There were, briefly, rumours that Apple was going to announce a host of new iPads yesterday. Those may still be coming later this year or possibly next, but Apple did make one thoroughly bizarre product announcement yesterday: the strangest Apple Pencil yet, available next month.
First of all, the good news: it’s cheaper (NZ$159 in New Zealand, compared to NZ$199 for the first generation and NZ$279 for the second) and it comes with that new-fangled USB-C charging that Apple is now mad keen for. The USB-C charging port is neatly hidden away behind a sliding cap.
It also comes with almost all the features you’ve come to know and love about the original Apple Pencils. You can use it for doodling and note taking, it’s low latency, it still has tilt sensitivity and it’ll support hover on the M2 versions of the iPad Pro.
But you’ll note I said “almost all the features.” Firstly, despite magnetically clipping to the side of newer iPads like the second-generation Apple Pencil, it won’t charge when you do so.
Second, and more damningly, there’s no pressure sensitivity, making it more like an Apple Biro than an Apple Pencil. That means it’s of limited use to people who want to use their iPad for sketching, unlike the previous models.
That makes it a confusing addition to the lineup: a USB-C upgrade, but a downgrade in other respects — a product that’ll cost more to make thanks to its moving part, sold for the lowest price yet.
Worse, it also makes it even more confusing to know which Apple Pencil you need with any given iPad.
If you buy a USB-C 10th-generation iPad, only the Apple Pencil 1 and 3 will work with it — but the first-gen model won’t fit without a (bundled) adapter because of its Lightning Port. The second-gen Pencil, meanwhile, has all the bells and whistles you could ask for, but only works with iPad Pro, a couple of Airs and one mini.
It’s fair to say that Steve Jobs would probably be unimpressed at this — and not just because he was dead set against styluses.