When a company, in this case, Apple, replaces one simply named product like the Apple Pencil with an identically titled successor, you’d usually be forgiven for assuming that the old product is about to be discontinued. Otherwise, advertising things like “Apple Pencil support” would become super confusing for people who are shopping for a new iPad. You’d think so, but Apple apparently has no such qualms. Today, it introduced an updated iPad mini and a new iPad Air. Both of them arrived six months after the launch of the second-generation Apple Pencil, and both offer compatibility only with the first-generation Apple Pencil.
The trouble with Apple’s Pencils is that they’re not cross-compatible. The first model works with one set of iPads, which has today been freshly expanded, while the second variant is only compatible with the latest iPad Pros. You can’t use the older stylus on the 2018 iPad Pros, and you can’t use the newer stylus on any other iPad. Let me say that again using Apple’s language: the iPads that launched today support Apple Pencil but not Apple Pencil.
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but this strikes me as an example of product naming abridged beyond the point of usefulness.
Aside from diverging in compatible iPads, the two Pencils also have profound differences in usability. The iPad Pro-compatible Pencil has gesture support that the original stylus lacks, meaning that developers of Pencil-enabled apps will have to contend with two interaction paradigms or just code for the lowest common denominator. The newer, better Pencil also magnetically attaches to the iPad Pro’s edge and even charges wirelessly from it. The OG Apple Pencil, on the other hand, has a male Lightning plug, which forces the user to stick it into the iPad’s Lightning port to charge. This is widely considered one of Apple’s worst design kludges.
There’s a very real possibility that people will watch iPad commercials on TV extolling the virtues of the vastly improved Apple Pencil and then go online and buy the older Apple Pencil with the assumption that it must be the same product if it has the same name.
Apple’s habit of turning older designs and products into more budget-oriented offerings is well known. That’s given us the iPhone SE in the past, and it also figures in the new iPad mini; its design is unchanged despite that three years have passed since its last update. Beyond extending the life of the older Pencil, Apple’s new iPads also expand the list of Apple devices with a Lightning port. Both of those things can be considered retrograde — stepping back from the embrace of USB-C that the 2018 iPad Pros represent — but they also make Apple’s new devices more affordable and accessible.
Owners of existing first-gen Apple Pencils can now extend the life of their stylus with an iPad featuring the newest Apple Bionic processor and improved cameras. Anyone who had purchased iPad mini accessories in the past can keep right on using them with the 2019 iPad mini. Businesses that may have previously invested in a bulk order of iPads can just upgrade the hardware without having to disrupt anything else about their operations. All of these things will have surely factored into Apple’s particular port and stylus decisions.
The decision to launch new iPads that are compatible with older accessories may indeed be defensible, but the confusingly uniform branding is not. Now that Apple has signaled its continuing support for the old Apple Pencil, it should clarify the differences between it and the new Apple Pencil so that people’s expectations when buying an Apple Pencil match the actual Apple Pencil they get.
Source: The Verge