Are you on the hunt for a stylus? There are other alternatives out there as well when precision work is necessary, but for the Apple fans among us the simple design of an Apple product may call so strongly that we never take those competitive versions into consideration. Last year we wrote “Go Digital, Stay On Paper, Or Choose Both?” here on the blog and this is in continuum of that post. Before you commit to Apple Pencil, however, there are some crucial pieces of information you need to know, so please keep reading! In this post:
- What Apple Pencil Is And Isn’t
- The Differences Between 1st And 2nd Generation Apple Pencils
- Apple Pencil In Action
- File Size
- Markup In Notes App
- Useful Accessories
- Pencil Grips
- Pencil Covers
- Stuff To Avoid Losing The 1st Gen Cap
- Stuff To Avoid Losing The 1st Gen Charger Piece
1. What Apple Pencil Is And Isn’t
It may sound silly to talk about what Apple Pencils are, but apart from being a stylus, it’s actually its own device. It pairs over Bluetooth and therefore can’t be compared to the soft, rubbery and affordable domes frequently found as part of ballpoint pens. I’ve tried to use one of those on the iPad screen but find it imprecise in both functionality and neatness of text produced.
Since Apple Pencil pairs over Bluetooth, it needs to be charged. I had no idea when buying my 1st generation Pencil.
A final and key point is to realise that the iPhone screen uses entirely different technology (can’t explain though), so it still needs an old-fashioned stylus. Yes, I tried to pair my Apple Pencil with iPhone 6S, but it wouldn’t work. (You know how you just have to test even when you read online how it’s impossible? That’s me.) Maybe one day though.
2. The Differences Between 1st And 2nd Generation Apple Pencils
There are significant differences between the currently two existing generations of Apple Pencil, so please read this carefully before buying one for your own devices!
The visual difference between 1st and 2nd generation Apple Pencils are obvious:
- 1st generation is round, 2nd flattened around its centre axis.
- 1st generation has a silver ring up on top with Apple logo and the text Pencil, 2nd with logo and same text but without the silver.
This is a major one and not easy to find out about when shopping for a Pencil. If you have one type of iPad, only one of the Pencils will work with it! Find out below (but do consult the Apple website prior to purchase, we take no responsibility if this information changes after the date of publication).
Apple Pencil 1st generation is compatible with:
- iPad Air: 3rd generation
- iPad mini: 5th
- iPad: 6th and 7th
- iPad Pro: 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, 12.9-inch 1st and 2nd generations
Apple Pencil 2nd generation is compatible with:
- iPad Pro: 11-inch, 12.9-inch 3rd generation
For this reason I don’t recommend looking at user photos to determine what will work for you as the iPad Pro versions in particular are so close to each other in size. People can stage photos without realising they create compatibility issues for the viewer. See below a couple of examples.
1st generation Pencil charges and pairs via Lightning, 2nd generation wirelessly via magnets and automatically. The 1st generation can also be charged quickly via iPad itself and from own experience I can say this doesn’t drain the battery noticeably, but even a short burst charges the battery by 10-20 %. I do carry with me an external battery lately, when it’s possible some of my devices may run out of power though.
3. Apple Pencil In Action
To use Apple Pencil on documents stored on your iPad or in iCloud Files, you need to access the Markup toolbar. Its icon is found in apps as a pencil tip surrounded by a circle. Notes is where you can create documents from scratch by combining keyboard text with handwriting and drawings.
Another less known way to doodle with Pencil is by drawing notes on screenshots. I use this quite often when capturing ideas for work to turn into projects such as blog posts, products or marketing materials, but it works equally well when circling in the specific pillow I would like from a shop.
Markup in this case is accessed through the Edit function of an image in Photos, but you can add your reminders right after taking the screenshot as well, before saving it to an app.
3.1 File Size
Before showing some examples of my own, I’ll remind you that even the slightest changes such as highlighting sections across a few pages can take the PDF from around 100 kb to 1 Mb. I avoid stagnant document storages and costs related to these as best I can, so for me expanding iCloud is no option. You can check in Files the latest status with regard to how much storage you have left.
3.2 Markup In Notes App
Here are a couple of quick scribble examples from Notes.
Notice what happens when you push Markup toolbar to the side. I found this by accident yesterday and it’s too good not to share.
There also seems to be a handwriting-digitised functionality being worked on by Apple, because I wrote by hand to begin with in this note and the name in the sidebar became what I had scribbled. A trickier word was interpreted into gibberish, so it needs improvement still but this is promising for meetings and the like when you want to travel lightly, then have your comments turned into slideshows etc. later.
4. Useful Accessories
Because Apple Pencil is a device rather than average pen, it can break on the inside and outside as well as lose loose parts. My floor is uneven so there’s no guarantee my Pencil stays put on a desk, but there are other reasons I invested less than 10 € in a couple of accessory sets, too.
4.1 Pencil Grips
I find the 1st generation Pencil to be a bit top heavy in addition to having a slightly slippery surface, which is why I bought a grip to put on the bottom half of the Pencil. Currently I’m using the thicker of the two in a set, but might change to the thin one for increased writing comfort.
I’ve also seen alternatives that encase the whole pen up to the cap, but prefer to enjoy some of its original white cover. In any case, this grip adds friction to the natural rolling effect.
4.2 Pencil Covers
There are transportation covers for sale, which are sturdy enough to prevent the Pencil from bending and breaking in transit, but I’m using a small pencil pouch of fabric in everyday commute situations.
As part of my accessory set, however, arrived a Pencil tip cover, which I put in place each time I take my Pencil on outings. It looks like a magnified sharpened pencil end and does spark joy as per KonMari.
4.3 Stuff To Avoid Losing The 1st Gen Cap
To keep the cap attached to the 1st generation Pencil during charging, there are bits of silicone you can buy. My guess is they get 3D printed in China among others for very little money, then shipped across the world. Great value proposition in any case, and business idea, too!
But back to the bits: there’s a ring part which you place below the silver ring on the Pencil itself. Via a thin bridge part, the ring connects to a cap part, which fits the Pencil cap perfectly. Once you remove the Pencil cap, the bridge keeps it hanging from the Pencil itself.
Amazon users testify to having lost the cap inside a bag or dropped in random directions when removed for charging, but this annoying problem has been solved by using the silicone contraption described here. If you end up losing the Pencil cap entirely, some of the accessory sets sold on Amazon and similar come with silicone replacement caps to keep the Lightning end covered and unharmed.
4.4 Stuff To Avoid Losing The 1st Gen Charger Piece
Usually sold as part of a set, there are bits similar in function to the cap accessory above to keep the tiny charger piece safe. In this case one ring part goes around the charger piece, which is connected via a bridge part to another ring. The second ring part is finessed to sit permanently around a charger cord. (The joys of describing in words what an image could also convey, yet not all of us can see!)
So why this hassle-sounding solution? The 1st generation Apple Pencil is charged with the same Lightning cord as you use for iPhones and iPads. When charging the Pencil, which has a Lightning piece at its end, you need a connector between two Lightning ends.
When charging another Apple device, you remove the Pencil connector, but if it isn’t tied to anything, you risk losing it just as the cap can easily go missing. Even though it stands out from the Lightning cord like a happy flag then, at least it remains attached. These are perfect examples of where Apple prioritises form over function, but hey ho.
The Apple Pencil costs quite a bit for such a small piece of technology and due to its intended purpose, combined with shape and size, it’s easily dropped on the floor sometimes. Be careful when handling it.
Apart from getting used to handling this contraption, the way my productivity is expressed in has change completely in less than a year. I find myself using the iPad increasingly often and my right hand, which due to my accident last year does all typing these days, gets less tired now that writing and drawing graphic stuff for my handicrafts business can happen more smoothly away from my deskop iMac.
The amount of paper notes is also decreasing steadily. All of our up-coming digital products have been tested extensively by me to ensure they work as intended and so far I’ve imagined myself writing on the iPad instead of on paper various productivity and reference-related bits of information, then created a “printable” (we’ll sell those too!) to take for a test spin.
Also, my lecture notes in business school have without exception been taken on the iPad in the GoodNotes app with my beloved Apple Pencil. There are numerous ways in which your life can change, too, if you consider going digital now that your handwritten scribbles can remain fully digital.
Tell us your thoughts on this, please! Talking productivity fires me up completely and tweaking processes has my heart :)
Photo credit, featured image: Michel Rocha.