FiftyThree Releases SDK So Third-Party Apps Can Use Its Pencil Stylus

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FiftyThree, maker of creativity app Paper and iPad stylus Pencil, wants more users. To do so, it’s going to make its Pencil hardware available for third-party developers to use with their own creativity products with the launch of an SDK.

While Pencil only worked with Paper at launch, it was always the company’s plan to open up to third-party developers, according to FiftyThree developer Ian MacDuff. “This was our vision from the beginning — to make Pencil work with many apps, not just Paper,” he told me in a phone conversation.

Pencil has already sold well above expectation, he said, despite the stylus only working with one iPad title. The company recently expanded availability of the product to international markets, allowing it to serve an even wider audience. But ultimately, to drive demand, it’s going to need to become more useful across a larger number of apps.

The FiftyThree SDK, which the company is launching today, will offer the same functionality that Paper users have come to love about working with its Pencil stylus to other apps. That includes simple pairing, palm rejection, and the product’s newest feature, surface pressure.

With the SDK, third-party developers will be able to use all of the above features in their own apps. That could make Pencil a more functional piece of hardware for those who already own it, while potentially exposing it to a wider range of folks who use third-party applications and just want a better stylus.

That starts with three launch partners who have already built Pencil support into their apps. That includes Procreate, an app for making realistic digital illustrations; Noteshelf, which will allow users to take notes in their own handwriting; and Squiggle, which will add a new dimension to its popular music app.

But FiftyThree is hoping to get even more developers on board. While it will require those developers to sign a license agreement, MacDuff says he doesn’t foresee FiftyThree limiting access for creativity apps that might be competitive with Paper. After all, it’s all about getting more Pencil users to get more use out of the stylus and getting the stylus in front of more users who don’t own it.

Pencil works with iOS products that include the iPad 3 or above, the iPad Mini, and the iPhone 4S or above.