Ok, so you are a seasoned artist, a journalist, student, or even a casual note-taker, right? And you find yourself asking, Apple pencil or a third-party stylus for your work on your iPad?
I feel your pain, fellow netizen, and that's why I've made this article, just for the mere purpose of sorting out all the doubts and confusion with this selection.
In this article, we will take a look at the differences between these products, we will discuss the merits and demerits, and to top it off, declare a clear winner.
The Apple pencil, in many ways, is superior to any other stylus available on the market. The unrivaled connectivity paired with class-leading features sets the Apple pencil leagues apart from any other pens. Availability of tips and better battery life may be a distinguishing feature of other third-party pens.
So, without any further ado, let's get right into it.
But first, let's look at our contenders.
Apple Pencil: Apple's Answer for a Precision Instrument
In a step towards furthering the scope of an Apple Ecosystem, the company launched its first stylus way back in 2015.
And since then, only once have Apple updated the Pencil, making it a fairly new entrant on the company's catalog.
Even though some may say it's a glorified piece of white plastic, the "silver" body with the subtle Apple logo and the San Francisco font lettering follow suit with the company's clean AF aesthetics.
The heft and the relatively long body make it an ideal device for long drawing/writing sessions.
The first-gen Pencil has a male lighting port on its rear end. You could pair the device and charge it by connecting the Pencil with an iPad through this port.
In the Second gen Pencil, however, the connectivity side of things had an overhaul. Now, the charging and pairing process takes place through a magnetic connection.
When it comes to compatibility, the Apple pencil may have a limited footprint, spanning across only Apple products, and that too for only iPads. Support for other devices is simply restricted.
While the first-gen Pencil is compatible with almost all iPads, the second-gen Pencil is restricted to the Pro variants and the fourth-gen iPad Air. The reason being the lack of a wireless dock in the older ones.
And as with all niche products from Apple, the price is a bit high, about two to four times higher than competitors.
Third-Party Stylus Pens: The Affordable Alternatives
If you have surfed the internet looking for a stylus, you must have felt overwhelmed by the options available.
It's true, the stylus market is overloaded with options, and choosing the right one can be a bit demanding. A quick tip on how to choose a good stylus- look for brands, established brands.
Brands like Adonit, Wacom, and Logitech have already made a name for themselves. Products from these manufacturers are a sure-shot success. Popular products include Adonit Note+, Wacom Bamboo ink+, Adonit Jot M, etc.
And then you have the Logitech Crayon. This product is an Apple-approved stylus, and it is exclusive to Apple products. Announced alongside Apple products on one of their Keynotes, the Crayon was initially offered for academic purposes only.
Priced significantly lower than an Apple Pencil, the Crayon is a great alternative, save some features.
Stylus pens can be classified broadly into 2 categories: Active or Passive.
Passive pens do not require any power to work. But they lack features like palm rejection and pressure sensitivity.
Active pens require power to operate and may support advanced features, like Pressure sensitivity. They can also be more expensive than passive pens.
Compatibility may depend on the manufacturer, but most of them have multi-platform support.
And as the heading suggests, it's all about price when looking for a stylus not made by Apple.
Now that you know the basics, let's get on with the comparison side of things, shall we?
Apple Pencil vs. Others: What Sets Them Apart?
For this comparison, we will be considering certain aspects of a stylus, like the battery life, tip constitution, ergonomics, etc.
Bear in mind that no third-party styluses have come close to replicating the Apple pencil. Hence no single product will be the subject of comparison in this article.
Let's start with the features.
Features on Offer
It's pretty clear who will emerge as the clear winner in this category. Of course the Apple pencil!
With features like active palm rejection and pressure sensitivity, coupled with hassle-free pairing, the Apple Pencil is sure to exceed your expectations.
The double-tap on the tip function available on the second-gen Pencil even further accentuates the feature list. Paired with wireless connectivity, you have a killer of a device in your hand.
With an arsenal of specialized pressure orientation sensors and an infallible tilt detection technology, you can't go wrong with the Apple Pencil.
Even though Apple has not disclosed the available levels of Pressure sensitivity, you won't notice any discrepancies or dearth while using the device.
The third-party market does fall short on this department. Even though Active styluses do offer most of these features, they fall short in their execution.
An exception to this case is the Wacom Stylus and tablets. Preferred by industry professionals and amateurs alike, Wacom does offer similar features to that of the Apple Pencil.
In fact, they might even overshoot the competition by providing up to 8K points of Pressure Sensitivity and a very advanced Palm rejection feature.
But there is a caveat, these styluses work only with Wacom Tablets, and they may need an active connection with the computer, making them immobile. The prices may also be in the upper stratosphere range.
Wacom does offer standalone styluses at a cheaper price, but nowhere near as good as the Apple Pencil.
Precision and Latency
The Apple Pencil blows off the completion in yet another field. The level of optimization that Apple has done on the Pencil makes it one of the most precise and accurate devices available right now.
Near-zero latency and crisp lines are a guarantee with the Pencil.
On the flip side, Third-party styluses have yet again failed to catch up with Apple. While the lines and strokes can be definitive and substantial, the latency definitely leaves room for improvement.
Passive stylus pens may be the most affected of them all since it relies upon native touch. Hence leaving jagged strokes and frequent parallax errors with the screen.
Active styles do fare well in this regard, but still, the Apple pencil reigns supreme.
Passive styluses don't require any pairing mechanism or any batteries to work. It simply relies on the same old capacitive touch, much like how we interact with our touch screens.
This ease of connectivity may be a no-go for the Apple pencil. But with this absence of powered connectivity, passive pens do have their downsides, like the lack of features and unstable accuracies.
Active Styluses do depend on some form of connection, like Bluetooth or a wired connection. The connection process may be a bit frustrating since you will have to re-pair the device each time you turn it OFF.
The Apple Pencil, unlike the active pens, need not be paired repeatedly. The Pencil has an instant connect feature that solves the connectivity problem.
Also, every time you charge the device, it automatically checks and updates any firmware updates available.
Battery and Power
Like I said earlier, the passive pens do not require any electricity or connectivity to operate, so that's that. But in the case of active pens, it's a whole 'nother story.
Active pens and Apple Pencils have inbuilt batteries and additional circuit elements that need powering to operate.
Apple Pencils have a quick charge feature, allowing 30 minutes of use on 15 seconds of charging. The whole device takes about 15 minutes to charge fully and provides up to 12 hours of use on a single charge.
In this regard, other active styles may be a bit ahead. Several Styluses like the Adonit Pixel stylus provide about 15 hours of use time. Similarly, other styluses like the Wacom ink+ also offer significant use times. Some even have support for USB C charging onboard.
But again, most of them have a longer charging time than the Apple Pencil. Although, some stylus pens rely on AAA or AAAA batteries for power, hence providing an even better battery life and a quick replacement option.
Tip Size and Build Quality
The tip on the Apple pencil is made from hard plastic, hence making it more durable. But the tip size lies a tad bit on the wider side. So sketching fine lines and smooth curves may be a bit demanding.
The longevity of a tip may last anywhere from 3-7 months, depending on the usage. If you are a heavy drawer or an ardent note-taker, expect it to last about 4 months. If you are not grinding away at the screen all the time, you may get about a year of usage out of a tip.
Sadly though, Apple does not provide any replacement tips with the current generation Apple Pencil. But a lot of replacement tips are available for dirt cheap on the market.
In the case of third-party styluses, the tip may vary from device to device, material to material, and even different sizes.
Higher-end active styluses do come with pointed tips, while the lower-priced passive pens may have a disk-type tip or a very broad tip.
A disk-type tip provides better contact with the capacitive screens. This is especially useful when there is no active element present in the stylus to power the tips. The same may be applicable with broader tips.
The materials with which the tips are made vary drastically from manufacturer to manufacturer. Rubber is the material of choice for lower-priced pens, while plastic and fiber tips dominate the upper echelon.
When we consider the build quality, the Apple pencil may not be the first device that comes to mind.
The device is entirely made up of plastic. But this doesn't mean that it is as fragile as glass. An Apple Pencil can take a fall or two without acquiring any dents or scratches.
In its wake, the third-party market can claim a triumphant victory in this regard. Most of the devices comparable to an Apple Pencil do have a metallic body. Other materials include wood, graphite, and fibers.
Compatibility and Ease of Use
As you may already know, the Apple Pencil is only compatible with iPads, and that to not all of them. Another L for Apple.
Most third-party styluses do have multi-platform support hence emerging a clear winner in this category. But extensive support for Android may be a long shot. A general lack of supported apps on the platform can be the root cause.
Pens like the Surface Pen are in one way or the other similar to the Apple Pencil, at least when talking about compatibility.
Another area where the Apple Pencil fails to gain ground is the availability of buttons.
The double-tap on the tip function to change between tip types on supported apps can be a relief to this shortcoming. But it is limited only to the second-gen model.
Other styluses like the Adonit Pixel do offer multiple programmable buttons with which you can map shortcuts.
So now it's high time we declare a winner. And from all of the surveying and comparisons, the selection was a pretty easy one. The Apple Pencil is our winner by a long shot.
The features, along with the razor-sharp optimizations by Apple, make it almost incomparable to any other device.
But it is a bit pricey when compared to the others. Is that a dealbreaker? I don't think so because no other product in this price range does offer any new features that Apple already doesn't.
The Logitech Crayon may be a suggestible alternative at a lower price, but it does have its own limitations.
Products by Adonit, Wacom, and Fifty Three are reliable and exhibit high levels of quality when compared to the others.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best apps for note writing?
Evernote, Notability, Froggipedia are some of the best note-taking applications available right now. If you are using an Apple device, the Notes app that comes preinstalled on the device is also a great option.
Does Apple Pencil support third-party tips?
Yes, the Apple Pencil does support tips made by other manufacturers. Make sure to choose an Apple-certified one for better compatibility.
Can we pair and use other Bluetooth devices while using an Apple Pencil?
Yes, you can pair other Bluetooth devices, like a headphone or a speaker, while using an Apple Pencil. Although, you can not pair two Apple Pencils simultaneously.