It’s a time of significant change within Apple; the company announces new models, cuts old ties, and introduces new design changes that secure its trendsetting position on the market of consumer electronics.
The company recently introduced new MacBook laptop models featuring its proprietary Apple Silicon chips and entirely new form factors. Additionally, the new and redesigned Mac Mini models will also feature the aforementioned chips, replacing old Intel-based models while simultaneously hinting at Apple’s suspension of cooperation with Intel.
Another potential novelty is an emerging design patent, which shows MacBook featuring a new input device, namely the Apple Pencil.
This could be signaling Touch Bar’s exit in favor of Apple Pencil integration, as the images accompanying the patent clearly show the Pencil docked within the keyboard.
However, Apple might still decide to keep the deceptively useful tool such as Touch Bar, but in a smaller, more discreet form on future MacBook Pro models.
Admittedly, patent images are usually just schematic representations that only suggest what physical implementations might look like. They’re still far away from an actual finished product, which, by the end of production, might not even look like the initial concepts suggested. However, some fan-made concept designs draw inspiration from the patent images and arranged things a bit differently.
For example, according to those concepts, the Apple Pencil could sit docked in an area that replaces most of the Touch Bar. In that case, Apple could reduce the size of the Touch Bar and optimize it for use with the Apple Pencil.
Another option that wouldn’t prompt Apple to decommission the Touch Bar is to dock the Apple Pencil somewhere on the sides of future Mac models. This design is best depicted in Samsung’s original Galaxy Chromebook, which happened to have its price recently cut by $300.
The stylus (Samsung’s pen) on the Galaxy Chromebook is stored in a built-in silo. By activating the built-in mechanical switch, the Galaxy Chromebook stylus pops right out, ready to use. Apple could employ such a design, thus preserving the Touch Bar where it rightfully sits, replacing the Function keys.
Something that isn’t highlighted in the patent documentation, but is a highly probable option, is the Apple Pencil’s dual-use. It could be used to operate the display of the MacBook Pro and the aforementioned mini Touch Bar. But it could also be used to replace the Function keys, seeing how its purported docking options eliminate the Touch Bar, through which users had access to Function keys in the first place.
For this to happen, Apple would have to either introduce gestures or high-end lighting systems. Most users are already acquainted with the former, as most of us use gestures on our smartphones.
Supposedly Apple integrates this option into the touchpad, controlling the display setting, volume adjustments, and other options. The latter, however, sits more in line with Apple’s reputation for innovative design.
A high-end lighting system would be built into the Apple Pencil retainer, wherein the Pencil replaces the top F-key row. The system would have the Function key symbols illuminated on the Apple Pencil, with full functionality.
Obviously, all of the above is nothing more than speculation regarding the first patent draft. Apple could very well change or even abandon the whole design by the time it introduces the next MacBook Pro.
So, take these ideas and information with a grain of salt, as this is not the first time Apple has foregone an announced project, let alone one that’s still in its inception.