According to respected and generally reliable analyst Ming Chi-Kuo from KGI Securities, Apple’s long-awaited 12.9-inch iPad Pro will feature Force Touch stylus support—perhaps for something like an enhanced Pencil from Paper’s FiftyThree. Earlier this month, we detailed what to expect from Force Touch on iOS including support for an enhanced stylus paired with the larger iPad models.
He expects the larger tablet to go in to production between September and October and that the stylus will be able to take advantage of the new iPad’s Force Touch-enabled screen. It’s being imagined as a feature which could help users more easily navigate the larger display of the iPad Pro. KGI has predicted an optional Lightning-charging stylus sold alongside the larger-screened iPad since earlier this year.
With Force Touch being introduced in the Apple Watch, and adopted across the most recent MacBook lineups, it’s a safe bet to assume (as KGI does) that it’ll eventually be incorporated in to most of the company’s devices. Although it will be more challenging to implement across larger surface areas, like the 12.9-inch screen which we’re expecting to see in the larger iPad. Still, if true, it’ll be interesting to see if, and how, Apple decides to build a complimentary stylus.
Basic functions that come to mind are features in drawing or note-taking apps like Paper, Evernote, and Apple’s iOS 9 Notes app where the line being drawn becomes thicker, the harder the stylus is pressed on the screen. Kuo believes this stylus will be made exclusively by Cheng Uei and could also be compatible with other future models of iPad, depending on what software it’s running.
With regard to the present technologies, we believe if the Force Touch module for iPad is designed using the same structure that was used in the iPhone, the larger size may result in a poor yield rate. This is why we think a stylus may be necessary to make Force Touch work properly on the 12.9” iPad. We also believe a Force Touch-enabled stylus will enhance productivity as it would offer more precise operation than using only fingers. Technically, we believe the stylus can be made compatible with iPad models other than the 12.9” version, but it depends on the support of software.
KGI’s analyst suggests Apple could sell up to as many as 5.5 million units of the 12.9-inch iPad this year, and under 1 million accompanying styluses. For perspective, even the highest estimates for Apple Watch shipments in its initial quarter topped around 4 million units; for the entire existing iPad line, Apple sold a total of 10.9 million tablets during its 2015 Q3 quarter.
We estimate new 12.9” iPad shipments from component makers and EMS providers will reach 2.5-3.5mn units and 1.5-2.0mn units this year, respectively. Being an optional accessory, we expect stylus shipments to be below 1.0mn units. However, as it’s a brand new product, and given the market buzz, we expect Force Touch-enabled stylus to serve as a share catalyst for related plays, including the main beneficiary, Cheng Uei, which is the sole assembler of the stylus.
Apple is expected to announce the larger tablet at an event later this year, although recent rumors predict the tablet isn’t a nailed on certainty for the iPhone launch event in September. It’s expected to feature a 2732 x 2048 resolution display and perhaps the same strong 7000 series Aluminum found in the Apple Watch Sport as well as stereo speakers. Along with the expected iPad Pro, Apple is expected to release an upgraded iPad mini 4 with the same dual-app mode capability as the current iPad Air 2.