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Apple hobbled the Apple Pencil in iOS beta 3, but will restore full functionality soon

apple to restore pencils navigational features pencil
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Been using an iPad Pro with the iOS 9.3 beta and notice that your Apple Pencil hasn’t been responding normally? It’s a feature, not a bug. According to The Verge, Apple’s been experimenting with Pencil usage and has, for the time being, disabled some of the stylus’s more familiar navigational elements in order to do so. (In the latest iOS beta, for example, the Pencil’s limited to in-app sketching.)

The tweak is only temporary. Apple says it’ll reintroduce the Pencil’s core features in the next version of iOS. “We believe a finger will always be the primary way users navigate on an iPad, but we understand that some customers like to use Apple Pencil for this as well and we’ve been working on ways to better implement this while maintaining compatibility during this latest beta cycle,” an Apple spokesperson told The Verge. “We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3.”

Related: iPad Pro Review

Apple advertises the Pencil primarily as a drawing accessory, but the $100 iPad Pro add-on can capably replace a finger for basic tasks. It, much like the Surface Pen that ships with Microsoft’s Surface tablets, can launch and switch between tasks, scroll through lists, and emulate touches within apps that lack official stylus support.

The fettered Pencil functionality in iOS 9.3 beta 2 and beta 3 led some to speculate that the change was intentional. Indeed, Apple design chief Jony Ive expressed concern last year in comments to Wallpaper that users might “confuse the role of the Pencil with the role of your finger” in iOS. “We are very clear in our own minds that this will absolutely not replace the finger as a point interface,” he said. “But it is, and I don’t think anybody would argue, a far better tool than your finger when your focus becomes exclusively making marks.”

Despite Ive’s apparent reservations, though, it won’t be long before the Pencil will once again work as expected. That’s a good thing: our intrepid iPad reviewer Malarie Gokey called the Pencil “the fastest, most responsive, and utterly perfect stylus that I have ever used.” It’d be a darn shame if it couldn’t do more than doodle.