Apple’s solution for drawing and handwritten notes on the iPad is the Apple Pencil, but might be one of the company’s most confusing products. The first-generation model with a Lightning port has remained available alongside the second-generation Pencil with magnetic charging, and when the 10th Gen iPad arrived with a USB Type-C port and no second-gen Pencil support, Apple made a clunky adapter for the Pencil to work. Apple has now announced a Pencil built specifically for Type-C iPads, but it doesn’t help simplify the Apple Pencil lineup.
The new Apple Pencil works with any iPad, iPad Pro, and iPad Mini that has a USB Type-C port. The connector is hidden behind a sliding cap, so you still need a USB-C cable to plug it in — either a C-to-C cable coming from the iPad or any other USB-C cable plugged into a power source. The first-generation Apple Pencil with the Lightning port could plug directly into an iPad. It can also magnetically attach to an iPad, but the iPad won’t wirelessly charge the Pencil. Apple says the Pencil “enters into a sleep state to preserve battery life” when you magnetically attach it to an iPad.
Apple says the new Pencil has the same accuracy, low latency, and tilt sensitivity as the current first and second-gen Apple Pencils. It also has the same hover support on the iPad Pro as the second-gen Pencil. You can use it to draw and write notes in supported apps, or use it like a pointer in most of the system.
However, the new USB-C Apple Pencil isn’t the universal solution. It doesn’t have the wireless charging or double-tap gesture as the second-generation Pencil, and it’s missing the pressure sensitivity feature available on both the first and second-generation Apple Pencil devices. The company made a helpful comparison table to explain the differences, which you can see below.
It’s definitely a bit confusing that Apple is now selling three products called “Apple Pencil,” with some features missing on one and not the others. Apple is still selling the 9th Gen iPad with a Lightning port, and as long as that continues, the first-generation Pencil with its Lightning port will probably stick around. The lack of pressure sensitivity on the new USB-C Pencil is definitely bizarre, and makes this even more annoying. For example, if you have the USB-C 10th Gen iPad (which is incompatible with the second-gen Pencil), your options are now the first-gen Pencil with pressure sensitivity and a weird USB-C adapter, or this new USB-C Pencil with no weird adapter but no pressure sensitivity.
The new USB-C Apple Pencil will be available for $79 in the United States, which is $20 less than the first-gen Pencil, with retail availability starting in “early November.” Education customers will be able to get it for $69.