Apple Pencil joins the iPad confusion zone

A third, cheaper Apple Pencil now sits in Apple’s Stylus lineup, giving iPad owners more choice than ever before. Still, that choice is fraught with compromises and caveats. There’s still no one Apple Pencil to rule them all, and that’s a problem for shoppers.

Let’s run what was announced today below. The new Apple Pencil, which costs $79, attaches magnetically to the side of your iPad and doesn’t need to be plugged directly into the iPad’s charging port for power like the 2015 original. On newer Pro models, it also supports a hover feature that shows you where your pencil is before you touch the screen. These are all good things!

But Apple also made some strange omissions. Pressure sensitivity, a key feature of the two existing Apple Pencils, has been cut from it. While the second-generation Pencil magnetically attaches to the same spot on the iPad that charges and connects wirelessly, the new USB-C Pencil can’t be wired.

The new Apple Pencil doesn’t have the double-tap feature that lets you switch back and forth between tools—though, I’m giving it a go here. That feature is there Never I was disappointed and nothing else random. Is it at least tilt sensitive?

The confusing state of the Apple Pencil.
Image: Apple

Unlisted value proposition

At first glance, the new Apple Pencil has some appeal. The first price you can’t sneeze at is $99 or more. At least it doesn’t have a USB-C port sticking out the top.

But its place in the lineup is a confusing one. It’s a cheap pencil, but it won’t work with the cheap iPad — that model is still stuck in the Lightning port. So, which iPad customer should buy it?

USB-C Pencil In a way $449 makes sense for the 10th-generation iPad, which to date only supports the first-gen Apple Pencil with Lightning. Like the new Pencil, that iPad is all about tradeoffs: It’s more expensive and has a more modern design than the entry-level model, but it lacks low-end features like a headphone jack, high-end features like a laminated display, and support for core iPadOS features like Status Manager.

If you own high-end iPads, some of the more advanced product features may be important to you — and this new stylus drops one of the many.

If you care about convenience, the new Pencil misses out on the biggest features that gave the second-generation Pencil that “it works” vibe: wireless charging and pairing. It’s so secretly powerful that no matter what, if I take the Pencil off the side of my iPad, it’s ready to go. Alternatively, if you care about using the pencil as a creative tool, the loss of pressure sensitivity reduces an important feature for artists.

Array manipulation

I suspect the feature decisions here will be more about market hierarchy than about keeping costs down and hitting a price point. I suspect a lot of people are like me and are completely willing to give up the pressure-sensitive tip and double-tap feature. feels Love it if it has convenient wireless charging. Apple, I guess, suspects the same.

But without those features, the Pencil is little better than cheaper alternatives, such as the USB-C Logitech Crayon. It won’t attach magnetically to your iPad and won’t float, but it’s $10 cheaper. There are also magnetic pencil knock-offs, some of which have USB-C charging and work surprisingly well, often for less than $30.

The confusion of the Apple Pencil is now made worse by the scattered state of iPads in general. With iPhones, you know what you’re getting — the cheaper models are often distinguished by their sizes, while the more expensive ones usually get some hardware niggles. Day-to-day, if you buy a regular iPhone, your experience will be the same as with the Pro.

Not so with iPads. If you really need to save money, you’re getting a six-year-old design and missing out on a lot of features – it’s old and cheap. The 10th-gen iPad gives you an improved design and a bigger screen… but adds more than $100 to the price and lacks key features. To get full-featured software without paying for performance you don’t need, you’ll need to buy at least last year’s iPad Air, which is cheap at a starting price of $699. Then you get to the Pro models, and again you have to decide whether you care more about the comfortable size or the great screen (the 12.9-inch model gets mini-LED, while the 11-inch gets older LCD technology).

Maybe this Apple Pencil is a step towards something better. All of this would make a lot more sense if Apple dropped the cheapest iPad from its lineup and lowered the price of the next version of the entry-level USB-C model. You’ll still be giving up a lot of great features, and you’ll still be tempted by the alternatives, but at least Apple gives iPad owners a clear choice between budget and full-featured. As it is, to buy an Apple Pencil, you need a flowchart, which is not good.

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