Apple has been working for a years on a type of product that Steve Jobs famously hated

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steve jobs

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs points to a member of the audience during a Q&A session at the end of the iPhone OS4 special event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California April 8, 2010.

Apple has been granted a patent application for a stylus, a sign that the company may be working on an electronic pen that will be released as an optional add-on.

The patent application, filed in 2011, is for an "active" stylus that includes electronic components that can interact with touchscreen devices.

Apple's patent says that the type of sensor it is developing "can significantly improve stylus sensing" "without incurring significant additional cost."

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Here is a diagram:

Apple stylus

Apple

An illustration from Apple's latest patent.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs famously hated the idea of using a stylus. He joked about their clumsiness in a conference talk in 2007, saying "Who wants a stylus?! You have to get 'em, put 'em away, you lose 'em, yuck. Nobody wants a stylus." And he also told biographer Walter Isaacson "As soon as you have a stylus, you're dead."

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Of course, Apple files of patents each year, and not all of them make their way into finished products. Some are pre-emptive, or designed to ensnare competitors in distracting litigation. But there have been several signs that Apple is working on creating its own stylus. As well as the patent mentioned above, Apple filed another application in December for stylus technology.

It looks like Apple has been considering a stylus for some time. The patent published on Thursday is dated from 2011, and the patent published back in December was from 2013. If Apple is working on a new stylus (which seems increasingly likely) then it has been doing so for years.

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More evidence: Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has links to the company's supply chain, says that Apple will launch a stylus accessory in the second quarter of 2015. He doesn't think that the stylus will come bundled with a phone (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4); instead, it will be an accessory for an upcoming larger iPad.

"Given that it's more precise than a person's fingers, a stylus can be more convenient to use that the combination of keyboard and mouse in some cases," Kuo says.

This wouldn't be the first time that Apple has sold a stylus, however. It used to include them with the Apple Newton, a personal digital assistant that was launched during Jobs' time outside of Apple. It didn't sell well, and was discontinued in 1998.

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