Apple Pencil 3: Everything you need to know

An Apple Pencil being used with an iPad screen with Apple Pencil 3 written next to it
(Image credit: Future)

Can you imagine Steve Jobs ever launching an Apple Pencil 3?

Famously, Jobs once said “over my dead body”, at the idea of bringing a stylus to the iPhone and iPad. “You have to get 'em, put 'em away, you lose 'em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let's not use a stylus." We hate to say it but Jobs may have been wrong if millions of sales and two generations of Apple Pencil is anything to go by.

Our fingers might be adept at prodding buttons and swiping through screens but when it comes to precision, the Apple Pencil and a stylus cannot be beaten.

The Apple Pencil remains immensely popular but it's been five years since we saw the release of the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. In that time, many iPad generations have come and gone yet there's still no new Apple Pencil for better sketching. While we're pleased to see the best iPad lineup grow, where's our new Apple Pencil?

If you're wondering what the chances of an Apple Pencil 3 launch are, and pondering what new tricks it could offer artists and their beloved iPads, we're here to help. We've seen plenty of leaks, rumors, and patent applications, so the chances of a new one eventually arriving are pretty high. While it may not be next week or at the imminent iPhone 15 event, we're holding out hopes for a vague 'soon'. Here's what you might be able to expect.

Apple Pencil laying beside wooden pencils.

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Apple Pencil 3 design and rumored features

Apple Pencil 3: what to expect

Any signs of Apple Pencil 3 leaks have been fairly few and far between. It's unlikely we'll see many hints from Apple about the potential device either, even though we're hopeful it's currently in development.

One reassuring sign is that Apple regularly files patent applications so it can protect its new inventions and plans from imitators and infringement. These are made public after a time and while they may not be a guarantee of what you'll see in final consumer products, they often give a good indication of what Apple is thinking of releasing. 

For the Apple Pencil, this is great news as Apple has filed a ton of patents to do with it. We took a look at the pick of the bunch, and you can soon see how an Apple Pencil 3 is forming from these. Compared to some more puzzling patent applications, the following examples offer up some genuinely useful benefits.

Find My functionality
Ever lost your Apple Pencil down the back of the sofa? A newly uncovered Apple Pencil patent points to the third-generation Apple Pencil model having built-in Find My functionality — the tracking service Apple uses to help its customers locate missing devices like AirPods.

Instead of using the ultra-wide band capabilities of the U1 chip that you see in devices like the AirPods however, the patent suggests that the Apple Pencil could use acoustic resonators to make the device more easily found. It could emit a noise that would be heard by your iPhone or iPad, allowing you to help track it down more easily. 

There's a downside, of course. You still need the Apple Pencil to be close to your other devices so it can be heard. Any far away pencil is going to be lost forever or found the traditional way of poking around a lot. For those moments where you can't remember what bag or drawer you left the pencil in, the patent paints a bright future for Apple Pencil 3's more absent-minded owners.

Vibrating feedback
In June of 2022, Patently Apple highlighted two new patents Apple had been awarded, both relating to a stylus device. The first of these was entitled ‘Touch-based input device with haptic feedback’. It described what sounded like an Apple Pencil that could provide haptic feedback based on what the user was doing with it. One example suggested when a user selected a different brush in an app, the Pencil could buzz or vibrate.

Apple Pencil patent showing touch controls.

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPod style buttons
The same patent also demonstrated a 'user grip region of the housing [as] deformable'. That means it's squeezy. The idea is that it could act as a button to change functions. If you've used the AirPods Pro 2, you'll know what we mean. The earbuds' stem can be squeezed to activate noise-cancelling features. 

Such a section could also be touch-sensitive so, for instance, one could drag their finger up the Pencil's edge to change brush size or adjust zoom levels.

The Pantone Color guide

(Image credit: Pantone)

Color and texture sampling
A different patent described a potential feature that would be very useful to artists keen to be more creative. The patent describes a light sensor and light emitter (not dissimilar to a camera and accompanying processing unit) that could be built into an Apple Pencil 3. It would allow the user to sample colors and textures from surfaces around them to gain inspiration from their surroundings. Spot a wood grain nearby that you want to copy, and you could do so by placing the Pencil near it to copy the pattern and tone. It's a feature that would mirror similar functionality to that which we've seen through dedicated devices like the Nix Mini 3 Color Sensor.

Rotating ‘Digital Crown’ cap control
Yes, it's another rumored feature that's seemingly been cherry picked from another Apple device. Yet another patent suggests that Apple could plan on integrating a rotating controller, not unlike the Apple Watch Digital Crown. Through it, users could cycle through menus, allowing for a quick change of brush type or color. You can see what that might look like in the render video above by artist Sarang Sheth.

Apple Pencil replacement tips

(Image credit: Apple)

Interchangeable nibs with different properties
Regular users of Apple Pencils will know that the nibs of the stylus wear down and need replacing after a time. A patent published back in 2017 suggests that Apple might be looking to offer interchangeable nibs that suit different purposes and needs. It could mean nibs that offer a different shape or thickness, as well as the ability to mirror different hardness values of traditional pencils. Of course, it would be a key opportunity for Apple to sell accessories for accessories.

A patent for an Apple stylus showing potential motion sensing.

(Image credit: Apple)

VR controller
We know the Apple Vision Pro is set to revolutionize VR and AR technology. Another patent suggests that the Apple Pencil could be involved.

It suggests that Apple is considering using any eventual Apple Pencil 3 as a VR controller. Sensors in both the Pencil and VR headset could work together to track the stylus in 3D space. From there, it would convert its movements into input in a virtual reality environment. With VR art growing in popularity, Apple would be creating an accurate control method for related applications this way.

However, one video on Twitter has already demonstrated that may not necessarily be as vital as one would think, with users' hands working very well to sketch out designs. 

A patent for an Apple stylus showing potential 3D depth sensing.

(Image credit: Apple)

3D object creation
Many 3D artists are already using the Apple Pencil so this patent could be particularly interesting for them. A 2020 patent spotted by Apple World Today describes how future Apple Pencils could understand depth in 3D space, leading to devising co-ordinates for real-world objects, before recreating them as three-dimensional models in applications. The positioning data could be calculated using acceleration and contact. It could work well alongside the sensors that work for color and texture sampling, as we've seen above, or in a VR context too.

A cheaper Apple ‘Marker’ Pencil 3 alternative?

With the Apple Pencil only working with specific iPads, predictably there have been rumors about the chance of an Apple Pencil designed specifically for iPhone. It was originally rumored to launch alongside the iPhone 14 line with a codename 'Marker' but it didn't emerge. It was expected to be significantly cheaper by dropping certain features like pressure sensitivity and a built-in battery. 

Intending to be powered by the screen it was touching, like the Samsung Galaxy range's S-Pen, it never actually arrived. Anyone hoping to add it onto their iPhone 14 Pro purchase didn't get the chance, and the validity of the rumor was cast into doubt.

Could we see it emerge at the same time as an iPhone 15? Don't count on it. No new information has appeared since the past rumors.

Apple Pencil 3 release date expectations

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Apple is actively working on an Apple Pencil 3rd generation but the drip-feed of leaks and rumors suggests a launch won't be happening any time soon. It could be that we'll need to wait for M3-equipped iPad Pro tablets, which seem likely to arrive in their annual Q3 slot for 2023. Even launching at the same time as the Vision Pro headset feels unlikely. 

Still, we're ever hopeful for some news emerging by the end of 2023 or in the coming 12 months. Potentially once M3 chipsets have matured.

Apple Pencil 1 and 2 side by side on top of a red background.

(Image credit: iMore)

Apple Pencil 3 pricing — what to expect

While the Apple Pencil 3 may not have been released yet, we can get a rough ballpark price range for it based on previous generations.

The first generation Apple Pencil costs $99, while the second generation Apple Pencil 2 is $129. Neither has seen an official price drop since launch, with even the first generation remaining the same price and available to assist 10-inch iPad 2022 owners. 

That means we'd expect to see $129 be the lowest price for the Apple Pencil 3, however with potential extra complexity for the device and a few years of inflation to factor in, it could cost more. We'd be ready to anticipate it hitting $150 for pro-level users if some of the rumors of functionality are true. That would leave the second generation pen available as a 'cheaper' alternative.

Why the Apple Pencil 3 has to happen

The Apple Pencil 2 is a great stylus with no third-party alternative able to beat it just yet. Outside of sitting at a dedicated graphics tablet at your desk, it's about as good a digital writing or sketching experience you can get. Add on one of the note-taking apps for iPad and Apple Pencil or one of the best drawing apps for iPad and you can't go wrong.

iPadOS in close up to show the Apple Pencil charging prompt.

(Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

In many ways, it's not so much that the Apple Pencil needs to evolve, but that people need a reason to buy a new iPad. The latest iPads are overpowered compared to the needs of many thanks to running the same chipsets as entry-level Macs, all while using an operating system and app library that's much less demanding.

However, an Apple Pencil 3 could theoretically ship alongside a future OLED iPad Pro with the pencil able to take advantage of extra M3 or M4 chip horsepower. It would be a tempting upgrade for many, even those less artistically inclined. Don’t be surprised if the next truly exciting iPad update is an Apple Pencil 3 feature instead.

Gerald Lynch
Editor in Chief

Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 14 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. 

Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar,, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews,, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.