An updated Apple Pencil is fine in theory… but Apple’s made some genuinely unusual choices around its new stylus that leave me wondering who exactly is meant to buy it?
Amidst a flurry of rumours that suggested we’d see new iPads announced this week, Apple instead announced… a new Apple Pencil.
The new Apple Pencil — formally it’s the Apple Pencil (USB-C) — is being pitched at consumers as a new, lower cost alternative. Spending less money in these financially tight times is never not going to be a good thing, so everyone wins, right?
There’s a standard in selling just about anything and its marketing that you really ought to know who a product is for. If you can’t envision a market for whatever it is you’re selling, there might not be one, and it’s probably not going to do so well.
For literally decades now, my go-to example of this in the tech space has in fact been an Apple product.
No, not the Apple Newton.
Won’t stop me from sharing this clip, though
No, my go-to “who was going to buy this?” Apple product is the Apple G4 Cube.
Don’t remember the G4 Cube? Why, it was only yesterday I reviewed it for APC… OK, sorry, it was (sigh) 23 years ago (give or take only a few weeks) since my review was first published. If you’re feeling naughty, you can read it here; I don’t feel like I’m doing Future out of any huge royalties linking to that.
The G4 Cube was a lovely looking thing — at the time I lauded it for its “funky design” — that nearly nobody purchased because it was far too expensive and limited even compared with what you could get in a regular G4 Mac at the time were you so inclined. Apple was never terribly clear who the core market for the G4 Cube was meant to be, beyond perhaps a few Dotcom millionaires who wanted funky glowing boxes on their desks.
The Apple Pencil (USB-C) doesn’t have the cost problem, precisely, except for the fact that it’s a more limited Apple Pencil than the other two models that you can still buy.
I mean, you might think that the cheapest Apple Pencil, at $139 would be the match for the cheapest basic iPads. The budget buyers buy budget Apple Pencils, right?
But no. The Apple Pencil (USB-C) isn’t compatible with the regular 9th gen iPad, because the 9th gen model has Lightning, not USB-C.
You’re better off with the Apple Pencil 1st Generation ($159) in that case, because it’s both compatible and has pressure sensitivity built in, something that’s absent from the new Apple Pencil (USB-C) entirely.
OK, so it’s a cheaper alternative for USB-C equipped iPads, specifically (as per Apple), anyone with any of the following:
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (6th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (4th generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation)
- iPad Air (5th generation)
- iPad Air (4th generation)
- iPad (10th generation)
- iPad mini (6th generation)
It’ll even magnetically attach to the side of an iPad and work with hover gestures. A real win, no?
I’m not so sure.
While it does magnetically attach, it doesn’t do the magnetic charging that the Apple Pencil 2nd Generation ($219) offers, or even the same pairing. Either feat has to be achieved by plugging it in, which means that a flat Apple Pencil (USB-C) is going to be sticking out of your fancy iPad Pro for a while, hoping that the cat doesn’t jump up and snap it.
You also don’t get double tap gestures with the Apple Pencil (USB-C), and there’s no way to have it engraved by Apple, something you can have done with the full 2nd generation Apple Pencil.
It’s also curiously shorter than the other two Apple Pencils, at least going off Apple’s comparison image of all three. I’m not an artist, a point I’ve made rather forcefully recently, but most artists I know tend to prefer more grip space for their art, not less.
All of which leaves me still pondering exactly who the Apple Pencil (USB-C) is actually for.
It’s low cost, for sure, and I guess it might serve basic needs while making the higher cost models look better… but then they already did. If you just need a simple stylus, those have been available basically forever for far less than the asking price of the Apple Pencil (USB-C).