Famously, Steve Jobs wasn’t a fan of the idea of using a stylus with the iPad, but he made that particular remark a long time ago, when the first generation of styli for the iPad 1 pretty much consisted of fat, blunt, rubber-tipped sticks. The stylus game has moved a long way onwards since, and with this latest announcement, Apple has joined the fray.
The Apple Stylus certainly looks the business – it’s sleek, it’s white, it’s shiny – in short it’s everything an Apple peripheral should be. But how does it compare to the other styli on the market, all of which have had several years to refine their designs and up their game?
First of all, there’s pressure sensitivity. For the first generation of iPad styli, this was just a dream. These days though, the Adonit Jot Touch offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity – that’s the same as a high-end Wacom Cintiq pen, and twice as much as an old-fashioned Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet – as does its Adobe-branded stablemate the Ink and Slide, and Wacom’s Intuos Creative Stylus 2. The Apple Pencil too is pressure-sensitive – only Apple hasn’t yet said how much. However, advances in the screen technology of the iPad Pro will allow the device to detect the force with which you draw, meaning that drawing with the Apple Pencil will replicate the pressure sensitivity of analogue drawing.
Those improvements to the iPad Pro’s screen also mean that the Apple Pencil’s latency will be lightning-fast. The iPad Pro will scan the Apple Pencil’s signal 240 times a second. This may well leave the capacitive touch and Bluetooth connectivity of the Jot Touch, Ink and Slide and Intuos Creative Stylus 2 in the dust, although the time differences will be measured in micro-seconds and will probably depend on the size and resolution of the brush and artwork you’re working on.
The precision tip isn’t as fineliner-thin as the Jot Touch however, although skinnier than both the Intuos Creative Stylus and the Ink and Slide (which, admittedly. distracts you from its larger size by lighting up in an array of rainbow colours). Unlike these though, the tip of the Apple Pencil is smooth and hard, whereas the others all have a little, squidgy touch of ‘give’ when in use. Perhaps its best to think of that as the difference between working with a pen nib versus an HB pencil, and that hard smoothness may well reduce the odd squeaking noises that iPad artists have become familiar with when dragging rubber-tipped styli across glass screens.
It’s also thinner than most offerings, apart from the Jot range – the Intuos Creative Stylus is as wide as the average Wacom pen, while the Ink and Slide is short, squat and triangular. Will this make it easier for artists to work with? Perhaps, if you prefer skinny pencils to thicker ones.
At first glance the 12-hour battery life doesn’t look great, especially when compared to the 26 hours the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is capable of, but unlike the other styli here, the Apple Pencil can charge straight from the device it’s connected to – a Lighning connector in the top of the pen allows you to plug it straight into the iPad Pro and charge it up, with just 15 seconds of charging giving you another half-hour of battery life.
So will you be investing in the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro when they’re available? Let us know in the Comments!