Missing the Point: Apple Pencil is not the stylus Steve Jobs hated

20 August 2018

Well, that didn’t take long.

Six days ago, Uluroo wrote a little piece explaining why Apple Pencil is different from the styli Steve Jobs famously roasted in 2007. Let’s take a moment and look back at what naïve young Uluroo said on 14 August:

Uluroo is certain that some ignorant pundit is going to complain about how drawing utensils on iPhone, whenever they happen, are the ultimate dismissal of Steve Jobs’ dismissal of styli…

And yep, naïve young Uluroo was right. An ignorant pundit did in fact come to the conclusion that Steve Jobs would hate Apple’s rumored plans. But Uluroo was also wrong: two ignorant pundits have complained.

Matt Hopkins, writing for Pedestrian, reposts an article from Sean Keach, writing for The Sun. Uluroo mentions both writers because both headlines from the two publications are delightful examples of logical incompetence.

“The iPhone 9 Is Rumoured To Have A Stylus, The Very Thing Steve Jobs Hated”

“New iPhone 9 to get SURPRISE feature that Steve Jobs would have hated”

The articles correctly report that a recent rumor suggests Apple Pencil support for this year’s iPhones (though Uluroo hopes iPhone 9 won’t be one of the names). Hopkins and Keach’s deduction from this rumor, though, is laughably false. Here’s Keach’s description for his piece:

The Californian tech firm may give the iPhone its very own stylus, going against Steve Jobs’ famous disdain for the pokey accessory

They both even get to the here’s-a-quote-from-Steve-Jobs-mocking-the-stylus stage of factual soundness before their logic crashes and burns. This is a classic case of obtuse misquoting.

If these writers were willing to take a brief look at the context of Steve Jobs’ disdain for styli, they would realize that Apple Pencil is not “the very thing” Jobs is known for rejecting. Apple Pencil is a drawing tool. Steve Jobs wanted touch rather than styli to be used as a primary interaction method with the operating system.

Jobs’s reasoning was simple: news flash, but for most tasks, using your fingers is more convenient than using a stylus. The reasoning behind Apple Pencil is that for handwriting and hand-drawing, a stylus can do certain things better. Jobs didn’t dismiss the idea of a drawing utensil because that technology wasn’t what people meant by “stylus” in 2007. Apple Pencil is meant to be used alongside touch, not in lieu of it, so it doesn’t fall into the primary interaction category.

Tim Cook himself addressed this by pointing out the difference between Apple Pencil and styli as Steve Jobs knew them. Apple Pencil is a creative tool, not the primary point (pardon the pun) of interface.

And no matter how many times people mention that it turns out Steve Jobs could have been okay with Apple Pencil because it’s for drawing, everyone still leaps into clickbait-writing mode when the topic of a stylus for iPhones is brought up.

That wouldn’t sit well with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who famously hated styluses – and vowed never to use them.

Not all styli are created equal. Keach and Hopkins are about as obtuse as they come in the tech world.

… Jobsy would be rolling in his damn grave if he knew Tim Cook caved to stylus pressure.

No, because he wouldn’t consider Apple Pencil to be the same kind of stylus he hated. It’s a very simple thing to understand, really.

What seems to be the issue here is that when given a choice between understanding things and maximizing click traffic, the modern Internet has a heavy bias toward the latter.