The Apple Pencil lineup is a confusing mess that didn't need to happen

Apple Pencil with USB-C on iPad
(Image credit: Apple)

It happened, pretty much as we always knew that it would. The Apple Pencil has gone USB-C. But it didn't do it in anything like the way that we expected it to and that's made the current Apple Pencil lineup a confusing mess. And it didn't need to be this way.

The new Apple Pencil (USB-C), as Apple has chosen to call, it is cheaper than the other two models at just $79, which is good. It's even better when you consider that you get a couple of features that aren't on the Apple Pencil (1st generation), too. But then it gets confusing because it doesn't have some of the features that are on the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) spec sheet.

And did I mention that it doesn't have a USB-C connector at all? No, it has a USB-C port instead. You plug a cable into it. Who saw that one coming?

The Apple Pencil, Apple Pencil, or the Apple Pencil?

iPad Pro 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Sure, it isn't the biggest problem in the world to have, but I maintain that Apple's naming conventions are absolutely maddening and downright confusing. The gymnastics it goes through to avoid making anything sound outdated is beyond unnecessary.

We've seen all of this before, of course. Instead of just calling anything the "whatever 2," we have to call it "whatever (2nd generation)" and that's if we're lucky. There was once a time when Apple just called the iPad Air the iPad Air, ignoring all the iPad Airs that came before it.

There's the AirPods, too. We have AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Pro (2nd generation) (USB-C) which is, frankly, something that should be shown to all marketing students as a way not to name a product. What's wrong with USB-C AirPods Pro 2, which is what we all call them anyway?

And so, the Apple Pencil. Or the Apple Pencil. Or, if you prefer, you can buy the Apple Pencil.

In reality, that's Apple Pencil (1st generation), Apple Pencil (2nd generation), or Apple Pencil (USB-C). So looking at those names, which is the best, most premium option with all the features? Is it the second generation or the one with no generation? What generation is the USB-C Apple Pencil, anyway?

Apple Pencil 1.7

Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Apple)

Yes, I motion that we call the new one the Apple Pencil 1.7. Because this thing has some features of the second generation, but not all of them. And inexplicably drops a feature from the first-generation stylus, too.

Confused yet?

Apple knows you will be because it put together a checklist to help. You'll find it on the company's website, right below where you choose the model you want to buy.

The new Apple Pencil (USB-C) has the Apple Pencil (2nd generation)'s flat side and magnetic connectivity. But it doesn't charge via that magnetic connection nor does it have double-tap controls despite having the magnets and flat side that make both things possible.

Then there's the strange decision to not support pressure sensitivity, something the Apple Pencil (1st generation) had. Not having all the best features makes sense given the new $79 price point. But taking features away that are there on the Apple Pencil (1st generation) model? Why?

And yes. I'm using their Sunday names to make a point.

Just. Why?

Apple Pencil laying beside wooden pencils.

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Now, again, I get it. In the grand scheme of things does any of this matter to me? No, and it probably won't matter to you, either. But it irks me because it's a confusing mess that didn't need to happen. It was all avoidable. Just use proper names for these things.

And just because it doesn't matter to me, and it might not matter to you, that doesn't mean it isn't a bad idea. Because someone, somewhere, has an iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation) and needs to know whether they want an Apple Pencil (2nd generation), Apple Pencil (1st generation), or Apple Pencil (USB-C) and the fact I had to write that sentence with that many parentheses is just insane.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.