Steve Jobs famously hated styluses. "Who wants a stylus?" He scoffed during the reveal of the original iPhone in 2007. Fast-forward 14 years, and, here we are writing an Apple Pencil 2 review. It seems plenty of iPad users want a stylus – and when the official offering is as good as this, who can blame them?
With the advent of the iPad Air 4 and various new iPad Pro models over the last year, the Apple Pencil 2 is compatible with more Apple tablets than ever in 2021 – which, considering the improvements it makes over the Apple Pencil 1, is a very good thing. Magnetic charging and tap controls alone are enough to make this a worthy successor to the original. Check out the best tablets with a stylus pen if you're looking for more inspiration.
Apple Pencil 2 review: Design
While the Apple Pencil 2 features a somewhat no-frills design, it's actually a huge improvement over the original. The matte plastic design is easier to grip than its glossy predecessor, and it's also a tad shorter. Overall, it feels just like a pencil in the hand – which, we'll hazard a guess based on the name, is exactly what Apple was going for. If you still find it hard to hold, though, see our best Apple Pencil grips post.
Another plus is that, rather than being completely round, the Apple Pencil 2 has one flat side. This is only only great for grip, but also enables the tap controls (more on these below).
Oh, and there's no removable cap to lose. As users of the Apple Pencil 1 will know, its tiny top is far too easy to misplace. No such problem here – the Apple Pencil 2 is a single, clean, solid unit, and all the better for it.
That said, one removable aspect we wish Apple had included in the box is extra tips. These were included with the original Apple Pencil, and with the company bumping up the price for the second iteration, removing the replacements is a bit of a kick in the teeth.
Apple Pencil 2 review: Performance
The Apple Pencil is well established as a fantastic tool for digital drawing, and thanks to regular iPadOS software updates, it keeps getting better. Response time is super-fast, and when drawing on the laminated display of the iPad Air and iPad Pro, it's almost like drawing directly onto paper. And with drawing apps like Procreate offering countless brushes and customisation tools, the Apple Pencil 2 is suited to almost any drawing or painting style.
The addition of tap functionality on the flat edge of the Pencil makes it an even more compelling option for artists. Rather than having to touch the display, users can simply tap the pencil to swap between tools, which makes for an uninterrupted drawing experience.
But while the Apple Pencil is brilliant for drawing, that doesn't mean non-artists shouldn't consider it. New iPadOS tools such as Scribble mean it's great for handwriting too – and there are plenty of note taking apps available to take advantage of this. We also found it useful for photo editing apps such as Photoshop, with the narrow tip of the Pencil offering much greater accuracy than the humble finger.
Apple Pencil 2 review: Charging and battery life
Perhaps the greatest improvement over the original Apple Pencil is the way the Apple Pencil 2 charges. Instead of awkwardly sticking out of the charging port (one of Apple's worst ever design crimes), the Pencil 2 simply snaps magnetically to the side of the iPad.
Not only does this keep the Apple Pencil charged at all times, but it also makes it much more convenient to grab and use whenever inspiration strikes. And with Scribble allowing you to write anywhere you can input text across the whole iOS operating system, having the Pencil to hand at all times is incredibly useful.
Battery life is officially 12 hours, and we didn't find ourselves running out of juice after a long drawing session. Keeping it snapped to the iPad between uses means it's likely to be well charged at all times.
Apple Pencil 2 review: Price
They say the pencil is mightier than the sword – and at $119/£119, you'd hope it was true in the case of Apple's offering. Yep, you pay a premium for Apple quality, and the price tag is arguably the biggest drawback when it comes to the Apple Pencil 2.
Cheaper, third party Apple Pencil alternatives are available, and many of them offer a similar core experience. But if you want that beautiful Apple design, and extra features such as tap controls and magnetic charging, there's simply no better option than the Apple Pencil 2.
Apple Pencil 2 review: Should you buy it?
If you're a digital artist with the cash to spare, and you have the right iPad, the answer is a resounding yes. The Apple Pencil 2 marks a vast improvement on the original, and its usefulness is only increasing with each iPadOS update. The digital drawing experience is second-to-none, and design improvements such as magnetic charging mean it's more convenient than ever to reach for the Pencil.
And non-artists can certainly get their money's worth from the Apple Pencil 2. With tools such as Scribble, it's fantastic for handwriting and note-taking, and any task that requires precision (such as photo or video editing) will certainly benefit from the stylus.
So, who shouldn't buy it? If the price is an issue, we'd recommend checking out the more affordable alternatives mentioned above. And if you're using any iPad other than the iPad Air 4 and iPad Pros listed above, you'll probably want to check out the original Apple Pencil instead (Our Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 guide highlights the main differences).
Apple being Apple, its Pencil is of course incompatible with devices from other manufacturers, such as Android tablets. It's also a little disappointing that the Apple Pencil 2 isn't compatible with any iPhone models, such as the gargantuan iPhone 12 Pro Max. But aside from these niggles, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Apple Pencil 2. If you're ready to start drawing and writing, check out the best Apple Pencil deals.