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Apple Pencil and Navigation in iOS 9.3 Beta

Serenity Caldwell, writing for iMore on an Apple Pencil regression in the iOS 9.3 beta:

Unfortunately, whether by bug or intentional design, the Pencil’s navigational prowess appears to have vanished in the iOS 9.3 public betas. With 9.3, you can no longer scroll or manipulate text; the only places the Pencil works are on canvas or when pressing digital buttons.

Normally, I don’t write about beta bugs and features, because it’s a beta: There are always bugs, and features change. But this functionality is important enough that I wanted to talk about it before Apple submits its final 9.3 release. It could be a bug, yes: But several betas in, we’ve seen fixes for Smart Connector keyboards and new features, and the Pencil remains crippled. Which makes me think, more and more, that this is a conscious decision on the part of Apple’s engineering team. (I did reach out to the company about the issue, and will update if and when I receive a response.)

Like Serenity, I refrained from bringing it up due to the beta nature of iOS 9.3, but, as I mentioned earlier today in my iPad story, this is starting to feel like a conscious decision on Apple’s part.

I think it would be a mistake to remove general Pencil navigation features from iOS 9 at this point. While Apple may have not envisioned the Pencil to be used for tasks beyond drawing and sketching, owners of an iPad Pro have gotten used to the functionality four months into owning the device. Using a Pencil to scroll lists and interact with menus has serious benefits for people with RSI problems, and, I have to say, it’s just convenient if you don’t want to switch back and forth between touch and Pencil all the time.

I hope that Apple will listen and restore the full Pencil functionality as seen in iOS 9.2 when the final version of iOS 9.3 ships.