Apple Pencil was introduced alongside the iPad Pro in 2015 as a tool meant to take iPad to the next level. The new innovative stylus hosts an entire computing chipset inside its slim chassis and operates with the iPad seamlessly. For digital artists and note takers, iPad and Pencil make for a seamless combination.
Page last updated:
Apple Pencil is in its second-generation, pairing with the modern iPad Pros and the latest iPad Air. The design offers a smaller form, lower latency, and new double-tap gesture compared to the original model. Even if you are not an artist, the Pencil offers new functionality to every current-generation iPad or iPad Pro. It lets users annotate, draw, or edit with ease and precision.
With its original launch, the new stylus was vastly panned over by critics who would quote Steve Jobs: "If you see a stylus, you blew it." This quote is often misattributed to styluses in general, while Jobs was referring to smartphones at the time of the first iPhone launch. Though it is well-known that Jobs hated the idea of needing to keep up with such a tool, it is uncertain whether he would have said the same about Apple Pencil.
Usually, the smarts are held by the tablet or drawing device, not the stylus itself. The Apple Pencil runs its own firmware on a tiny curved motherboard, making it unique among styluses.
"Apple Pencil 3" Rumors
Little has been shared about the possible next Apple Pencil. Leakers claiming to have images of the device show a glossy plastic finish similar to the first-generation model and a flat side for charging.
No technologies have leaked, but some speculate the "Apple Pencil 3" could come in different color options or at least a black option. Apple hasn't shied away from colors in its recent products with a colorful iPad Air 4 and iPhone 12 lineup.
Expect better battery life, improved charging intellegence, more gesture functionality, and faster device switching in a new model.
Apple Pencil 2
This Pencil corrects all the issues of the first-generation model without too many compromises. The new matte finish feels good in the hand and allows for personal engraving at purchase, while the flat side houses magnets and an inductive charging surface for attaching and charging on the iPad Pro or iPad Air.
A mid-life cycle software update to the iPad Pros improved the second-generation Apple Pencil by reducing the latency from about 20ms to 9ms. Drawing on the screen in native apps supporting the new updates feels natural, with the line following the Pencil's tip with near-zero lag.
A motion coprocessor allows for a double-tap gesture on the tip of the Pencil to switch tools. Drawing programs can take advantage of this, allowing for switching between drawing and erasing modes, switching colors on a palette, or toggling different tools.
The Apple Pencil is also able to detect the pressure and angle of a stroke to represent it in-app accurately. This means you can go from heavy fine lines to a thick shading line by altering your grip, just as you would with a real pencil.
Some wear and tear issues have come up since the second-generation model's release. The rounded tip at the bottom of the Pencil seems to be a different material and easily stained.
The flat portion used for charging can get discolored over time as heat from charging causes the plastic to discolor. However, the Pencil itself seems durable and doesn't seem to break easily without some undue force.
This generation is used with only the modern iPad Pro and iPad Air lines. This is due to how it pairs via the inductive charging connection, and only the new models have the flat sides to hold them. The battery charges quickly, and will enter a sleep state when not in constant use, which prolongs battery life further between charges.
Apple Pencil gained some new tricks in iPadOS 14. You can now use the Pencil to write text into any text-entry block on iPadOS. The text recognition is instant, placing the typed text in line as you write.
Another small change to the drawing API recognizes shapes as they are drawn, so they can be automatically transformed into better-looking objects upon completion. After you finish drawing a shape or an arrow, hold the Pencil steady before letting go, and it will replace the drawing with a more refined version.
Data detection for text has been added as well. Now, if you write down a phone number or address, it will be selectable to make a call or search.
Tap-to-select gestures are also available with the Apple Pencil, working like they do in typed text. Tap once to select a word, twice to select a line, and you can copy written text as typed text for pasting into other documents.
When you write in multiple languages, like with Chinese characters, it will automatically be detected when using scribble or copy and paste functions.
First-generation Apple Pencil
The original Apple Pencil launched with the first-generation iPad Pro in September 2015. The Apple stylus' launch was seen as an interesting turn for the tablet line. Now digital artists could vie for an iPad with full support for drawing and graphic design, offering an entire computing tablet for around the same price as some PC-based drawing tablets. This Apple Pencil is still for sale and has propagated down the entire iPad line. It is usable with any recent iPad housing a lightning connector.
The first-generation model has a larger footprint and removable cap that houses a male lightning connector, which connects directly to the bottom of the iPad. This causes the Pencil to stick out from the bottom of the iPad precariously, leading to users concern over the longevity of such a connection, as the connector may snap off entirely during a charge.
This Apple Pencil had a perfectly cylindrical body and glossy case. Its a bit thicker than the second-generation model and can feel a bit hard on the fingers after long use. This Pencil has all the same tilt and pressure sensing as the second-generation model but with higher latency. If you use the Pencil on a ProMotion Display, you'll see less lag overall because of the increased sampling rate, increasing from 120Hz to 240Hz while the Pencil is present. However, the first-generation Pencil still shows much more lag than the Pencil 2's own 9ms latency.
Despite bizarre design decisions like how it charges or lack of storage, the first Pencil was quite well-recieved and is still sold today for use with modern iPad models. The iPad mini 5 and 10.2-inch iPad both use the first-generation Pencil.
Apple Pencil Pricing
The first-generation Apple Pencil retails for $99 and the second-generation runs $129.