Report: iOS 9.3 may remove Apple Pencil navigation capabilities (Update: Apple says no)

Apple may be planning to limit the functionality of the Apple Pencil in iOS 9.3, according to a new report from MacRumors. Several iPad Pro users running the iOS 9.3 beta have noticed that, unlike in the current iOS 9.2 release, the Apple Pencil can no longer be used like a finger to navigate the iPad UI in the beta version. In iOS 9.2, the Apple Pencil can be used to tap on buttons, select text, scroll, access menus, and more, while iOS 9.3 betas limit the Pencil’s functionality to drawing and writing functions within apps. While many beta testers who have experienced this problem have assumed the omission may be a bug, it has now persisted into the fourth beta of iOS 9.3, with no mention of the limitations in the iOS developer release notes either. Further, co-founder Myke Hurley disclosed in a recent podcast that he had heard from insiders at Apple that this may in fact be an intentional design decision by Apple.
Many Apple Pencil users are understandably concerned about the idea of Apple removing functionality that they have come to rely on, and Serenity Caldwell of iMore has publicly called on Apple to reverse course on this decision, pointing out that the Pencil can no longer even be used for seemingly intuitive tasks like editing videos in iMovie for iOS, and other typically creative pursuits where the Pencil should be a natural fit. With iOS 9.3 beta 4 having been released earlier today, and Apple’s March event only three weeks away, it seems like the decision on Apple’s part may be both deliberate and final, although the company still does have time to sneak the feature back in prior to the final release of iOS 9.3.

Update: Apple told The Verge on Tuesday that it won’t be taking the navigation features away from Apple Pencil. “We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3,” an Apple spokesperson said. The company explained its absence from the iOS 9.3 betas, claiming it’s been working to improve these Pencil capabilities, rather than getting rid of them.


Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.