This year's Apple Pencil is as baffling as last year's iPad

Apple Pencil (USB-C) and iPad 10th generation
(Image credit: Apple/Future owns)

This time last year, Apple released a brand new, not-quite-entry-level 10th gen iPad to some bemusement online. Rather than replacing the 9th gen, it plugged a seemingly non-existent gap between that and the iPad Air – and only worked with the old, 1st generation Apple Pencil. Now history seems to be repeating itself, with Apple announcing a brand new 'budget' Apple Pencil that sits rather confusingly in the line up. 

The new Apple Pencil with USB-C, announced today, is being touted as a budget stylus, "bringing more value and choice to the line up". It's certainly cheaper than the other Pencils, at £79 – but with some glaring omissions from the feature set, I'm not entirely sure who it's for. (For the lowdown on the previous two models, check out our Apple Pencil 1 vs Apple Pencil 2 guide.) 

Apple Pencil USB

The new Apple Pencil charges via USB-C (Image credit: Apple)

While many were expecting a new high-end stylus, we've been given one that sits below even the Apple Pencil 1 in price. And yet, in some ways, it's a more attractive offering – with a USB-C charging port niftily hidden inside the end, and support for Pencil Hover on the iPad Pro, it feels more advanced. To a point.

But there are some strange absences. Most notable is pressure-sensitivity, which is arguably invaluable for digital artists. And while the device does snap to the side of the iPad magnetically, it doesn't charge that way. To charge it, you'll need a USB-C cable – and leaving it attached to the side of the could lead to it slowly running out of juice.

Perhaps most baffling is that Apple didn't choose to launch the new Apple Pencil with the 10th generation iPad last year – and have it replace the 1st gen model (which still features a hugely outdated Lightning charger). That would have saved a lot of confusion both last October, and now. As for now, it's hard to know which Apple Pencil to recommend for the 10th gen iPad model – either the more expensive 1st gen Pencil complete with outdating charging and no magnet, or this new, cheaper version with a better design, but no pressure sensitivity. Perhaps the best way to put it is that the 1st gen Pencil might suit artists better, while the new USB-C model is more suited to note-taking and navigation.

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Of course, we'll have to wait until we get our hands on the thing to make a final judgement. Let's not forget – while the 10th generation iPad baffled us when it was announced last October, it managed to win us round in our review.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.