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An Apple Pencil update is coming soon — what you need to know

A new Apple Pencil is imminent

Beyond the sideways path that the Apple Pencil with USB-C took, the Apple Pencil hasn't seen an upgrade since the second generation launched in 2018. Here's what to expect from the Apple Pencil 3, with new iPads coming up fast.

There are three Apple Pencil models on sale today — Apple Pencil, Apple Pencil 2, and Apple Pencil with USB-C. The lineup is a little convoluted since it relies on customers to figure out which Pencil goes with which iPad and what benefits they offer.

Apple generally launches products with good, better, best tiers that customers can easily discern, but that isn't the case with Apple Pencil. That's why a third-generation Apple Pencil is due.

The new product would shake up the lineup, replacing Apple's first two generations, leaving only the new and USB-C models.

Apple Pencil 3 rumors

Apple Pencil 2 is already quite the powerhouse with 9ms latency, pressure sensitivity, angle detection, Hover, and a double tap gesture. It's hard to imagine precisely how Apple could upgrade its popular stylus.

Why a new Apple Pencil is needed

The overall design needs an upgrade, especially given the odd design corner Apple has painted itself into. The Apple Pencil 2 is charged via two magnetic conductors on the side when attached to an iPad, which requires plenty of internal space.

Apple's 10.9-inch iPad sits on a table next to a purple light, AirPods Max, an orange HomePod mini and a plant.
The new iPad has a landscape-oriented selfie camera

That long side of the iPad was otherwise unoccupied until iPad 10 when Apple shifted the selfie camera to the landscape side. This move is better for video conferencing when using an attached keyboard but eliminates the ability to charge the Pencil with inductive charging.

Simply moving the charging point wasn't possible since the conductors are spaced a certain distance apart on the Apple Pencil. Moving it to any other side would interfere with speakers, buttons, charging ports, or the smart connector.

There was space for magnets to keep a pencil attached, but the components needed for charging took up too much space.

Instead, Apple opted for a dongle to let the USB-C iPad connect to the Lightning first-generation Pencil. Later, the Apple Pencil with USB-C was introduced to solve the odd problem.

A white iPad sits next to a Lightning to USB-C adapter and an original Apple Pencil
Apple's 10th-generation iPad requires a dongle to attach the original Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil with USB-C isn't a true third-generation model, and lacks some features to keep its cost down. It isn't a suitable substitute for the Apple Pencil 2, so a new model is needed.

Rumors haven't been clear about how the new Apple Pencil would charge, but it could offer both induction and USB-C to ensure universal compatibility. However, that would disrupt the elegant design introduced with Apple Pencil 2.

Apple Pencil with USB-C sits on an iPad's orange magnetic cover
Apple Pencil with USB-C is a stopgap

So, there is a chance Apple will rethink its induction charging to require less space in a smaller Apple Pencil. That would allow attaching the device in the space between two speakers on the short side of iPads.

If it lacks a port, it will be incompatible with the 10.9-inch iPad unless Apple allows wireless pairing without a connector and charging via an inductive dongle.

Interchangeable tips

Outside of figuring out the new charging situation, Apple could revamp the Apple Pencil with new functionality based on interchangeable tips. Which tip is in use would affect the physical feel and how the software reacts.

The tips could attach via a magnetic connection. However, it would introduce complexity in the hardware and require users to keep up with tips not in use.

It also isn't clear how Apple would market and sell the tips. It could prove to be another revenue opportunity by selling tips separately and introducing new tips occasionally.

Third-party manufacturers could also make new tips for use in specific apps. For example, Adobe could sell a line of Apple Pencil tips that activate functions in its suite of apps.

Other features

Rumors also suggest Apple could introduce Find My functionality to Apple Pencil. It's doubtful this would include a speaker that can chirp, but that does spring an idea to mind.

A person walking with an iPad in hand looking for an Apple Pencil in the Find My app
Find My functionality could help users find the small Apple Pencil

Perhaps Apple could go the AirPods route and introduce an Apple Pencil Case that holds the magnetic tips and can charge the Apple Pencil separately from an internal battery. The case would have USB-C for charging and pairing, plus space for Find My speakers.

That previous paragraph is pure speculation, but many rumors are.

Patents also show what Apple is considering for future Apple Pencil models. One suggested Apple could introduce removable sleeves that can provide haptics or more battery life.

Apple Pencil 3 release date and price

Whether Apple calls this product an "Apple Pencil Pro" or "Apple Pencil 3" is entirely a marketing choice — we expect the latter. But that choice could determine where it lands with price.

Apple Pencil, Apple Pencil 2, and Apple Pencil with USB-C against a white background
Apple's new Pencil would simplify the lineup

The Apple Pencil 3 could easily be priced identically to Apple Pencil 2 at $129. A price bump is also possible at $149 to bring it closer to double the Apple Pencil with USB-C price.

If Apple pushes this product as Apple Pencil Pro, it could easily reach $199.

Apple is expected to announce new iPads and accessories for them during a probable event in March. Invites haven't been sent yet, so everything is still in question.