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C’mon, Why Isn’t the New Apple Pencil Pro Backward Compatible? - Best News

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C’mon, Why Isn’t the New Apple Pencil Pro Backward Compatible?

Apple announced four new iPad models today, and alongside these tablets is a new stylus: the $129 Apple Pencil Pro. It’s the first major overhaul of the iPad accessory to introduce new features since the company launched the second-generation Apple Pencil in 2018.

The new stylus is very similar to its predecessor, except there's a new Squeeze function that lets you squeeze near the tip of the stylus to bring up a new tool palette on the screen. (The double-tap function is still present, allowing you to tap twice at the tip to switch back to the last-used tool in your drawing app.)

There's a haptic motor inside so you can feel it when you squeeze. The motor also works when you double-tap to confirm by generating a tactile sensation to tell you the action worked successfully. Also new is a gyroscope, which lets you rotate the Pencil Pro as you sketch for even finer control. Lastly, the Apple Pencil Pro works with the company’s Find My app, so you can locate it if it’s misplaced.

These are nice improvements, but there’s nothing here that warrants the “Pro” moniker for the stylus. If I had any say, this would just be the Apple Pencil (3rd Generation). Alas, you now have four styli to choose from for your iPad: the Apple Pencil Pro, Apple Pencil (2nd Generation), Apple Pencil (USB-C), and Apple Pencil (1st Generation). This makes things even more confusing for the average person who already had to learn which of these Pencils is compatible with their iPad model.

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But what's grinding my gears is that the new Apple Pencil Pro works only with the new 2024 iPad Pro and iPad Air models. Yes, even if you spent $1,099 on the 2022 iPad Pro two years ago, you cannot use this new “Pro” stylus on that model. You'll have to upgrade. This is probably a good time to mention that the 2024 iPad Pro models are more expensive across the board, starting at $999 for the 11-incher and $1,199 for the 13-inch model (a $200 and $100 jump, respectively).

Know what's worse? If you thought you could upgrade to the new iPad Pro or iPad Air from an older iPad and keep using the second-gen Apple Pencil you already own, think again. The new iPad Air and iPad Pro tablets only work with the two newest styli: the Apple Pencil (USB-C) that came out last year and the new Apple Pencil Pro. So if you are an avid Pencil user and want one of the new slates, you probably have to buy a new Apple Pencil.

Apple would not comment on the record about this when I attended an iPad hands-on event today. The company's marketing materials do highlight a “new magnetic interface” for the Apple Pencil Pro, which is the interface the Apple Pencil uses to recharge, pair, and stay attached to the tablet. However, there are no details on what exactly is “new” about this interface besides the fact that Apple had to move its placement slightly to accommodate the iPad's front-facing landscape camera. The new interface doesn't offer faster or more efficient charging, faster pairing, or more secure magnets—nothing of the sort. It feels practically identical to the existing system.

And the Apple Pencil is a stylus. For the love of god, it should be one of the easiest things to make backward compatible. So what if the Squeeze gestures might not work on an older iPad? I don't think it's difficult to indicate that certain new features won't be available on older tablets; Apple already does this with its software updates. Certain new features in iOS don't work on older iPhones, even if the hardware is still supported. At the very least, let the customers who have bought your stylus from years past use it on the new models. I can't find a good reason why a second-generation Apple Pencil would just not be compatible at all.

The only answer I am coming up with is the lack of processing power on older slates, but if the M2 chipset inside the 2022 iPad Pro is already not powerful enough to handle a few new stylus tricks, that doesn't speak very well to the performance prowess of Apple's silicon.

It's all very silly. The Apple Pencil Pro, second-gen Apple Pencil, and USB-C Apple Pencil at the least should work on all of Apple's current lineup, regardless if certain functions are not available. There probably also shouldn't be four Pencils to choose from in the first place.

“It just works” is the motto often equated with everything Apple. Not so with the Apple Pencil.


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