Bottom line: So, is the second Pencil any better than the original or is it just different? Trick question. In almost every way, it's different in ways that make it better. $30 is still $30, but for that it grips better, it switches, there's no more cap to lose or convenient if awkward charging solutions. Instead, it charges in a way that makes you forget it even needs to charge.
Flat on one side
Magnetically attaches to iPad for charging
Double-tap 'button' gesture
No color options
No clip option
Not covered by the Folio
Gesture/charging zone complicates ergonomic sleeves
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This was the most time-consuming but ultimately most fun video I've ever done. And I kinda love how it turned out. For those of you who prefer to read than watch, though, here's the gist...
This Apple Pencil 2 review was originally written in November 2018 when it first launched. This review was last updated in July 2021 to note iPad compatibility.
Apple Pencil 2: Price and availability
The Apple Pencil 2 has been around a long time and it's readily available at many retail stores, including those mentioned above. The price for this item remains mostly stable, although you might see modest discounts around holidays alongside the best iPads.
Apple Pencil 2: What's good
I used Wacom Intuous and Cintiq tablets and styluses for over a decade when I worked in design. And I loved them. I loved them. Then, Apple introduced the iPad Pro and the Pencil along with it. No digitizer. No air gap. No parallax. No reticule. And it made every other stylus seem like something from the dark ages.
Yeah, sure, it wasn't perfect: It was slick and circular, had no quick way to switch tools, its cap was so easy to lose, and it's fast charging solution just looked... rude.
Now Apple has introduced an all-new iPad Pro and a No. 2 Pencil. (No, I'm never going to stop calling it that.) And it's matte, and flattened... ish, and has a tool changer, the cap is gone, and the charging solution in general Is, well, we
Now, a few things haven't changed. The tip is still the tip. As is the pressure sensitive technology inside it. That's right, unlike Apple Watch, iPhone, and the Mac Trackpad, it's the Pencil here that registers both the force and the angle, and transmits it all wirelessly to the iPad.
That's where the touch layer, ProMotion refresh rate, predictive tracking, and palm rejection come in. All incredibly impressive, but all the same as last year's iPad Pro. Apple did a lot of materials and coating work to get it to feel as good as it does, but it's still plastic on glass, and the No. 2 Pencil does nothing to change that.
Everything else, though. That's all new. Which is good, because the second generation Pencil doesn't work with previous generation iPads, and the the first generation Pencil doesn't work with the new iPad Pro.
It's a bummer, especially because the new Pencil costs $30 more than the old Pencil thanks to all the new tech — shrunk now denser than AirPods, I've heard — and sometimes the future comes at the expense of the past.
The finish isn't glossy any more. It's matte now. And while I never found the old pencil overly slick, the new one just feels better and more tactile. Less plastic and more... dunno... chalky? (Hand holding Pencil?)
There's no lightning connector on the back any more. (Draw Lightning. Erase lightning connector). And that means there's no cap to cover it, to take off and put on, or to lose. So damn always. Now the end is... just an end.
Except for the branding. I like the Apple. Heart the Apple. The word Pencil though... that's a little much. (Draw branding, erase pencil. Rocket saying a bit much?)
So, how do you charge the new Apple Pencil now? Inductively, just like Apple Watch and iPhones 8 and later. Bring it near the right edge of a new iPad Pro and it gets sucked precisely into place like it was hit by an imperial tractor beam. That's thanks to ferrite magnets in Hallback arrays, which is a fancy way of saying cleverly shaped magnetic fields.
It attaches with a satisfying thunk, like AirPods, and once it's in place it'll just charge. And Apple will just manages it so it always stays charged and ready for you to use it. It also pairs that way so, while it's still One iPad, One Pencil, you can switch iPads and Pencils any time but just slapping one on the side of the other.
If you somehow deplete your Pencil's charge, and find yourself on empty at a coffee shop or on a plane, it'll still fast charge so you can get back up and Penciling in just a few minutes. And if you forget to put it on your iPad and just leave it lying around, it'll detect it's not being used and go into ultra-low power mode to keep as much charge as it can for as long as it can.
But, honestly, because you stick it back on the iPad any time you're not using it, and it charges any time you do, it's pretty much never without charge. After a few days, you kinda even forget it does charge.
Instead of being completely round, Apple flattened one of the Pencil's edges so it sits better on the side of the iPad. As a side-effect. It makes it feel more pencil-like when you hold and use it. I like it. A lot. So much I hope Apple goes full-on Pencil and flattens all the sides next time.
As it is, it stays in place most of the time while docked and charging, though you can still knock it off and it can get knocked of in a bag. So keep a grip on it... and an eye.
Just above the tip is a new, capacitive touch area. Double tap on it and you can switch between tools. The default is draw and erase in Notes. It's faster than spinning the Pencil around and erasing with the back, and less tactile-ly annoying than having a physical button always there, lying in wait, tempting you to click it over and over again...
You can switch the double tap to alternating between the current and previous tools, or to bring up the palette. Developers can use also make it do anything that makes sense in their apps.
Apple Pencil 2: What's not good
There's not much not to love about the Apple Pencil 2. Among the minor criticisms: The basic shape is also still the same. The Pencil... is a Pencil. Which is great for people like me that have always used and loved pencils. For people who prefer the ergonomics of thicker or sleeved drawing tools, no help here.
Additionally, and because of the new double tap zone, you can't cover the top any more. And because of the new charging tech, you can't cover the middle any more, so unless someone comes up with something really clever, the Pencil shape will remain the pencil shape now for everyone. And... its still white. No silver. No space gray. Certainly no gold.
Apple Pencil 2: Competition
Because the Apple Pencil 2 only works with certain iPads, you might want to purchase an alternative so that it can work with multiple Apple tablets. Among these is the Logitech Crayon, Adonit Mark, ZAGG Pro Stylus, and Cosmonaut by Studio Neat. Before purchasing, make sure it supports all of your devices.
Apple Pencil 2: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You're using a compatible device and plan on writing a lot
- Want the latest and greatest
You shouldn't buy this if...
- Your iPad doesn't support it
- Worried about the price
So, is the new Pencil any better or is it just different?
Trick question. In almost every way, it's different in ways that make it better. $30 is still $30, but for that it grips better, it switches, there's no more cap to lose or convenient if awkward charging solutions. Instead, it charges in a way that makes you forget it even needs to charge.
It makes the all-purpose Apple Pencil more Apple and more Pencil, and I hope this video helps you understand why.
If you're an iPad Pro user, there's honestly nothing better than the Apple Pencil 2. Sure, there are cheaper options available, but this is the one that works best with your tablet.
Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.
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