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Surface Pro 5 may have a rechargeable Surface Pen that docks magnetically

Microsoft has applied for a new patent on a PC stylus that recharges via a magnetic connection. The filing was noticed by the site Patently Mobile and it reveals what we may expect from the next round of Surface devices.

The new patent application shows a charging base for the pen, which is then stuck to it magnetically. From the application:

"As a stylus may be easily misplaced due to the typical size and shape of the stylus (e.g., a thin, rod-like shape with at least one tapered end), the stylus charger may take the form of a dock that holds the stylus in a particular location during charging and/or while the stylus is not being used.""… the stylus includes at least one terminal of the charging circuit that is formed from a deposit of ferromagnetic material on an exterior of the stylus body. Including a magnetically-attractable element that also serves as a charging terminal enables the terminal to be aligned to a charging contact of the dock and secured to the dock against gravitational pull and other forces via magnetic attraction to a permanent magnet of the dock."

In plain English instead of just sticking to the device, it will also charge the pen. It is also observed that the charging base is not standalone and instead looks to be a module to be built into larger hardware.

Starting with the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Microsoft let users attach the Surface Pen to the side of the device via a secure magnetic connection. The solution still results in the ability for the pen to come loose in a bag or be knocked off, but it is more elegant than the previous loop-sticker that was offered.

Microsoft has stated earlier that a superior in-body solution is not possible because the Surface is thinner than the pen.

However, the current pen is still very much like the old one that requires a AAAA battery to be replaced every few months. This design stands in contrast to the Apple Pencil, which requires the users to recharge the stylus awkwardly by plugging it directly into the iPad Pro. Apple has been heavily criticized for the bizarre charging method, and Microsoft may be trying to patent their way around the problem before Apple.

It is not entirely clear why Microsoft would need to make the pen rechargeable as the AAAA battery can last users six months or even up to a year. Microsoft may simply be getting a patent to an obvious solution to Apple's problem, or the next generation Surface Pen may require more power.

Either way, the patent fits right in with the Surface esthetic and we would not be shocked to see it arrive with the Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2. Those devices are not expected until fall 2016. However, a refreshed Surface 3 in the form of Surface 4 will likely come in the spring or early summer.

Via: Patently Mobile

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

87 Comments
  • Or they could be aiming for a thinner pen by avoiding AAAA. I'm more used to the usual pencil, so sounds appealing to me. EDIT: I'm sure it's based on market research/ergonomics tradeoff. Personally, I'm still adjusting to it, especially, the flat part and the end of the clip getting in the way. Could use a thinner and longer pen, and I have large hands. I've been using the regular yellow Bic pencils for a while now, so there's that.
  • I'm not sure they'd want that, though, at least not significantly thinner. A pen can only be so thin if it's to lie in your hand comfortably.
  • They could have made the pen thinner at any time, but they chose the current size based on research and comfort. So I doubt they'd make it thinner.
  • You realize the pen has current shape, length and weight distribution not because of any technical limitation but due to ergonomics?
  • I doubt the pen will be thinner. The current design is incredibly comfortable to hold, which is vital for the artists they aim to attract.
  • Do you like or does it feel like plastic? Sorry for bothering you, im considering on getting a surface
  • No, the pen is a beautiful finished magnesium alloy. It feels very comfortable in your hand. It is not plastic.
  • It feels like a quality metal pen. Cool to the touch, and durable. Well weighted and distributed.
  • and why do you want to make it thinner? do you understand that thinner is not always good especially when it comes to a pens? it's already good thin enough as it is now. do you understand this pen should feel good for everyone using it? that means artists as well? I like the feel of the intuos pro pen, it's not thin, but it feels nice. you know why? because thin is not always good. maybe this pen is "too thick" to note takers, but for digital art is nice. so the thin of a surface pen is fine, it's not about the AAAA it's because that kind of thickness is good for the artists and for the note takers that don't need a fat pen. Comments like yours just sounds too... just not really logical. Maybe Microsoft should start doing the wacom thing, and give thinner and thicker pens depending on what kind of thing you want to do on surface. BUT honest, instead of listening to people like you and "make it thinner" like if thinner was always the answer. I would rather Microsoft to work and really match wacom's technology, they can, they have the money, that's all they need to do for Surface next pen technology, because if they do that, there wouldn't be any advantage on using or getting something like cintiq companion (apart from the physical buttons you get with them, but there are people who are working on a usb case with buttons for surface line to match that stuff. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gadgetek/meta-the-microcontroller-e...) and that would be good for all the artists. So I think matching technology and surpassing wacom someday should be the goal, not a thinner pen. also Microsoft should work on giving more customization to the pen (like wacom) and an extra button (like wacom). and of course, fix some stuff about about Windows 10 to make it better the use of pens, some options have to be disabled because they are useless and annoying, you know some "tablet PC" features.
  • Geez, a person cannot have an opinion on this site anymore. If I have a need for thinner pen, it must be because I've an obsession with thinness!
    Back to discussion: Well, I'm not an artist, so maybe for note taking they could launch a thinner pen. After all, they're touting OneNote aimed at students a lot.
  • I'm sort of with you on a thinner pen, but not for comfort. Thinner isn't neccessarily more comfortable for me. I would like to see a pen which can fit in a silo, so it is always there and doesn't get lost as easily. The Samsung Note series and my Asus Note 8 (8" Win 8/10) tablet both acheive this. It's nice to always have the pen avilable, not somewhere in the bag, or left on the desk, or stuck to the dock. Nothing stops me from getting a more comfortable pen for whatever reason I would like one. Samsung even sells a pen 'sleeve', a more normal pen form that you can slot the slim stick into. I think MSs current technology will prevent this though. Going NTrig (they bought 'em) means their pens/stylii need their own power, unlike Wacom. All the really thin ones that allow onboard silos seem to be Wacom.
  • I agree, the current magnetic attachment isn't that strong. A little push sideways detaches it easily. I almost lost it one time. On a side note, does any one know if you can disable ink smoothing in OneNote?
  • Please, no. I don't want a super-thin pen, that'd make my hand cramp and be bothersome.
  • Or they could be aiming for a thinner pen by avoiding AAAA. I'm more used to the usual pencil, so sounds appealing to me.
      Or, they could do the same thing that they did with the SP1 and let the pen just dock to the charging port because it had the magnetic right click button.  No charging at all.  Nothing was wrong with that design (other than when you threw it into a bag). 
  • Hope it does not get cancelled!
  • Either it will or it'll release in 6 years
  • We're talking about Panos Panay here...... he doesnt seem like the guy that will cancel something awesome just because its hard to impliment
  • He still didn't manage to deliver working SSD drivers for the Surface Pro 4.
  • Wat the? SP5 leaks begin so early?
  • Lots of things get patented. Lots of things never make it into products too.
  • Well, this hit the patent claim so it's not exactly a secret.
  • What about the e-ink display keyboard?
  • I'm with you on this one. Sometimes writing directly ON the screen feels awkward because of the angle. Writing on a flat, narrow strip across the keyboard cover would feel more natural to me. It could even be the new location for the on-screen "inking panel" that pops up when you tap the keyboard icon with your pen tip. Here's Windows Central's article on it: http://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-working-tablet-cover-combines-ke...
  • I would love to see sp5 with 4k oled display and external GPU dock
  • No 4K please. Battery is weak enough now ...
  • 2k would just fine. But OLED: Yes ( though the current LCD screen is allready very nice ) . On Surface Book 2 too please. 
  • I agree with the others; 4k would kill that screen. But if it did have OLED, it would be nice. Especially with a global dark theme.
  • I remember Panos Panay's talk about the metaphor of the current Surface pen needing a battery change once in a while being like an ink pen needing a new ink cartridge. He also talked about how it was important not to interrupt the creative flow with the need to recharge a pen. I got the metaphor but recall thinking it had been a very long time since I had ever replaced the ink cartridge in a pen.  Yet sticking with a metaphor is no reason to stop innovating on a product and Microsoft has been really responsive with the Surface products to the needs of creative people in particular. I'm sure this change to the pen comes from that.
  • I hardly ever change the ink in a pen either, I just throw the whole thing away and get a new one from the supply closet. When active styluses start coming in a box of 12 for $2, and still last longer than we can remember when we last got a new one, we won't worry about this stuff.  Actually Wacom's styluses do last forever, as they are not self powered. I have some from old HP XP-Tablet edition PCs that still worked fine on my Surface Pro 2. I wish they had stayed with Wacom. NTrig seems to introduce more problems than solutions.
  • Microsoft, having that patent before Apple does, is the equivalent of the comment "First" in almost every comment section.  
  • Sorry?
  • Apart from the fact that you can make millions and millions from having a good patent first, and getting absolutely nothing from commenting "first"
  • And you know, giving them the opportunity to make money off the idea...
  • Qi wireless is requested as,well.
  • > I've never replaced the battery in SP3 pen, but then again, I lost it 9 months after I bought my surface. > The original surface was meant to show other OEMs that it is possible to build cool hardware and that mission was a success.  On the positive side, MS sold a billion dollars of hardware in the process.  How true will Microsoft be in in that original mission?  Will they share this patent with other OEMs?
  • If they don't, other OEMs can just use (license) Wacom and won't have the charging issue, and could make a stylus small enough to slot in a silo, and can offer bigger pens for ergonomics. That and you would have the option of buying other Wacom styluses to suit your need.
  • OMG NO!!! Having the current sp3 pen where I replace the battery every two years (haven't replaced it yet and shows no sign of slowing down), with something that needs to be recharged daily (like apple pencil) would be a huge step BACKWARDS imo. Most cases and sleeves aren't friendly to magnetically mounted pens. The way I use it, I would never have it mounted magnetically. The current SP4 pen gives us freedom and options, a magnetic rechargeable pen would take away options and add annoyance.
  • There are lots of ifs here. Presumably, if they go rechargeable it is for a reason e.g. the pen just uses more power. If it uses more power, there must be a reason for that and I'd hazard a guess better performance/less latency. or InsertMagicFeatureHere kinda thing. In other words, I doubt they would do rechargeable just for being rechargeable. There would have to be some reason why they'd go this route.
  • Good point, Dan. More power=Cool capabilities like running your Powerpoint from across the room, or adding a laser pointer, or continuing to beat the hallowed Apple Pencil in terms of raw performance.
  • I just hope that it gets more than 12 hours to a charge. I'm sick of these Li-ion batteries depreciating power storage to the point where they are virtually unusable two years in the future.
  • Yes, that is basically my point.  There will DEFINITELY be a loss of features and convenience.  Often, I feel they ditch the great features for stupid ones.  For example, I used to have the MS Wedge keyboard.  Takes AA batteries.  Lasted a year!  No issues whatsoever.  Just plain worked.  Then when I moved to the surface, I got the Surface bluetooth wireless keyboard adapter.  Rechargable battery.  The damn thing loses it's charge quickly, is NEVER charged at those moments I need it, only lasts for like 5 hours of typing on a FULL charge, it's a royal pain in the ass.  If I had a pen that gave me those same headaches, the Surface line is going to go WAY down in awesomeness for me, as an artist and a heavy pen user.   ​I just want to know WHAT they are going to sacrifice to get these new "features".  I'll bet it's gonna sacrifice all the stuff I love.
  • An integrated li-ion battery could be shaped exactly for the pen therefore requiring less room while also having the same or more capacity. The only drawback would perhaps be lower longevity of the battery itself, where with a 4xA batt you'd just replace it.
  • Regarding making the pen rechargeable, this would make it so you don't have to scramble to find AAAA batteries when the pen dies. Rather it would always be charged because it charges when it's put away. At least until the chargeable batteries completely died, which would then cause even more of a hassle than finding basic AAAA batteries.
  • It's really that hard to keep a new AAAA battery in the bag with your charger, USB adapters, cables, mouse, screen cloth...all the stuff you carry along if you travel with your electronics? And when it needs charging in the middle of something, you get 1hr of additional use with only 5 min of charging, or something. With the battery I get 6 more months of use with only 30 seconds of battery swap. Had they stuck with Wacom we wouldn't even be having these discussions. There are always tradeoffs. 
  • Innovation
  • Natural evolution.
  • I've had my SP3 since the summer of 2014. Since then, I've never lost my pen and have never had to switch out the battery. I use it for taking notes during classes every semester. ​So, either my pen is immortal... or I'm about to be SOL... I'ma go order some batteries from Amazon ._.
  • Another Surface, while the existing and older ones didn't make it to most countries (yet).
  • It takes years/months to plan the next year's device.  This won't be out anytime soon, but they got to get the patents before the competition does.
  • more power, higher refresh and sampling rate. better accuracy. seems like a win.
  • I'd like to be able to click the pen and have it control my PowerPoint presentations
  • Yea, this. Have commented on this a few times and brought it up in the Insider/Feedback forums. It's just software, like mouse buttons being configurable. Play/Pause in Groove too.Lots of potential options.
  • They added button mapping, but not this? This seems like a great feature.
  • With the SP4 pen lasting between 12 and 18 months on its battery, this new concept loses some of its relevance. ​Also, I'm wondering why they aren't looking at inductive charging since it would not require the alignment constraint. Anyhow, there's a whole world between patents and actual product release.
  • Sounds similar
  • Oh how I laughed at the picture of the fruity pad. OMG! That's hysterical funny.
  • I can't believe I have never seen that before.  That's REALLY embaressing.  Looks like you're trying to jam your pencil into your iPad LOL.
  • I mean, I like that they're consistent with their chargers, but I definitely think they could have added a small dock that held and charged the pen instead, like this:
    http://www.giftsforprofessionals.com/images/f86c2d1347202/marble-pen-sta...
  • All I want is a 7" - 8" Surface (as previously almost released). Please make it happen, Microsoft!
  • Wow, a rechargable pen. Big whoop. Not very compelling. I'm sitting comfortable with my SP3 and Microsoft had better start talking about something more compelling. Are they moving forward with Kaby Lake? Why bother upgrading for another tock? Right now, it looks like I'll be waiting for a Cannonlake SP6 since there won't be much change until then.
  • Isn't this the Surface Hub pen?
    Microsoft Surface Hub Pen Two rechargeable pens for inking and annotating rest and recharge right on the device.
    https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-surface-hub 
  • I'm not crazy about that design. I'd rather it be slightly magnetic in a 3DS-style holder, where the pen can slide into the body.
  • But then they'd have to make the body thicker.  No thanks.  Right now it's the perfect thickness.
  • You do not factually know that, as the next progression of hardware could free up space in the chassis. Panos Panay stated at the SP4 unveiling that they only made it as thick as they did to support USB, and we saw them go thinner with the USB-free body of the Surface Book, which suggests there could absolutely be room for the pen to fit in an added slot (or, at least, a clip). You sound like Jony Ive, saying iPhone users don't only use their iPhones because they are so thin, meaning they would hate having a bigger battery.
  • That Apple method looks like a good way to break off a Lightning plug inside your ipad. Glad that Microsoft thinks things through a little better when designing their product instead of just trying to "one-up" the competition.
  • Noooi I've only just bought a 4. Make me redundant already!
  • That's the beauty of tech, it keeps coming and we'll keep buying...and vice versa.
  • LOL you should know by now that every company refreshes their products every year... everyone will always be behind.  The beauty with Surface though is the products last a long time, and now have backwards-compatible accessories (at least with SP4/SP3 so far)
  • Yes please. More Surface 4 information! If really released, this will probably be my next device. Together with a docking station this could replace my laptop and my aging surface RT
  • I'd be interested in seeing the upgrades over the Surface 3, which I own and really enjoy. 
  • Personally find the Vaio Canvas pen to be more comfortable, especially with the rubber grip. Just has a more premium fit and finish. Still, looking forward to the Surface Pro 5, and maybe they'll even figure out the slow line pen jitter..finally.
  • Surface 4? Now you're talking! =D
    I better start saving some money.
  • So only SP4 has the ability to stick the pen to it magnetically? Odd, I've been sticking it to the side of my SP3 when not docked and to the dock when docked. Seems to stick well enough to the side where the magnetic power plug is.
  • I think both have magnets, but the SP4 has some powerful ones on one side.
  • I'm still enjoying my surface pro 4. Chill with upgrades.
  • The batteries in my pen are still going. I bought my Surface 3 in November 2014.
  • Just as long as a watch's life goes...
  • Microsoft, stop it, just stop it with your flimsy magnetic pen connections. They're not solid connectors. The connection is to fragile for real world daily use. Just design a decent pen bay or something that can be snapped on tightly to the side. It could also house a wireless charger where the connectors could also be the hinges, something like Lenovo did with their x1 carbon tablet accesory line or the surface book muscle wire. But the magnetic pen design it's simply hideous . Microsoft can do better. I can't help but think the magnetic thing on the pen is an after thought. The whole device it's so nicely designed, and them that stylus comes into view in so many demoes, so carefully and thoughtfully guided by a careful hand to its magnetic latching area. Such a contrast compared to the trusted and nonchalant demoes of the snapping and disconnecting the type covers, that for the user it is safe to say that connection can handle a bit of rough handling. ​
  • 1. If this means the pen needs charging daily like iPad Pro, rather than a YEARLY replacement (where are you getting this "every few months" BS from? I'm still on the original battery in my Pro 3 pen, from launch week, and I use it almost daily), then it's a fail. 2. Hopefully they don't plan to make the pen thinner. It's perfect the way it is.
  • Daniel, Do you see the SP and SB products with a yearly refresh rate? Or do you suppose they'll go more towards ~18 months, more closely resembling the time between the Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 releases.  12 months seems a bit short, IMO. But if a Surface Pro 5 is morely than likely coming out this coming winter that would be pretty exciting.
  • Seems predictable until the SP4/SB launched. Time will tell.
  • im hoping they include the keyboard with the tablet as its suposed to be a all in one replacement laptop product and the cost is very high. Also would like a normal surface 4 like the surface 3 replacement before surface 5 or at least a big drop in price of the cheapest surface 4 pro.
  • It could be an option pen for another Microsoft device perhaps the "Surface" Mini will be reborn as 8 inch Dell Venue pro type device. Microsoft does need to sell a sub 400 dollar tablet with a pen. This would complete their line up of Tablet devices which is the ONLY spot in the Mobile device World where Microsoft has a good selling product line these days.  
  • I guess I'm already living in the SciFi Movies I keep watching on a regular basis. Just imagined a Pen that CAN be stored inside the Body by simply making it very thin for storage and with twist along it's entire body will shorten to 2/3 it's length but doubling it's diameter for actual use. Similiar to how my Porsche P3110 TecFlex Pen behaves ( just slightly more exaturated ) That would be nice...
  • The Surface Pro 5 sounds good to me
  • So is this going to be amazing or just another missing the mark again. When does this come out anyway?
  • still on my original battery for over 1 year...