Apple has no plans to cripple its Pencil accessory for the iPad Pro. After recent iOS 9.3 betas removed the ability to navigate around iOS with the $99 add-on — marketed as a drawing tool more than a stylus — Apple has confirmed with The Verge that all of those features will soon make a comeback. "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," a spokesperson said. "We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3." Unlike in iOS 9.2, where the Pencil can be used like a stylus throughout the operating system, these early 9.3 betas have limited its utility to drawing apps.
Apple's full statement:
Apple Pencil has been a huge hit with iPad Pro users, who love it for drawing, annotating and taking notes. 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. We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3.
So the Pencil isn't permanently losing any capabilities, and this statement suggests that was never the plan; Apple claims it's just working to improve them and temporarily removing them from the beta in the meantime. Was the company maybe considering nixing the option altogether? Hopefully not, but it was absent from four successive beta releases.
Either way, iPad Pro owners: you'll be able to use the Pencil just like your finger in the next beta release and once iOS 9.3 is officially released to the public with new features like Night Shift, secured Notes, and more. Still, it's worth remembering that these betas are also public for users who opt in, so it's definitely a headache for the early iPad Pro adopters who unexpectedly lost some useful functionality. Soon you'll be scrolling, swiping between home screens, and selecting text with the Pencil once again. Just the way it should be.
Update February 23rd 5:10PM ET: The article has been updated with Apple's full comment.