first-generation Apple PencilSource: Joseph Keller / iMore

Best answer: The iPad Air 4 is only compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil, the same version of the Pencil that works with the iPad Pro.

A better Pencil: Apple Pencil (second generation) ($129 at Apple)

The second-generation Apple Pencil is the only one that will work with the new iPad Air 4

The second-generation Apple Pencil, or Apple Pencil 2, as it's sometimes called, is what you'll want to get for drawing, handwriting, and other such tasks on the iPad Air 4. To pair it to the iPad, you'll just attach the Pencil's magnetic flat side to the small charging area on one side of the iPad (the right side if you're holding the iPad in portrait orientation with the Touch ID button on top).

The reason you can only use the Apple Pencil 2 with the iPad Air 4, and not the first-generation Pencil, comes down to a few factors. The first-generation device, for instance, can't even pair with the iPad Air 4. To pair that stylus, you need to plug its Lightning connector into a Lightning port. The iPad Air 4 doesn't have a Lightning port, as it's switched to USB-C.

The second-generation Apple Pencil is a superior stylus for the iPad Air

After two years of being confined to Apple's high-end iPad Pro line, it's good to see the second-generation Apple Pencil expand down to more of Apple's tablet line. That being said, the iPad Air 4 might not cost as much as the iPad Pro, but it's definitely out of the "budget" category.

It's superior in every way to the first-generation Apple Pencil. It doesn't need to pair and charge in the iPad's Lightning port (or via a dongle attached to a Lightning cable). Instead, it magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad Air or iPad Pro and is charged inductively by a small plate built into the iPad. That charging/pairing spot also means you can easily store and retrieve the Apple Pencil when you need to do so.

The flat side of the Apple Pencil 2 serves a dual purpose. First, is to connect to your iPad. The second, however, is to let you switch what tool your Pencil controls while you're using it with your iPad. By default, double-tapping the flat side of the iPad closer to the tip will switch between whatever your current tool is in your current app (a pencil, pen, paintbrush, etc.) and an erasure function. This can be customized a bit in Settings or the settings of individual apps.

It's a little pricier, but the second-generation Apple Pencil offers a much better stylus experience than its predecessor.

The iPad Air 4 is coming soon

The iPad Air 4 doesn't launch until some point in October, but if you want a powerful, highly portable iPad, but don't want to pay iPad Pro prices, it'll be worth the wait. The iPad Air 4 will be the best iPad for many people, especially those who want an iPad as a powerful supplementary device to their existing stable of gadgets.

Our pick

Apple Pencil (second generation)

A better stylus.

The second-generation Apple Pencil improves on the first-generation stylus in every way except price. It works with the current revision of the iPad Pro, as well as the upcoming iPad Air 4.

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