Apple has just revealed its latest product update: a new Apple Pencil—not the new iPads which had been rumored. It is the cheapest Apple Pencil ever, clocking in at $79, with $69 for education pricing or £79 in the U.K., with £69 education pricing. It will be available in early November.
The new model looks more like the second-generation Pencil with its one flat edge and matte finish. But, like the first Pencil, it has a removable cap which slides off to reveal a connector for charging, though this time around, it’s a USB-C, not a Lightning, connector.
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So, is it the Goldilocks Apple Pencil, or which should you choose?
First of all, the new model, which is called Apple Pencil (USB-C) or the new Apple Pencil, works with every iPad with USB-C connector, including the 10th-generation iPad which until today only supported the first-gen Pencil.
And it’s a lot cheaper than either of the other Pencils, since the first-generation model, which you would now only buy if you have an older iPad with Lightning connector or iPad ninth-generation, costs $99 (£109 in the U.K.). The second-generation Pencil, still the best-looking of the lot, is $129 (£139 U.K.).
First of all, although it snaps magnetically to the side of all flat-edged iPads, including the 10th-generation iPad, it doesn’t charge or pair from them. You need to remove the cap to reveal a USB-C connector for pairing and charging. You do this by plugging a USB-C cable into it and then to the USB-C connector on the iPad. When attached to the side of the tablet magnetically, it puts the Pencil into a sleep state to save battery.
Note that the new Pencil is not compatible with the ninth-generation iPad because you need the USB-C connector to pair the Pencil—it’s not done via the magnetic panel.
Apart from wireless charging, there’s no pressure sensitivity, something found on both the other Pencils. If you need this capability, which means you can alternate between light and dark strokes, you need either of the others.
It also lacks the double-tap feature which lets you quickly change between tools, found on the priciest Pencil. Oh, and only the most expensive model offers free engraving.
Both the second-generation Pencil and the new one support Apple Pencil hover on iPad Pro, where you can see a preview of your mark before you make it.
The first Apple Pencil launched with the first iPad Pro, back in September 2015. Then came the second-generation model, three years later in October 2018. So, you could say a third-gen model has been overdue for a while.
The new Pencil looks good and offers a real value option for all users of the latest iPads with USB-C connectors. If that’s you, you have to ask yourself if you need pressure-sensitivity. If so, you need either the first- or third-gen models, though remember to choose appropriately: the third-gen Pencil does not work with the iPad tenth-generation, but with all other USB-C iPads.
The only other things you miss from the third-gen Pencil are the capability to change tools with a quick double-tap and of course, the convenience of pairing and charging wirelessly.