The recently announced Sony Xperia Z Ultra is an interesting device in many ways. The most interesting feature for me is the ability to use pencils and metal tipped pens as styluses for the device, giving you greater accuracy and pen functionality without the need to carry around a specialized pen.
This feature is interesting to me because it takes a feature that has essentially been device-defining and turns it into just another feature. By that I mean that Samsung’s Note line of devices are essentially defined by the pen functionality, and even come with actual holes in the device to store those special pens. You don’t have to use the pen on those devices either, of course, but you also won’t be able to forget that your device is inherently a pen enabled device. With the Xperia Z Ultra, however, it’s just a normal device that happens to be able to use pencils and pens as more accurate writing and drawing tools.
As someone who chooses a device based on functionality and not name or OS, I can’t help but think about what Sony’s innovation for its Android device would be able to do for the iPad. Apple has been very adamant about not wanting a device that has a pen, which I think is a pity, because I depend on my iPad for productivity related tasks that Android simply can’t match (I tried for a year with an Android tablet). I use a standard capacitive stylus with it, but would obviously welcome a more accurate pen.
Assuming that this technology could be used by other companies without causing another patent war, which isn’t unlikely since it’s likely just a matter of making the touch screen more sensitive, I’m wondering if this is something that Apple will ever consider adopting. The simple fact that this isn’t a device-defining feature might just be enough to make Apple put it into a future iPad, as it would allow them to add a much requested feature without being accused of copying Samsung. It would of course technically mean that it’s copying Sony, but again, if it’s just a matter of making the touch screen more sensitive, this feature might eventually make it into every high end touchscreen device out there. Sometimes, being first with a feature doesn’t make you a genius, if it’s just a step in the natural development of a technology.
If Apple ever put this into an iPad, I think it would have a lot of uses. The iPad is huge in education, and actually allowing the very same writing tool to be used on both traditional paper and an iPad would certainly not hurt the adoption of the iPad in schools. I think Apple is well aware of this and the usefulness of a more accurate pen for other things as well, and this gives it an opportunity to introduce a much requested feature without really going back on its stand on dedicated pens for mobile tech.