Eight ways the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 is bet­ter than the orig­i­nal

The Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 doesn’t look hugely dif­fer­ent from its pre­de­ces­sor, but that’s a well-crafted il­lu­sion.

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Leif John­son re­ports

Pro­vided you ig­nored the aw­ful charg­ing process, the Ap­ple Pen­cil was a marvel of de­sign – a sty­lus that looked, felt, and wrote much like an ac­tual pen or pen­cil. That’s not to say it didn’t need some im­prove­ments (as we out­lined in a wish list ear­lier this month), but adding them seem to run the risk of

over­com­pli­cat­ing the sim­ple el­e­gance that made the Pen­cil such a joy to draw and write with.

But with the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2, Ap­ple shows that it can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove one of its trade­mark min­i­mal­ist prod­ucts with­out sac­ri­fic­ing much of its de­sign’s power. Al­most ev­ery new fea­ture counts as an im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous model (although with some caveats). The only real draw­backs are the £30 price boost and the in­abil­ity to use the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 with any de­vice save the two new iPad Pros.

Still, the im­prove­ments are good enough to make the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 an es­sen­tial pur­chase for any­one with the new Pro tablets. It has all of the strengths of the pre­vi­ous model – in­clud­ing vari­able stroke weight and the abil­ity to start new notes in the Notes app just by tap­ping the iPad’s lock screen – along with a host of en­hance­ments for stor­age, charg­ing, and us­age. Here are our favourites.

1. It gets rid of that aw­ful charg­ing method

Even if you never ac­tu­ally owned an Ap­ple Pen­cil, there’s a good chance you knew how awk­ward it was to charge it. First, you’d have to take off the tiny, em­i­nently los­able mag­netic cap, and then you’d have to plug the male Light­ning con­nec­tor into the iPad’s fe­male port. You’d then es­sen­tially have to leave both de­vice alone while they charged. It was some­what con­ve­nient for charg­ing the Pen­cil it­self, but the end re­sult looked like you were meant to hold it like a sign – sign that likely said some­thing like ‘This is bad de­sign’.

The laughs are over with the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2. No longer do you need to plug the sty­lus into any­thing:

in­stead, you sim­ply snap the Pen­cil’s edge to some of the whop­ping 105 mag­nets sur­round­ing the iPad Pro and it will be­gin to charge im­me­di­ately. It’s as easy as that. In fact, with this one change, Ap­ple also fixed a num­ber of other is­sues with one stroke.

2. You no longer have to worry about los­ing the cap

The Light­ning con­nec­tor for the orig­i­nal Ap­ple Pen­cil was hid­den un­der a mag­netic white cap on the ‘eraser’ end, and it was gen­er­ally more se­cure than it looked. I’ve even used the Ap­ple Pen­cil as a drum­stick be­fore and the cap never flew off.

As strong as that mag­net was, though, even­tu­ally you’d have to re­move the cap in or­der to recharge

the Pen­cil proper. I be­lieve this is how many peo­ple lost their caps, as they had no choice but to slip them in their pock­ets or place them next to the Pen­cil and hope they didn’t roll off the table into obliv­ion.

Now, those wor­ries are gone be­cause the cap is gone. Since you can only charge the Ap­ple Pen­cil wire­lessly, you’ll never have to re­move a cap. It’s the kind of el­e­gance we ex­pect from Ap­ple in its finest mo­ments.

3. You don’t have to worry about Ap­ple Pen­cil rolling off the table

You don’t have to worry about the cap rolling away, but you also don’t have to worry about the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 it­self rolling off a desk. Most of the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 is still as smooth and cylin­dri­cal as its fore­bear, but Ap­ple sub­tly flat­tened the sec­tion that’s meant to align with the iPad Pro for charg­ing and car­ry­ing. This new de­sign keeps it firmly in place when at­tached to the tablet, and it pre­vents it from rolling away when you set it down.

But I’m a lit­tle di­vided on this one. I’m happy that the new model won’t roll away, but the orig­i­nal Ap­ple Pen­cil’s cylin­dri­cal form fac­tor was one of the things I loved most about it. Along with the ‘heft’ and weight, it helped the Ap­ple Pen­cil feel more like a real pen or pen­cil than many other sty­luses.

The sin­gle flat­tened edge sac­ri­fices some of that unity. Again, it’s sub­tle, but I can’t help but won­der how this seem­ingly small change will af­fect its com­fort dur­ing long writ­ing or draw­ing ses­sions. Most pens or pen­cils have ei­ther round bar­rels or mul­ti­ple flat­tened edges that uni­formly sur­round the whole de­vice. Even

the roll-averse Log­itech Crayon’s re­sem­blance to a car­pen­ter’s pen­cil fits this tra­di­tion, as both sides are uni­form in de­sign.

4. You now have a spot to stow the Ap­ple Pen­cil it­self

One of the big­gest prob­lems with the pre­vi­ous Ap­ple Pen­cil is that you had nowhere to put it. Only a few cases pro­vided a place for stow­ing it, and gen­er­ally I’d just end up stash­ing it in my bag, my shirt (so nerdy), or my blue jeans. This was hardly ideal.

With the new mag­nets and wire­less charg­ing, though, the iPad Pro it­self be­comes the ideal place for stow­ing your Pen­cil. It wouldn’t say it’s en­tirely fool­proof, but it prob­a­bly keeps your Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 at least as se­curely at­tached to the iPad Pro as the mag­net

on the old model kept the cap at­tached to the Pen­cil it­self. So, in other words, never let it out of your sight.

5. Ges­ture con­trols make it a bet­ter tool for artists

Plenty of artists I’ve spo­ken with over the past few months – such as Ho­tel Tran­syl­va­nia2’ s Lizzie Ni­chols – have told me they wanted to see ad­di­tional con­trols on the Ap­ple Pen­cil. Many wor­ried, though, that Ap­ple would be un­able to do this with­out sac­ri­fic­ing ear­lier model’s el­e­gant and but­ton­less de­sign.

As it turns out, Ap­ple took some clear cues from the AirPods. The firm now lets you change the type of stroke you’re us­ing within its own Notes app just by dou­ble-tap­ping the bar­rel of the Pen­cil, and it’ll al­low you to cus­tom­ize what those dou­ble taps do in other apps. That sounds like a god­send for artists who want to change stroke with a sin­gle tap in Adobe Pho­to­shop or switch the Pen­cil over to eraser mode with­out hunt­ing down a sep­a­rate in­ter­face el­e­ment.

As I’ve said else­where, I ad­mire this de­sign, but I worry that it’ll be too easy to ac­ti­vate the dif­fer­ent taps sim­ply while drum­ming your fin­gers on the Pen­cil in mo­ments of deep thought.

6. It’s eas­ier to tell if the iPad is charg­ing

This is one of the fea­tures I’d hoped for on my Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 wish list, but I imag­ined it would come with some­thing like a tiny charge sta­tus light that you only saw when you re­moved the cap. (I had the AirPods in mind.) That’s not an op­tion here, as the cap is no longer a thing.

In­stead, a lit­tle no­ti­fi­ca­tion now pops up after you at­tach the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 to the side of the iPad Pro for charg­ing. You’ll see the name of the de­vice along with the black elec­tri­cal bolt and green (or red) bat­tery life sym­bol you’re prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with from the iPhone. It’s a quick and highly ap­pre­ci­ated way to check the bat­tery with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the in­tegrity of the Ap­ple Pen­cil’s de­sign or adding too many steps in iOS 12.

7. You can eas­ily pair it to your iPad

Pair­ing your Ap­ple Pen­cil with the iPad is now even eas­ier with the new ver­sion. Sim­ply let the sty­lus slap to the mag­nets on the side, and it will im­me­di­ately pair. That’s not only nifty for setup, but it’ll make us­ing mul­ti­ple iPads and Ap­ple Pen­cils eas­ier for the very few of us who use mul­ti­ple mod­els on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

8. Ap­ple will en­grave it for free

This may not seem like a huge deal, but any time the words ‘free’ and ‘Ap­ple’ get men­tioned in the same sen­tence counts as news to me. If you or­der your Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 through ap­ple.com/uk (and only through there), Ap­ple will al­low you to en­grave a few words of your choos­ing on your fancy new sty­lus for the low, low price of noth­ing. This isn’t en­tirely a new thing: After all, Ap­ple has pro­vided the same ser­vices for iPods and iPads for years.

El­e­gance? We think not

Mag­nets mean the Ap­ple Pen­cil 2 can be at­tached to the top of the iPad Pro

You can change the type of stroke you’re us­ing within its own Notes app by dou­ble­tap­ping the bar­rel of the Pen­cil

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