Ap­ple Pen­cil

Much sharper than the av­er­age smart sty­lus

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Ap­ple’s pres­sure-sen­si­tive Pen­cil is a home run, ex­hibit­ing re­mark­able per­for­mance on the new iPad Pro, but that should not come as a shock: The two were en­gi­neered from the ground up to work to­gether and only with each other.

The iPad screen recog­nises when you are us­ing the Pen­cil, and in re­sponse, dy­nam­i­cally boosts its scan rate to 240 times per sec­ond (twice the speed it scans for your fin­ger) to min­i­mize la­tency,

the time be­tween the Pen­cil’s point touch­ing the glass and a mark ap­pear­ing on the can­vas. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the Pen­cil’s sen­sors work with the dis­play to de­tect its po­si­tion, force, and tilt via APIs in iOS 9.1 that not only reg­is­ter cur­rent lo­ca­tion but pre­dict fu­ture move­ment.

Press lightly to get a thin stroke, press harder to get a thicker stroke, and rub lightly with the side of the Pen­cil’s tip to get shad­ing ac­tion, just like us­ing a reg­u­lar pen­cil, though the qual­ity of that shad­ing de­pends on the app and the brush you choose.

Sketch­ing and writ­ing

Straight out of the box, Ap­ple’s Pen­cil is a joy to use. You don’t need to do any elab­o­rate pair­ing or visit the Set­tings app – just plug the Pen­cil in to the iPad Pro’s Light­ning port to pair it, then go to town. It works as a sty­lus with any app, let­ting you launch, nav­i­gate, scroll, and com­plete ba­sic oper­a­tions. You can even trace over a reg­u­lar sheet of pa­per.

But Pen­cil doesn’t do ev­ery­thing. Edge ges­tures to ac­cess No­ti­fi­ca­tions or the Con­trol Cen­ter don’t work, and you can’t use it to open a sec­ond app in Slide Over or re­size apps in Split View. You must still use your fin­ger for those func­tions, and I’m good with that be­cause it’s not nec­es­sary, and you don’t want to ac­ci­den­tally in­voke func­tions with Pen­cil.

I tested the Pen­cil with Ever­note, No­ta­bil­ity, Adobe Pho­to­shop Mix, Fix and Sketch, Com­plete Anatomy, Liq­uidText, Pix­el­ma­tor, Pro­cre­ate, Pa­per, Notes, Ap­ple Pho­tos, and iMovie, along with the iPad’s built-in apps. Re­mark­ably, each app per­formed as ad­ver­tised, and in ac­cor­dance with its own con­ven­tions, in­clud­ing Notes’ nifty on-screen ruler

that helps you draw a straight line. The only anom­aly was the ref­er­ence app Com­plete Anatomy, aimed at med­i­cal stu­dents, which suf­fered from a slight lag time when I used the Pen­cil to an­no­tate the text.

Cur­sive hand­writ­ing and print­ing can be a heart­break with many sty­luses, and per­for­mance varies widely. How­ever, I have yet to see a hand­writ­ing func­tion that works quite as well as Pen­cil. (It re­pro­duces my poor pen­man­ship flaw­lessly.) Pen­cil is a to­tally nat­u­ral note­taker and such a plea­sure to use, that I’m al­most tempted to lug the iPad Pro around for the sheer joy of writ­ing with it. And just for the record, I thor­oughly en­joyed sketch­ing with it too, though I’m far from a free­hand artist.

Use and han­dling

Sty­luses are a per­sonal thing. What feels right to one paw doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to an­other. Ap­ple’s Pen­cil has just the right amount of bal­ance and heft so that I can use it for long pe­ri­ods of time with­out feel­ing hand strain, just like a tra­di­tional pen­cil. That’s ac­tu­ally a big­ger deal than it sounds. Only one other sty­lus I’ve used com­petes, and that’s Adobe’s Ink. Most other sty­luses wear out my hand in a sur­pris­ingly short pe­riod of time.

That said, I would have ap­pre­ci­ated the in­stru­ment to have more of a matte feel, as op­posed to the slick plas­tic sur­face. It was not hard to grip, nor did it slip from my fin­gers, but it would feel even bet­ter with an ever-so-slight de­gree of vel­vety fric­tion on the sur­face.

That’s also re­lated to the di­am­e­ter. Be­ing a pen­cil, it’s thin. And for draw­ing, that’s great. But

when I’m tak­ing notes with it, I’m re­minded of how I tend to go for pens with a bit of a thicker bar­rel to ease the strain on my hand as the words fly from by brain to my fin­ger­tips. I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing Ap­ple make the Pen­cil bar­rel thicker, but rather ex­press­ing that the va­ri­ety of tasks the Pen­cil af­fords will of­fer dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences.

The Pen­cil is pen­cil-like in length, so my small hand was just about able to han­dle it in a nat­u­ral way. It edges to­ward be­ing a bit too long, and I’m glad Ap­ple de­cided not to use the end tip as an eraser, like tra­di­tional pen­cils, be­cause at that length, it might feel awk­ward.

Most sty­luses are an ei­ther-or af­fair: You’re us­ing your fin­ger or you’re us­ing the sty­lus. Thanks to a new touch sub­sys­tem in the tablet, the iPad Pro can rec­og­nize both in­puts si­mul­ta­ne­ously and ac­cu­rately dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the two.

Au­to­matic and ac­cu­rate palm re­jec­tion makes the Pen­cil con­ve­nient be­cause I can ac­tu­ally park my fist di­rectly on the iPad’s glass while writ­ing, draw­ing, or paint­ing with­out hav­ing to worry about er­rant marks show­ing up on the can­vas.

And that brings me to the screw-on tip. Most high-qual­ity sty­luses ad­ver­tise their pres­ence with a clicky lit­tle sound that gets old really fast. When I’m stressed or frus­trated with a project, the last thing I want to hear is a click­ety-clack. The Pen­cil has a point, but its ma­te­ri­als make a very muted sound, which is much more agree­able. Ap­ple thought­fully in­cludes a re­place­ment tip in the box, just in case.

The only prob­lem is los­ing tiny things. The sec­ond tip can stay in the box un­til you need it, but take care not to lose the adap­tor that con­nects the Pen­cil to your Mac or an AC power adap­tor for charg­ing, or the lit­tle cap that cov­ers the Light­ning con­nec­tor, as you can­not park both on the Pen­cil at the same time.

Lim­ited use cases

To use the Pen­cil, which at £79 I con­sider rea­son­ably priced, though on the high end of the spec­trum, you also need the iPad Pro, which starts at £679 and goes over £899. The Pen­cil is to­tally use­less on any other iOS de­vice.

It’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing that Ap­ple lim­its the Pen­cil to iPad Pro users, when it could po­ten­tially en­gage a larger au­di­ence of late-model iPad users. Ap­ple ap­pears in­tent on cre­at­ing a uniquely su­pe­rior ex­pe­ri­ence with the Pen­cil, so that a dif­fer­ent kind of in­ter­ac­tion, with per­haps more la­tency and less pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity and tilt aware­ness, would de­feat the pur­pose. Nonethe­less, some peo­ple will stick with their lap­tops and smaller iPads and never need the iPad Pro. De­priv­ing them of the Pen­cil doesn’t seem quite fair.

Both the Pen­cil and the iPad Pro hold up well in terms of bat­tery life, and the when the Pen­cil’s charge does drain, it takes al­most no time to get it up and run­ning again. The ini­tial charge lasts about 12 hours, but 15 sec­onds plugged into the Light­ning con­nec­tor of the iPad Pro gets you back to work for an­other half hour be­fore you can even lose your train of thought.

Get­ting a quick bat­tery boost di­rectly from the host de­vice – with­out hav­ing to get up out of your chair to hunt for a cord or charger – is the way we all should work. Charg­ing the Pen­cil is eas­ier and faster than sharp­en­ing a reg­u­lar pen­cil.

Bat­tery life, in this case, is aca­demic, and the Pen­cil has no on­board bat­tery indi­ca­tor. How­ever, you can check the bat­tery level by en­abling a Bat­ter­ies wid­get in No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter; plus, an on-screen alert flashes when the bat­tery hits 5 per­cent.

iPad & iPhone User’s buy­ing ad­vice

If you’re an iPad Pro owner, should you buy the Pen­cil? That’s a no-brainer – Ap­ple hit it out of the ball­park in terms of ease of use and per­for­mance. Even those who feel they have no spe­cific use for it right now will likely find it makes life eas­ier in var­i­ous, un­ex­pected ways.

If you are an iPad owner that does not need an iPad Pro, it’s okay to be an­noyed that you can’t use the Pen­cil with the rest of the iPad lineup – but that might not be the case for­ever. I think Ap­ple should democra­tise the Pen­cil, up­grad­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of iPads to take ad­van­tage of at least some of the Pen­cil’s charms.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.