Apple Pencil USB-C reduces monetary outlay, but onus is on you to choose wisely - Hindustan Times

Apple Pencil USB-C reduces monetary outlay, but onus is on you to choose wisely

Nov 20, 2023 09:38 AM IST

This symbolises an already complex iPad accessory ecosystem and while a lower price tag is welcome, feature distinction won’t be easy to keep tabs on

There are always two sides to this coin. Choice, and complexity. If you’ve decided to pair your Apple iPad with an Apple Pencil, you now must navigate through not one, not two, but a portfolio that’s three-strong to figure which model works best for the iPad you’ve got. The newest Apple Pencil (USB-C) as it is called, now becomes the most affordable of the troika. It won’t be easy to make a pick, but the other side of the coin, there’s always demand for choice. Particularly when a few bucks are shaved off the price tag. Also, emblematic of an increasingly complicated Apple’s iPad accessory ecosystem.

The first-generation Apple Pencil is priced at <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>9,500. (Official image)
The first-generation Apple Pencil is priced at 9,500. (Official image)

It’s not just the price differentiation, but clear segmentation in terms of features that are or aren’t available in a specific Pencil, or which iPad they’d be compatible with. Here’s how the generational hierarchy stacks up for now, in terms of recency. The first-generation Apple Pencil is still around, mostly catering to the earlier gen iPads (there are still many of those around) and is priced at 9,500. Apple Pencil second-generation was till now also the sole choice for more recent versions of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, iPad Pro 11-inch, iPad Air and iPad Mini. This costs 11,900.

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The Apple Pencil (USB-C) supports all iPads the second-generation Pencil already does, plus one more – the 10th generation iPad, the line-up’s entry model. The price tag for the latest Pencil iteration is 7,900. This iPad that was released last year and lacked genuine Pencil accessory support, is also the reason why the USB-C spec Pencil has been rushed through. The second Pencil didn’t work with this, leaving buyers at the mercy of third-party options. Quite a confusing time for iPad accessories.

With the adoption of USB-C for the Pencil, we’ve now evolved to the third different method to charge an Apple Pencil. The first Apple Pencil used a Lightning Connector and has to be plugged into the iPad’s Lightning port to charge. Certainly not as fancy, convenient or elegant as the second Apple Pencil’s wireless induction charging. That worked with the flat sides iPad models have had off late – it simply clicked into place, charged quickly and could be left there for quick access too.

The Apple Pencil (USB-C) will also click and hold on to the flat frame of an iPad, but it won’t charge. The lower price tag means, wireless charging tech has been eliminated. Therefore, the USB-C port, which otherwise neatly hides beneath a sliding cap. Elegant enough. But for some strange reason, no USB-C cable is shipped in the Pencil box. Not even for the sake of out-of-the-box convenience. Very unlike Apple. Find a silver lining to this – you can use any USB-C cable you may already have.

Also Read: Apple’s new Pencil: Check iPad models it is compatible with

With the second Pencil as the baseline for features, you’ll soon realise the Apple Pencil (USB-C) makes a few compromises for the sake of affordability. Subjectivity will define importance. There’s no pressure sensitivity, for instance. That is, the ability to change thickness and depth of shading as you apply more of less pressure. If you’re quite intent on doing serious artwork on your iPad, this isn’t something you’d like to miss out on. But if your primary use-case is scribbling notes, marking up documents or navigating iPadOS, this wouldn’t at all be a miss.

It also gives the miss to the double-tap feature to switch between tools within an app (it’s convenient, but most apps are intuitively designed anyway to make everything well within reach), which may not exactly be a shortcoming. The Apple M2 chip-based iPad Pro models will also get the Apple Pencil hover feature for quick previews before you select something on screen. Third-party hover support is still limited, and its mostly useful within Apple’s own apps.

There is definite compatibility and feature overlap between the second Apple Pencil and the newest Apple Pencil (USB-C), whilst we keep the first Pencil in our sights, defining profound relevance for earlier iPad versions. The Pencil line-up as it is now, will likely confuse some buyers. Missing functionality on the Apple Pencil (USB-C) compared with the second Pencil (such as lack of wireless charging and pressure sensitivity) aren’t immediately clear. Price tag differences and in search for value, there’s a risk some may end up buying a Pencil that misses out on something they otherwise need. Perhaps simply making the Apple Pencil (USB-C) in any other colour except white, might have been a bigger differentiator for the spec sheet.

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