Apple Pencil 2 for iPad Pro could supercharge the stylus

New iPad Pro tablets may be the headline news for Apple's big event this week, but the surprise star of the October 30 show may be an Apple Pencil 2. An updated, significantly upgraded version of Apple's stylus is also believed to be on the cards, significantly expanding on functionality in the process.

The current Apple Pencil was launched alongside the iPad Pro back in late 2015. A $99 accessory for the tablet, it recognizes pressure and the angle at which the nib is placed against the tablets' touchscreen. It also charges in a fairly unusual way, with a Lightning plug at the end.

As for the Apple Pencil 2, details of the updated stylus had been in fairly short supply. However, thanks to some digging through code over the past couple of days, signs of the hardware and software changes we can expect at Apple's event in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow have been previewed.

Developer Guilherme Rambo kicked things off with suggestions that the new stylus would recognize gestures, potentially using touch-sensitive strokes along the barrel of the pen. "The user will be able to change stroke properties by sliding along the sides of the pencil," he tweeted. Rambo also indicated that the Apple Pencil 2 would have model number B332.

Following that, developer Steve Troughton-Smith added some details of his own. The slide gesture would "let you change brush size & color on the fly" he suggested on Twitter, though his prediction for the hardware is a little less exciting. "The way I figure," he predicted, "the new Pencil will have a button of some sort on the side that when you hold down you can perform gestures with the Pencil – tap, double tap, or swipe."

Troughton-Smith even goes so far as to suggest some of the iOS code that developers of art apps making use of the Apple Pencil might want to consider implementing, to be ready for the Apple Pencil 2. That includes a "didSlide:Phase" method, which could refer to this sliding gesture.

Side controls on digital styluses aren't new, of course. The Wacom-based S Pen that Samsung uses on its Galaxy Note 9, for instance, has a barrel-mounted button that can be used to trigger a radial menu of shortcuts as well as other features. Microsoft's Surface Pen, too, has a side button – along with a clickable "eraser" at the end – which can trigger the equivalent of a right-click when held down and the pen is tapped on the screen.

Apple's stylus, though, uses a different technology. It pairs with the iPad Pro via Bluetooth, communicating wirelessly that way. That could give Apple much more flexibility in how any extra hardware controls are integrated with iOS.

We won't have long to wait to find out. Apple is expected to unveil new iPad Pro models tomorrow, October 30, with minimal bezels and the Face ID security system from the iPhone XS. The new tablets will also do away with the home button, so the leaks suggest, with Apple using gesture-based navigation instead.