Since the first Apple Pencil launch in 2015, Apple has updated the lineup with one more product - The Apple Pencil 2 - and is rumored to be in the works for a third version too.
But unlike other products, the 1st gen and 2nd gen share this weird relationship for being so similar, yet drastically different in terms of how they function.
It gets confusing for consumers when they realize the latest isn't always the best they can go for with respect to their current device ecosystem.
With this article, I will attempt to put a filter on the topic and properly document the various differences between the two versions so that you can decide which is best for you.
In terms of most aspects, the Apple Pencil 2nd generation is the clear winner. But when it comes to compatibility, compatible iPads only support either the 1st generation Apple Pencil or the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. So it is imperative to check the compatibility list before judging the winner.
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Design: Apple Pencil 1 vs Apple Pencil 2
When it comes to design, the Apple Pencil series had one of the most iconic designs ever put up on stylus pens back when it launched in 2015.
Since then, the design has been ripped off and implemented on countless stylus pens with even some major tech companies taking design cues to the point of plagiarism.
This shows just how revolutionary the design of the Apple Pencil series has been in kickstarting the stylus revolution once again.
But of course, even though Apple has only launched two Apple Pencil series products in the past 8 years the design between generations has undergone key changes.
The Apple Pencil 1st gen boasts a 6.8 inch smooth glossy white cylindrical tube structure that weighs in at just 0.6 ounces.
The tip consists of a matte gray plastic nib that glided perfectly on screens. The tip can be easily removed, with a metal connector pin holding the nib tightly in place.
Apple also included extra replacement tips right in the box of the Apple Pencil 1, which further boosted the lifespan of the product in general at no extra peripheral costs.
The other end of the Apple Pencil housed a cap with a metallic strip that enclosed a lightning jack.
The Apple Pencil 1 was initially launched in 2015 as a companion tool for the iPad Pro launched alongside it.
Their functionalities overlapped seamlessly hence the design factors also were meant to complement just that.
This forced Apple to implement some controversial design cues that screamed 1st generation unfinished design right onto the faces of the consumers.
One such controversial design choice was the introduction of a whole lightning male connector at the end of the Apple Pencil 1st gen, enclosed inside a cap.
This was meant to complement the iPad Pro, as one could juice up the Apple Pencil 1st Gen by directly plugging in the lightning male end to the lightning port in the iPad.
This ensured the Apple Pencil doesn't need an extra cable to charge and can perfectly operate seamlessly with the iPad Pro.
That being said, Apple still included a charging adapter inside the box, in case the iPad Pro was not available to charge.
But this brought in a lot of backlashes too, as the long pencil just awkwardly stuck out of the iPad Pro whilst charging.
Since the lightning port is a very small port, it also meant that the chances of the Apple Pencil breaking off with minimal force while inside the iPad Pro are very high.
Also while charging, the cap must sit there idly with no alternative place to place it. This means a lot of users can potentially lose the cap much more easily.
The Apple Pencil 1st gen was also designed in a completely rounded cylindrical fashion rather than the edgy shape of traditional pencils, which didn't help much with the grip.
This rounded housing also meant the Apple Pencil 1st gen was very much prone to rolling off from a flat surface table much easier.
Also, the fact that there was no particular housing or docking station on the iPad Pro for the Apple Pencil when not in use didn't help matters.
Its competitors, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab series, had a dedicated housing inbuilt for their S-Pen.
This meant that Apple Pencil users had to invest in a third-party iPad Pro case with an Apple Pencil sleeve inbuilt, or should just carry the pencil separately.
All these factors combined gave Apple a lot of flak, forcing them to work on a next-generation model much earlier than the company expected.
Despite all this, the Apple Pencil 1st gen still felt fantastic in hand and the experience of a pencil Apple tries to emulate definitely stands succeeded in this case.
The perfect dimensions along with the very lightweight design make sure the stylus experience one has with the Apple Pencil is still superior to other mainstream options.
Apple Pencil 2nd generation shoved the world back, addressing all the prior issues that plagued the Apple Pencil 1st generation.
Moving away from the glossy exterior, Apple opted for the more subtle matte finish that makes the whole body much easier to grip.
Apple removed the extra replaceable tips from the Apple Pencil 2nd generation box, along with the external charging solution all whilst boosting the price of the product.
The body is also a bit shorter at 6.3 inches and the weight is slightly increased too, at a barely noticeable 0.7 ounces.
But for the change in the dimensions, Apple pushes forward a much more ergonomic design, sporting a more angled design like a traditional pencil.
This design choice also ensures the pencil doesn't roll off the table anymore and offers a much more appreciated grip on the overall body of the Apple Pencil.
Apple also removed the terribly designed lightning port along with the cap, opting for the complete removal of any kind of port on the body of the Apple Pencil.
Instead, Apple doubled down on the Apple Pencil's exclusivity during launch with the iPad Pro line up and added charging pins on the sides.
These pins are attached magnetically to the sides of the iPad Pro 3rd gen that was launched along with the Apple Pencil 2nd gen.
This design change solved almost all design issues with the Apple Pencil 1st gen, as this meant the pencil attached horizontally with the side of the iPad without much protrusion.
This also acted as a magnetic housing for the Apple Pencil 2nd generation, thus solving two issues with a single change in design.
All these changes solved the single drawback users had for the Apple Pencil series, thus boosting them even further to cement their place as the best stylus pen in the market.
The Apple Pencil 2nd generation wins by a whole mile and more in this case.
The sheer design changes it brought to the table made sure the Apple Pencil series got elevated to uncharted territories when it comes to stylus pen sales.
Features & Performance : Apple Pencil 1 vs Apple Pencil 2
The feature set Apple introduced with the Apple Pencil series is the main factor that plummeted the success of the series to astronomical levels.
Despite being a rather expensive affair, Apple did bring their usual bevy of features that complemented the Apple ecosystem.
The Apple Pencil 1 boasted a lot of features that were direct derivatives of popular features most stylus pens had, but with added reliability.
These are some of the important features the 1st gen Apple Pencil brought to the table:
- The weight of the Apple Pencil 1 was intimately designed with a traditional pencil in mind so as to emulate a similar experience to a pencil on paper.
- The in-hand feel of the Apple Pencil 1 was meant to emulate a similar experience.
- The initial pairing process was simplified to such an extent that the pen just automatically detects the iPad during the first plug in.
- The Apple Pencil is also very precise in its strokes, making sure there is no visible delay or stroke offset between the pencil tip and the iPad screen.
- Despite Apple never giving numbers, the pressure sensitivity is excellent on the Apple Pencil, making sure a variety of strokes can be expressed onto the iPad screen.
- The latency levels of the Apple Pencil is very low, at a very impressive 20ms latency. This enhances the pencil on paper feel significantly.
- Thanks to iOS, palm rejection works brilliantly, with many digital artists even feeling safe to make their artwork without their gloves on.
- A 60 degree tilt sensitivity has immensly helped Apple achieve great shading strokes with the Apple Pencil 1.
The 2nd generation Apple Pencil improved upon all the previously mentioned Apple Pencil 1 features without a hiccup.
Apple does not release detailed spec sheets of its products. But judging by user experience, it is safe to say that there is a mild spec bump along with the design changes.
The 2nd gen Apple Pencil also adds in a few extra features to complement its radical design shift:
- Thanks to iOS and its proper utilization of higher refresh rate screens on recent iPads, the Apple Pencil 2 can reduce its latency to as low as a stunning 9ms.
- The Apple Pencil 2 incorporates touch gestures support, adding a method to trigger additional tasks such as hot swapping to eraser directly from the Apple Pencil itself.
- The Apple Pencil 2 charges with the magnetic pins on the sides of the iPads, making it a much sleeker implementation than with the lightning port.
Performance has always been a strong point for both the Apple Pencils especially compared to its competition, so practically judging it solely on that basis results in a draw.
But the Apple Pencil 2 has a few more cards up its sleeve that enhance the user experience with the product, giving it a slight edge over the previous generation.
Battery life & Charging : Apple Pencil 1 vs Apple Pencil 2
During long grinds of making art, battery life can be one of the most important aspects of a stylus pen, and both the Apple Pencil 1 and Apple Pencil 2 excel in this regard.
Due to the small form factor when compared to other Apple products, the Apple Pencils charge much quicker thus making the grind much more bearable for the user.
As previously mentioned, the design of the Apple Pencil 1st generation calls for an awkward charging experience, with the pencil needing to be plugged perpendicular to the iPad.
But thankfully, Apple includes a charging adapter right in the box that lets one charge up the Apple Pencil without the aid of the iPad.
But then again, that is one extra adapter to carry around and hence it is more practical to just plug Apple Pencil onto the iPad, despite its terrible implementation.
Another nitpick is that the Pencil doesn't have any charging indicators on the body and one can only check the charge of the unit from the iOS widget after it is paired with the iPad.
But pushing aside these negatives, all is smooth sailing in the battery department for the Apple Pencil 1st generation.
Apple claims the pencil can get up to 15 minutes of normal use with just a 30-second plugin, and Apple's claims are usually real-world tests and it definitely checks out.
With actual testing, the Apple Pencil 1st generation charged to full in just under 25 minutes and provided a great 12 hours of normal use before it died.
With Apple Pencil 2's radical design shift from the Apple Pencil 1st generation, it completely revolutionized the way one typically charges and uses a stylus pen.
Apple Pencil 2nd generation still claims similar charging speeds and lifespan as of the 1st generation Apple Pencil, but the magnetic charging feature makes all the difference.
With a simple snap to the sides of a compatible iPad, the Apple Pencil 2 immediately starts charging via the magnetic charging pins on the side.
This simple design change made all the difference in the world, as whenever one rests the pencil on the table they can just snap it to the sides of the iPad.
This practically means that the Apple Pencil 2nd generation almost never runs out of charge and stays juiced up at all times.
Combined with its specification of a 30-second charge providing 15 minutes of use, the issue of battery never arises with the Apple Pencil 2.
On paper, the specifications and rating provided by Apple ensure the battery life experience are very similar to the previous generation Apple Pencil.
But with real-world usage, the user experience offered by the 2nd generation Apple Pencil is clearly superior to the 1st generation Apple Pencil.
No longer do you need to fiddle with the cap and the awkward style of charging the Apple Pencil, and the magnetic charging also brought forward a docking station for the stylus.
All this contributes to the clear winner being the 2nd generation Apple Pencil in this case.
Compatibility & Pricing : Apple Pencil 1 vs Apple Pencil 2
Compatibility is a key area, if not the only major area that needs to be looked into when it comes to making a properly informed decision on which Apple Pencil is best.
In terms of software, both Apple Pencils are equally equipped to support almost all major third-party apps for note-taking, sketching, etc.
Some of the major applications both Apple Pencils support that is available in the iOS store are:
- Adobe Fresco
- Linea Sketch
There are lots more, which signifies just how seamlessly the applications in the Apple App Store make use of Apple hardware to derive pro-grade usage.
But these applications do cost a few bucks, with some even opting for a ridiculous subscription scheme to utilize their products to the full potential.
Adding this to the financial perspective of owning the Apple Pencil as well, it is safe to say that this is not at all a low-cost affair.
The Apple Pencil 1 launched at a staggering price of $99, making it one of the most expensive stylus pens one can buy.
At face value, this seems like a ridiculous price point, as its competition like the Logitech Crayon was priced at just $49 and Samsung included their S Pen for free in their tablets.
But looking at it strictly from a utility perspective, the Apple Pencil justified its high costs with the extra features it brought to the table.
Also its seamless synchronization factor with iOS due to it being a first-party product exponentially improved the user experience to a point of monopolization.
Hardware compatibility though is a whole other story. Contrary to popular belief, the Apple Pencil 1 is not compatible with the whole iPad lineup.
The Apple Pencil 1 is strictly compatible with only the following generation of products:
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch ( 1st generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 9.7 inch
- iPad Pro 10.5 inch
- iPad Air (3rd generation)
- iPad Air (4th generation)
- iPad Mini (5th generation)
- iPad (6th generation)
- iPad (7th generation)
- iPad (8th generation)
None of the other models are compatible with the Apple Pencil 1st generation due to the lack of a digitizer in the display to support the Apple Pencil.
The Apple Pencil 2 on the other hand launched at an even more ridiculous price point of $129.
But the fact still stands that this brought in a lot more features and fixed a lot of issues that came with the previous king of stylus pens for iPads.
Therefore, despite the price bump, the fact still stands that the Apple Pencil 2nd generation is still the best stylus pen one can buy for their iPad.
This price bump only cemented the fact that the Apple Pencils dominated the market for stylus pens compatible with iPads and third-party manufacturers are left in the dust.
Hardware compatibility again is a whole other story. Due to the radical shift in design, the Apple Pencil 2nd generation can only be charged with an iPad with inductive charging.
Unlike the Apple Pencil 1st generation, which included a charging adapter in the box, Apple included no external solution to charge the Apple Pencil 2.
This calls for an unprecedented shift in the market, as all of a sudden certain iPad models, even the then-recent ones are immediately omitted from the list of supported iPads.
This divide also meant that the Apple Pencil 1st generation is forced to stay relevant as the older iPad models are only supported by the 1st generation.
But thankfully most iPads since then came with magnetic pins on the side.
Since the iPad Pro lineup is the main parent device of Apple Pencils, all of the iPad Pros support at least one model of the Apple Pencils.
The Apple Pencil 2nd generation is strictly compatible with only the following generation of products:
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch (4th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 11 inch (1st generation)
- iPad Pro 11 inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 11 inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Mini (6th generation)
- iPad Air (4th generation)
In short, if the iPad has magnetic charging pins that call for induction charging, then the Apple Pencil 2nd generation is most probably supported by the device.
In terms of pricing, both Apple Pencils are pricey compared to its competition, and the applications iOS provides are priced on the higher side too.
But the sheer utility it provides with respect to the iOS operating system, it is safe to say that the pricing is somewhat justified.
In terms of compatibility, this is where the opinion gets divided as it is completely reliant on the iPad model one intends to use as a canvas.
If the iPad is compatible with only the Apple Pencil 1st generation, then that is the only winner in this category.
If the iPad is compatible with only the Apple Pencil 2nd generation, then that is the clear winner.
The Apple Pencil series currently sits on this weird level when compared to the rest of the Apple products at the moment.
Since both the generation pencils are relevant across different groups of devices, the claim for a more general superior product is very hard.
Since Apple products last a really long time compared to other tech products thanks to the longevity of iOS support, Apple can't technically discontinue older pencils too.
Therefore, Apple did the right thing and halted the rate of production of the Apple Pencil series, so that they can properly ensure the series stays genuine to the ecosystem.
But judging from the perspective of someone in the market for the latest generation experience, the Apple Pencil 2nd gen does fit the bill for the best Apple pencil as of 2022.
I hope my detailed article on the differences between Apple Pencil 1 and Apple Pencil 2 has been a great read and helped you make a properly informed decision.
Have a great day!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can the Apple Pencil 1 stick to an iPad like the Apple Pencil 2?
The Apple Pencil 1 lacks the magnetic component that allows the Apple Pencil 2 to stick to a compatible iPad and hence cant stick to the body by itself.
Can the Apple Pencil be used on an iPhone?
None of the iPhones have the digitizer on the screen to register touch inputs from an Apple Pencil and hence are not compatible with Apple Pencils.
What is the cheapest iPad that supports Apple Pencil?
The 9th gen iPad is the cheapest iPad that supports Apple Pencil 1st generation, and the iPad Air 4th Gen is the cheapest iPad that supports Apple Pencil.