Apple Pencil could get radical new functions for MacBooks

For years, there has been speculation about whether Apple will finally make a touchscreen MacBook. Touchscreen laptops and 2-in-1 devices have become popular again in recent years, and most of the big manufacturers have jumped on the trend. 

Like with folding phones, Apple has remained above the trend, apparently preferring to focus on areas where it can innovate (e.g., the Vision Pro) rather than adopt features used by competitors. But a new patent filing suggests that it's at least considering the intriguing possibility of a touchscreen MacBook with Apple Pencil support.

An image of a MacBook and Apple Pencil from an Apple patent filing

The figure shows how an Apple Pencil could sit in the keyboard chassis or be used as a stylus (Image credit: Apple)

As reported by Patently Apple,  the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a new patent that appears to describe a MacBook with a built-in Apple Pencil holder above the keyboard. But it's an Apple Pencil with a twist, since it would have a display that could replace the laptop function keys.

Sound bizarre? It's a novel idea. The image might look not unlike the way the Microsoft Surface Pro Type Cover has a recess to accommodate its Surface Slim Pen. But crucially, Apple's stylus would would serve two different kinds of input roles. It could be used as pencil when removed from the chassis but also used as simulated keyboard keys, a touch pad or a mechanical input interface when stowed.

In this sense, patent US-11893171-B2 leaves open several possibilities for the functioning of the pencil. Its outer surfaces could be tap, touch, or press-sensitive whether or not it is mounted on the laptop. When mounted in the chassis, it could be used to replicate F keys, to change keyboard function settings or to activate a key that's missing from the keyboard itself. It could also have a display to show information to the user, thus performing some of the functions of a second touch screen while also serving as a stylus.

An image of a MacBook and Apple Pencil from an Apple patent filing

This figure shows how an Apple Pencil-like device would sit in the chassis of a MacBook above the keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

As always, there is no certainty that Apple is working on the device described in the patent filing. Patents are sometimes filed merely to protect an idea from being used by a competitor. However, with Apple still lacking a touchscreen device with a desktop operating system, many will be hoping that this is a sign that a touchscreen MacBook could be on the way.

For deals on Apple's current lineup of laptops, see our guide to the best MacBook Pro M3 prices or see the best prices in your region below.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.