sell your old tablet, you sell the Pencil with it.

    on the other hand, if they do come out with a new Pencil, and improved specs, it's very possible that the original Pencil will work as it always has. Possibly, if will even work better. Since we know nothing about the details of these designs, we don't know much about the technical portion of the interaction.
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 11 of 17
    I will never forget this.

  • Reply 12 of 17
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,854member
    I would kill for a Pencil that also works with the new MBP's huge trackpad, or the next revision thereof so I can ditch my Wacom.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,697member
    I would kill for a Pencil that also works with the new MBP's huge trackpad, or the next revision thereof so I can ditch my Wacom.
    I don't understand that. That trackpad may seem large, for a trackpad, but it's kind of small for this purpose, don't you think? I've used the tiny 4x5 drawing tablets, and they're fun, but too small for any real precision.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,858member
    melgross said:
    I would kill for a Pencil that also works with the new MBP's huge trackpad, or the next revision thereof so I can ditch my Wacom.
    I don't understand that. That trackpad may seem large, for a trackpad, but it's kind of small for this purpose, don't you think? I've used the tiny 4x5 drawing tablets, and they're fun, but too small for any real precision.
    If they can add the digitizer to the MBP and Magic Trackpad without adding any cost, so those with an Apple Pencil or the very, very few that may need to occasionally use an Apple Pencil on their trackpad, that would be great, but I don't see that as a must have option. I'd rather see them add the digitizer to the display and make it capacitance touch, and I'm very much not in favor of Apple making their display touch-sensitive simply because other PC vendors have gone that route.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    bdkennedy said:
    I will never forget this.


    It would be pretty daft of you to forget this. That is the latest iPad Pro, with the latest Pencil and the latest Smart Case from Apple.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,697member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    I would kill for a Pencil that also works with the new MBP's huge trackpad, or the next revision thereof so I can ditch my Wacom.
    I don't understand that. That trackpad may seem large, for a trackpad, but it's kind of small for this purpose, don't you think? I've used the tiny 4x5 drawing tablets, and they're fun, but too small for any real precision.
    If they can add the digitizer to the MBP and Magic Trackpad without adding any cost, so those with an Apple Pencil or the very, very few that may need to occasionally use an Apple Pencil on their trackpad, that would be great, but I don't see that as a must have option. I'd rather see them add the digitizer to the display and make it capacitance touch, and I'm very much not in favor of Apple making their display touch-sensitive simply because other PC vendors have gone that route.
    There's always a cost to adding something. The question is what is the cost?

    i also disagree with Apple's insistence on not having the screen touch sensitive, and all the rest. But it would add a whopping amount to the sales price.  Maybe they could offer extra cost models with this. But then, they wouldn't get the benefit of scale, so it would cost even more. But I'd like to see some Macbook with my iPad Pro 12.9" screen. That would be something.

    as it is, I often find myself poking the screen of one of my computers without realizing I'm doing it.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,854member
    melgross said:
    I would kill for a Pencil that also works with the new MBP's huge trackpad, or the next revision thereof so I can ditch my Wacom.
    I don't understand that. That trackpad may seem large, for a trackpad, but it's kind of small for this purpose, don't you think? I've used the tiny 4x5 drawing tablets, and they're fun, but too small for any real precision.
    I dunno, the new trackpad on the 15" is pretty huge. 

    I bought a Intuos Pro Medium a while back to replace my old Bamboo after losing its stylus, and honestly it was too big even when using it for both my MBP and 30" ACD mapped on it. I switched to a Small, and still map both displays to it, so the actual usable area for either display is pretty small. I also have always had my Trackpad (and previously, mice) set to the most sensitive setting so I'm not like shuffling my arm around a lot. 

    I guess it depends on how sensitive the Trackpad/Pencil could be, but seems like it'd be doable. Might be too fiddly for Apple though.
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