Three things you should know about the new Apple Pencil

Is Apple's new Pencil just a gadget? Or does the new stylus fulfill a critical need for business professionals? Erik Eckel explores Apple's newest innovation.

The new Pencil is an unusual tool for Apple users. While the company avoided styluses for years, it may have a new hit, at least among some users.
Image: Apple

Apple's new Pencil marks a significant departure from the company's previous strategy in which it avoided manufacturing or marketing styluses. Priced at $99, the Lightning connector-equipped instrument provides 12 hours of battery life and receives another 30-minute charge simply by connecting it to an iPad Pro for just 15 seconds. Compatible with numerous iPad applications, including Notes, Mail, and Pixelmator, the stylus provides the ability to write, draw, and diagram using the iPad Pro.

Certainly, most business professionals are familiar with styluses, having used them with other devices. That said, Apple's Pencil is somewhat unique. Here are three things to know about Apple's newest innovation.

It's intuitive

Like most Apple products, the Pencil is incredibly intuitive. As the company says, you already know how to use it. This hasn't necessarily been the case with other manufacturers' attempts at creating similar instruments.

Pressing the Pencil harder results in a thicker, darker line, while gentle touches result in hairline notations. And, thanks to Apple's Multi-Touch technology, tilting the Apple Pencil's tip results in shading effects.

It's surprisingly sensitive

Award-winning designer Jonathan Ive narrates a short product video that showcases the Pencil's actual operation and responsiveness.

Possessing the ability to select a single pixel, the Pencil also delivers realistic performance. Because the Pencil's sensor data and movement is scanned 240 times per second, the tablet actually collects twice the data as when a user attempts to select, edit, or input data using a finger, resulting in more precise data manipulation and input. As a result, business professionals can write and draw using a stylus like never before.

For many, it's an unnecessary peripheral

The new Pencil presents compelling capabilities. The device can be used to draw diagrams, create flowcharts, draft blueprints, write text, edit email messages, and more. While those features all previously existed, these new capabilities are particularly pronounced with the new Pencil. And, thanks to Apple's palm-rejection support, users can rest their hand on the tablet as they write, and the palm contact won't confuse the iPad, resulting in unwanted blemishes and stray marks.

However, it's likely the new features will prove attractive to only a specific user group: those who don't mind carrying an additional peripheral and who require it for completing graphics tasks.

While the new stylus boasts impressive battery life and intuitive performance, legions of Apple professionals have become accustomed to performing most tasks without a stylus. Unless a business user works as a draftsperson, an architect, a graphic artist, or other creative professional, carrying another device (in addition to a keyboard, smartphone, wallet, charging cables, and even a laptop so many professionals juggle) is a possible deal breaker, especially considering the corresponding tablet's mobile nature.

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