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A Comparison Between USB-C and Older Versions of the Apple Pencil

October 22, 2023
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The Apple Pencil is the company’s least expensive stylus and the only one that supports USB-C. This is how it fits into the landscape of Apple styluses.

As the rumor mill awaited the release of new iPads on October 17, Apple made the decision to introduce something slightly different. Apple added a third Apple Pencil to its line of products rather than updating its tablet.

The Apple Pencil with USB-C was introduced to provide “more value and choice to the lineup,” in Apple’s words, and offers a cheap stylus option for a number of Apple’s iPad models.

Although helpful, the launch does make the stylus family a little more complicated, as some iPad models now support multiple styluses.

In comparison to earlier models, this is what the new Apple Pencil offers as well as what it does not.

New Apple Pencil USB-C vs. Old Apple Pencil: Specifications

New Apple Pencil USB-C vs. Old Apple Pencil: Specifications
Specifications Apple Pencil (1st Generation)    Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)    Bluetooth, Lightning      
Price$99Best price      $129Best price      $79      
Dimensions (inches)6.92 long, 0.35 diameter      6.53 long, 0.35 diameter      6.1 long, 0.29 diameter      
Weight (ounces)      0.73      0.73      0.72      
Connectivity      iPad Air (4th gen to 5th gen),iPad mini (6th gen), First to fourth-generation iPad Pro 11-inch  third to sixth-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch
      
Bluetooth      Bluetooth, Lightning      
Magnetically attaches      No      Yes      Yes      
Charging      Lightning      Wireless      USB-C      
Pressure sensitivity      Yes      Yes      No      
iPad Pro Hover support      No      Yes      Yes      
Double-Tap support      No      Yes      No      
Free Engraving      No      Yes      No      
Supported iPads      iPad (6th gen to 10th gen),iPad Air (3rd gen),iPad mini (5th gen),iPad Pro 9.7-inch,iPad Pro 10.5-inch,iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd gen)      iPad Air (4th gen to 5th gen),iPad mini (6th gen),First to fourth-generation iPad Pro 11-inch  third to sixth-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch
      
iPad (10th gen),iPad Air (4th gen and 5th gen),iPad min (6th gen)First to fourth-generation iPad Pro 11-inch  third to sixth-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch      

Design

The Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) and Apple Pencil (USB-C) appear identical at first glance. Unsurprisingly, they both have a pencil-like design, as do the majority of styluses, with a long, narrow body and a tapering tip. This is what pencils would look like if they were made entirely of white. The weight of the two Apple Pencils is likewise comparable, with the Apple Pencil (USB-C) weighing 20.5g and the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) weighing 20.7g. This is made to feel like a regular pencil in weight.

The Apple Pencil (USB-C) and the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation), however, have a few peculiarities. The new Apple Pencil is slightly shorter and fatter, which is the first change. The second-generation Apple Pencil is 140.5 mm in length and 16.5mm in diameter. The Apple Pencil (USB-C) measures 129.5mm long and 18.3mm in diameter in comparison. There isn’t much of a change, but it’s unclear how the Apple Pencil (USB-C) will feel and operate given its smaller size.

The Apple Pencil (USB-C) has a retractable end that shows its charging port and gives it its name. This is the second significant distinction. You can charge and pair the Apple Pencil (USB-C) by sliding back the end to reveal the USB-C port. In contrast, the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) employs wireless charging and pairing, about which we’ll learn more later, and has a sturdy body without a retractable end.

The Apple Pencil USB-C vs. Old Apple Pencil: Stylus Features

The Apple Pencil USB-C vs. Old Apple Pencil: Stylus Features

The essential capabilities of each Apple Pencil are the same, including exceptional precision when used with an iPad or iPad Pro’s display. Over the course of the device’s lifetime, it is essentially a given.

All of them also have low latencies, making using the Apple Pencil to interact with a display similar to writing on paper with little lag. Additionally, there is universal tilt sensitivity, which enables users to use drawing programs to execute pencil shading-like operations.

The feature set splits at this point on the somewhat significant pressure sensitivity. While present in the previous and second-generation devices, pressure sensitivity is completely absent from the new USB-C variant.

Although Apple may have changed this in an unorthodox way, it makes sense in other aspects. Since not everyone prefers pressure sensitivity, it could be removed without repercussions if doing so results in a reduction in stylus cost.

Even though the USB-C variant lacks that feature, it does take a cue from the second-gen model in that it can magnetically attach to an iPad’s side. The first-generation model lacks this feature.

Only the second-generation iPad can wirelessly pair and charge with the USB-C version, despite the fact that it can magnetically attach to an iPad.

Support for Hover, an iPad Pro function that can detect the presence of an Apple Pencil directly above the screen, is another capability the USB-C device acquires from the second generation. This is not supported by the original Apple Pencil, either.

Double-tap, a motion that enables speedy switching between software tools, is another second-gen feature the previous two lack. Users of first-generation devices and USB-C devices will still need to touch various controls on the display.

The only model that provides free engraving at the time of purchase is the second-generation model.

Apple Pencil (USB-C) vs. Apple Pencil (2nd Generation): Which should you choose?

Apple Pencil (USB-C) vs. Apple Pencil (2nd Generation): Which should you choose?

Your budget and intended use will ultimately determine which Apple Pencil you purchase. The Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) is the model to choose if you want to get the most out of your Apple Pencil. With the Apple Pencil (USB-C), you can’t obtain key features like double-tap motions and pressure sensitivity. Additionally, charging is considerably simpler because you can attach it to the side of your iPad rather than fiddling with cords and charging ports that are covered by retractable lids.

However, the Apple Pencil (USB-C) can give you many of the essential capabilities of the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) at a much lower price if pressure sensitivity isn’t that crucial to you, and wireless charging still feels a little like witchcraft. You may benefit from features like tilt sensitivity and receive the same precision and low latency as the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). Even the Apple Pencil (USB-C) is compatible with the potent hover function. However, you’ll have to come up with a way to make it uniquely yours.

Conclusion

Apple has introduced the Apple Pencil with USB-C, offering a low-cost stylus option for various iPad models. The Pencil (2nd Generation) and the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) both have a similar design, shaped like a pencil with a long, slim body and tapered tip.

Both weigh 20.7g and support iPads (6th gen to 10th gen), iPad Air (3rd gen), iPad mini (5th gen), iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd gen), iPad Air (4th gen to 5th gen), iPad mini (6th gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st gen to 4th gen), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd gen to 6th gen), iPad (10th gen), iPad Air (4th gen and 5th gen), iPad min (6th gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st gen to 4th gen), and iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd gen to 6th gen).

The Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) and the Apple Pencil (USB-C) offer high precision levels with iPad or iPad Pro displays, low latencies, tilt sensitivity, and pressure sensitivity. However, the USB-C model doesn’t have pressure sensitivity, which is an unusual change for Apple. While the USB-C model can magnetically attach to the side of an iPad, only the second-generation model can wirelessly pair and charge using it. It also gains support for Hover, the iPad Pro feature that can detect the presence of an Apple Pencil just above the screen, and Double-Tap, a gesture that allows users to quickly switch between software tools.

Choosing the Apple Pencil depends on your budget and how you intend to use it. If pressure sensitivity isn’t important, the Apple Pencil (USB-C) can provide key features of the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) at a significantly lower price.

FAQS

What is the difference between the generations of Apple Pencils?

Design and ergonomics of the Apple Pencil vs. Apple Pencil 2
The two Apple Pencils have a very similar design, but they also stand out enough to be distinguished. The Apple Pencil 2 has a flat edge, while the first Apple Pencil is entirely round and has a diameter of 8.9mm.

Do you need USB-C for the Apple Pencil?

Overview. The first-generation Apple Pencil must be paired and charged with the iPad (10th generation) via the USB-C to Apple Pencil Adapter.

Which Apple Pencil generation is better?

Although the second-generation Apple Pencil is superior, the first model is still sufficient. Even the points of the Apple Pencil are identical. In fact, a first-generation Apple Pencil’s tip can be screwed into a second-generation one.

How do you tell the difference between a 1st and 2nd generation Apple Pencil?

Remove the cap lock. The lighting connector is hidden by a cap on the first-generation Apple Pencil. The second-generation Apple Pencil features a flat side rather than a totally round shaft and does not have a cap. The iPad Pro’s flat side latches against the edge of the device.