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Apple tinkers with iPen stylus and haptic feedback

A newly published patent application suggests Apple has worked on a stylus that would provide haptic feedback for an improved user interface.

Would the iPad benefit from a stylus offering haptic feedback?
Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the late Steve Jobs' mockery of a stylus, Apple has been tinkering with the notion of an iPen complete with haptic feedback.

That's according to a newly published patent application unearthed by enthusiast site Patently Apple. Apple's idea for an iPen would include haptic feedback to improve the user interface.

Users would feel a small vibration depending on how much pressure they applied to the stylus, or whether the stylus moved over a link on the screen, creating a more realistic experience. It could also vary depending on the angle of the stylus, orientation to the screen, and how quickly it is moving.

In addition, the iPen could include a speaker that simulates sounds of brush or pen strokes; the sounds would rise or lower in volume depending on the pressure applied.

A stylus would be useful for the iPad, but could be applied to its other touch-screen devices, such as the iPhone or iPod Touch.

While Jobs has famously decried the use of stylus on mobile devices, several apps have sprung up that require such a device for accurate drawing and writing. Paper and Autodesk's SketchBook are two popular apps ideally suited for a stylus, rather than a finger. Gaming is another area where a stylus may come in handy.

Of course, Apple files patent applications for technology it may never use in commercial products.

The application was originally filed in the fourth quarter of 2010 and was made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today.

CNET contacted Apple regarding any plans to incorporate an iPen into future products. We'll update the story when we get a response.