iPadOS 16.4 gives Apple Pencil's hover feature a huge upgrade

iPad Pro 2022
(Image credit: Apple)

A new iPadOS 16.4 addition has upgraded the existing Apple Pencil hover feature, making for improved previewing capabilities.

Apple recently released iPadOS 16.4 alongside other software updates including iOS 16.4. And while there were some features mentioned in the release notes, one slipped through. Now one Apple exec has lifted the lit on what the upgraded hover support actually means.

In short, it makes the Apple Pencil even cooler than it already was — so long as you have an M2 iPad Pro, that is.

Apple Pencil previews

In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s Director of Input Experience Leslie Ikemoto explained the magic of the hover feature.

According to them, the iPad knows where the Apple Pencil's tip is whenever it's placed within 12mm of the surface. That's why you need the best iPad that Apple makes — it needs the M2 chip inside.

“The pencil is emitting signals that the iPad is then interpreting and figuring out the location of the tip of the Pencil in 3D and the angle which it’s being held at,” Ikemoto said.

With the arrival of iPadOS 16.4, the hover feature gained support for Tilt and Azimuth. The result is that the iPad Pro now knows what angle the Apple Pencil is being held at, so it can show a preview of what a stroke will look like even before it's made.

As for Azimuth, that's "the direction of a celestial object from the observer, expressed as the angular distance from the north or south point of the horizon to the point at which a vertical circle passing through the object intersects the horizon." At least, according to the Oxford Languages dictionary entry picked out by TechCrunch.

That might not clear things up all that much, but the end result is the same — the Apple Pencil has gained even better hover powers.

“If you look at Procreate, they have the pencil brush, which is small and thin when you’re perpendicular to the display, and then gets wider as you Tilt for shading,” says Ikemoto. With iPadOS 16.4 installed the app can show exactly what will happen when the Apple Penci's tip hits the glass.

You can download iPadOS 16.4 right now, while iOS 16.4, macOS 13.3, watchOS 9.4, and tvOS 16.4 are all also available for download.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.