Is the Apple Pencil Really Worth Buying?

*This article was originally published in 2019 and was updated on September 7th, 2021.*

Curious whether or not the Apple Pencil is worth buying?

Whether you’re a new iPad user or you’ve had one of Apple’s mobile tablets for years, you’ve probably heard about the Apple Pencil. Since its first release in 2015, Apple’s high-tech, low-profile input device has changed the way iPad users interact with their favorite apps.

Apple has gone out of its way to make sure that the Apple Pencil is more than just another iPad stylus.

But do the benefits really justify the price tag? Is the Apple Pencil worth buying, or is it just a fancy finger replacement for Apple fans?

In this guide, we’ll help you cover the basics of the Apple Pencil and whether it’s worth buying for your specific needs.

 

Table of contents

An Apple Pencil 2 (logo visible) sits atop an iPad.

Apple Pencil: The Basics

Before we talk about who uses the Apple Pencil, let’s cover the basics.

In short, the Apple Pencil is a touch-sensitive, precision selection tool that functions as a replacement for tapping the screen when used with a compatible iPad. Because it’s the size of an actual pencil — something everyone is familiar with — it fits easily in the hand and feels intuitive to use.

There are currently two versions of the Apple Pencil. Let’s take a closer look at each model:

The Apple Pencil (1st Generation) sits on a sunlit table beside the AirPods Pro and an iPad.

Apple Pencil: 1st Generation

This was the model that started it all: The original Apple Pencil. The first generation of the Apple Pencil was released in 2015 and is compatible with older iPad models.

This version of the Apple Pencil offers the following features:

  • Pressure-sensitive tip
  • No lag during use
  • Tilt and pressure sensitivity
  • Compatible with a screen protector
  • Doesn’t require a battery pack
  • Completes software updates while charging
  • Contains no moving parts within the casing
  • Works simultaneously with other iPad accessories, like the Apple Smart Keyboard or third-party Bluetooth keyboards

But it comes with a major downside: To charge the device, you’ll need to plug it into the Lightning port on your iPad.

Even though Apple says it only takes about 15 minutes to charge the device, charging the first-generation Apple Pencil feels clumsy and awkward. Some users even prefer to buy female port adapters for the lightning connector — like this one on Amazon — to avoid charging the Apple Pencil via the iPad.

Compatibility

The first generation of the Apple Pencil is compatible with all versions of iOS, as well as the following devices:

  • iPad (6th, 7th, and 8th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch
An Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) sits on a yellow table beside its original packaging.

Apple Pencil: 2nd Generation

The second-generation Apple Pencil is the current model of the product, and Apple seems to have hit its stride with this updated version.

This version of the iPad offers the following features:

  • Pressure-sensitive tip
  • No lag during use
  • Tilt and pressure sensitivity
  • Change tools with double-tap
  • Compatible with a screen protector
  • Doesn’t require a battery pack
  • Completes software updates while charging
  • Contains no moving parts within the casing
  • Wireless pairing and charging
  • Magnetic attachment using ferrite magnets
  • Works simultaneously with other iPad accessories, like the Apple Smart Keyboard or third-party Bluetooth keyboards

This version of the Apple Pencil comes with a smooth, matte finish rather than the plastic casing on the first-generation model. It feels nicer to hold, and the new material allows Apple to offer free engraving if you want to personalize your Apple Pencil.

The fact that this version of the Apple Pencil attaches magnetically hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the wireless charging feature means that the device stays charges by simply staying with your iPad.

But the magnetic adhesion isn’t foolproof. While the magnet attachment feels strong, the Apple Pencil can be knocked off your iPad with relatively little effort. If you’re using it in the office or at the local coffee shop, take care to make sure you don’t lose it.

Users have also reported that the battery life on the second generation isn’t as good as it was on the first-gen model.

Compatibility

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation)
  • iPad Air (4th generation)
An Apple Pencil (2nd generation) rests atop the keys of an Apple Magic Keyboard alongside a pair of
    AirPods.

Major Benefits

Going beyond the technical details, the Apple Pencil offers a few major advantages over your fingers when it comes to interacting with your iPad.

An iPad screen featuring a handdrawn heart and the word “Hello.” An Apple Pencil rests on top of the
        screen.

Improved Versatility

Hands and fingers are great for a lot of things, but they’re clumsy and awkward when compared to the precision that we get from using specialized tools.

And we’re not just talking about the Apple Pencil! That’s true for any tool — stylus or otherwise.

With the Apple Pencil, you’ll have finer-grained control over your hand movements. This allows you to use your iPad in new and exciting ways, from writing and journaling all the way to drawing and digital design.

Protip: You can add even more versatility and control when using your Apple Pencil by picking up a Paperlike. Our screen protectors emulate the feel of paper. Combined with the Apple Pencil, drawing and writing on your iPad feels just like working in a sketchbook or physical notebook.

A man draws a bow on an iPad screen using an Apple Pencil 2.

Pressure Sensitivity

Another major advantage of the Apple Pencil comes down to sensitivity when touching the stylus to your screen.

Because the tip of the Apple Pencil understands how hard or soft you press against the screen, it’s possible for iPad users to create everything from handwritten text to incredible digital artwork without any other specialized tool.

Other stylus options may only provide limited pressure sensitivity — if they even offer it at all.

What’s more: Many app developers have also discovered how to take advantage of these unique features.

  • With creative apps like Procreate, artists can adjust the size, texture, and consistency of the brushes and erasers they use to paint and draw.
  • Notetakers using GoodNotes 5 can emphasize key points in their notes by pressing down harder while using the fountain pen tool.

While Apple hasn’t revealed any pressure sensitivity levels for the Apple Pencil, the stylus is diverse enough that professional artists are able to create incredible works of digital art without resorting to specialized equipment like Wacom tablets or expensive desktops.

A woman sketches a face on an iPad using the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation).

Who Uses the Apple Pencil?

Without a doubt, there are a ton of uses for the Apple Pencil, and many consider it to be a must-have Apple product.

While it might not seem like a fit for the everyday user at first glance, this Apple device is a nifty little gadget when placed in the right hands.

So who thinks the Apple Pencil is worth buying? Let’s take a look at some specific use cases to find out.

A smiling man seated at a cafe draws with using his iPad and Apple Pencil.

Artists

The Apple Pencil gives artists almost everything they need to sketch, draw, and colorize artwork on their touchscreen device. This is because the Apple iPad supports technologies like palm rejection and pressure sensitivity, both of which are fundamental to most digital artists.

Combine that with an active imagination and a few powerful artistic apps like Procreate, Affinity Photo, or Photoshop for iPad and you’ve got everything you need to start creating amazing digital art.

You can even grab a Paperlike screen protector to make the surface of the iPad feel like real paper.

This combination of hardware and software makes your Apple devices powerful enough to compete with dedicated drawing tools like the Wacom Cintiq. The iPad apps, combined with features built into the iPadOS software save Apple users from a hefty investment into specialized hardware.

After all, why purchase a dedicated art device when the iPad can get the job done at no additional charge?

That’s especially true when you use the macOS Sidecar feature or an app like Astropad to transform your iPad into a graphics tablet for your Macbook (while still using the Apple Pencil as your primary stylus).

Keeping professional artists out of unnecessary investments and allowing hobbyists to improve their craft by utilizing technology that they already own makes the Apple Pencil a worthwhile purchase for millions of iPad users.

A college student takes notes using an iPad and Apple Pencil.

Students & Teachers

Digital technology has a variety of uses in the classroom. It can help young students explore their creative side, stay organized, and learn using interactive tools.

For high school and college students, leveraging the iPad with notetaking apps like Notability or Evernote can help learners capture detailed, handwritten notes and organize their digital classwork.

But that’s only scratching the surface of what the Apple Pencil can do for students. Many modern educational apps use advanced technologies like augmented reality and cloud computing to provide unique educational opportunities while keeping students and teachers even better connected.

A great example of an app packing this tech is Froggipedia, which allows students to use the Apple Pencil as a scalpel to digitally dissect and explore the inner workings of frog anatomy all through the view of the high-resolution retina display.

Taking a step in the opposite direction, apps like Showbie help teachers run a paperless classroom while the Apple Pencil allows them to mark up homework and grade quizzes without leafing through endless stacks of paper.

Thanks to creative app developers and their initiatives in education, the Apple Pencil is worth buying for teachers and students who want the best tools possible for an efficient and immersive classroom experience.

A woman wearing over-ear headphones and leaning against a desk uses the Apple Pencil to make a note on her iPad.

Musicians

Beginning pianists and professional musicians alike love the iPad for its ability to store sheet music and connect with modern electronic instruments like keyboards and guitars.

Plus, incredible apps like Simply Piano, Flowkey, and others make it easier than ever to learn a new instrument.

So, where does the Apple Pencil come in? Musicians find the Apple Pencil useful when annotating and marking up music. Any musician will tell you that writing the fingerings for a tricky chord or highlighting a change in time signature is a major help when committing those details to memory.

The Apple Pencil works in conjunction with sheet music apps like forScore to make annotations simple, easy, and convenient.

If you want to go even further, the Apple Pencil can play a key role in creating your own music. Apps like StaffPad allow you to create brand new sheet music completely from scratch! With the Apple Pencil, you’ll simply add your notations to an empty page and StaffPad’s handwriting recognition will transform your marks to a professional-looking musical score.

For maximum flexibility, a Paperlike can make this process even better by replacing the slick, glassy surface of the iPad with something that feels like real paper so that your strokes stay quick and precise.

No matter where you are in your musical pursuits, the Apple Pencil rounds out the complete digital kit for musicians who want to ditch physical books while still customizing their music to suit their unique, personal style.

A woman in business attire makes notes with her iPad and Apple Pencil.

Business Users

In many office environments, laptops are often seen as a distraction — to the point that some companies disallow laptops during meetings because workers can become preoccupied with their screens.

Used for notetaking, the iPad can serve as a middle ground where notes can be made without covering the user’s line of sight. Plus, the iPad’s lighter weight and enhanced mobility, coupled with the ability to connect to large monitors and display devices, make it an ideal candidate as a meeting presentation tool.

Where the Apple Pencil shines in a business situation actually has little to do with the technology itself and everything to do with managing the one thing that every business person hates to deal with: Paperwork.

File digitization has gotten more popular, and the iPad boosts productivity in this area by giving iPad users the tools they need to actually interact with the documents that now exist in a digital format.

Looking for a great example? Check out PDF Expert. Grab an Apple Pencil and open the app. Suddenly it’s easy to mark up, redesign, and digitally sign PDF documents on the fly, whether you’re meeting with business partners, negotiating with clients, or trying to get a little more work done while lounging in your favorite recliner at home.

You can even take your business in an entirely new direction. One of our Paperlike artists, Guillaume Wiatr, uses the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro to help business leaders better understand how to refine their messaging through a process known as “graphic facilitation”.

It’s just another innovation that makes the Apple Pencil worth the investment.

A woman lounging on a sofa sketches using her iPad and Apple Pencil.

What if I Don’t Need an iPad Stylus?

So far, we’ve covered use cases for the Apple Pencil based on profession and career choice. But what about the everyday user who just wants to play with their iPad after a long day on the job?

If that’s you, we have to ask: How do you feel about coloring?

Adult coloring books took off a few years ago and the trend is stronger now than ever. Thanks to apps like Pigment for the Apple iPhone and iPad, it’s possible to color while on the go.

Outside of singular use cases where your favorite apps have really taken advantage of the technology, it’s impossible to say whether or not the Apple Pencil would be a great fit for you. That’s one reason that we recommend looking around to see if the apps you use every day are made even better by the Apple Pencil.

At the end of the day, the Apple Pencil is designed to be a precision input and selection tool. It gives users the ability to more precisely touch, select, and interact with the surface of their iPad. This can help when you’re taking notes with the Apple Notes app or editing photos in portrait mode.

If you’re just browsing the internet and sending the occasional email, the Apple Pencil might not be for you — and that’s okay. There are dozens of other iPad accessories out there, from the Magic Keyboard to the AirPods Pro that might be better suited to your needs.

A title card featuring the question, “Is the Apple Pencil really worth buying?”

Is the Apple Pencil Worth Buying?

In short: Yes.

For what it does, the Apple Pencil is worth the investment.

While it might not be a great fit for every single user, we believe that the Apple Pencil is worth the investment for users who want to do more with their iPad. The enhanced precision and added versatility unlock the device in ways that just aren’t accessible without it.

In our view, the Apple Pencil turns the iPad from a luxury multimedia device into a robust productivity and learning tool. It empowers users to explore technology in new and exciting ways, and that’s something we support.

It’s definitely worth a look.

And don’t forget! Whether you’ve got an Apple Pencil, a Logitech Crayon, or any other compatible iPad stylus, you can make your iPad screen feel like real paper with a Paperlike screen protector!