Apple Pencil buyer's guide -- which of the four models works with your iPad?

Posted:
in iPad edited May 7

Apple now has four Apple Pencil models, and compatibility varies greatly. Here's which Apple Pencils are compatible with which iPads.

Four separate Apple Pencil models on a white background
Apple has, once again, made the Apple Pencil lineup a little more confusing



Not only are there four discrete Apple Pencil models, each has its own list of features. Discerning which one you need based on your iPad model can be a little confusing, so let's take a moment to break down the differences.

Apple Pencil Pro



Announced on May 7, 2024, the Apple Pencil Pro is Apple's newest addition to the lineup. The Apple Pencil Pro introduces several new features that are exclusive to the new model.

Hands of a person using a stylus on a tablet with a colorful digital art project displayed on the screen.
Apple Pencil Pro showing off the squeeze gesture in Procreate



Barrel roll, for instance, allows users to rotate the barrel to change the orientation of shaped pen and brush tools. This is ideal for painting in programs such as Procreate.

A new squeeze feature enables many apps to open contextual menus that allow users to switch tools, line weights, and colors.

The Apple Pencil Pro gains haptic feedback for the first time, allowing apps to inform users when specific actions have been registered. For instance, Procreate will use haptic feedback to signal that an object has been snapped in a precise location.

Also new to the Apple Pencil Pro is Find My support. Now, you can quickly and easily locate a missing Apple Pencil Pro using the Find My app on your Apple devices.

In addition to the new features, the Apple Pencil Pro retains previous features, including double tap, Apple Pencil hover, pressure sensitivity, and tilt sensitivity. Like its predecessor, it connects magnetically to compatible iPads and pairs and charges wirelessly.

The Apple Pencil Pro costs $129, the same price as the second-generation Apple Pencil, and can be financed via the Apple Card.

Apple Pencil Pro compatibility

Apple Pencil 2nd Generation



Introduced first in November 2018, the second-generation Apple Pencil was the first to utilize magnetic attachment for wireless pairing and charging. This was considered a significant upgrade over the first generation, requiring users to charge it via the iPad's Lightning port.

A close-up of a hand holding an Apple Pencil in focus, with a blurred background featuring a tablet.
Second-generation Apple Pencil



This Apple Pencil is tilt and pressure sensitive, boasts the double-tap feature, and supports Apple Pencil Hover on M2 iPad Pro and iPad Air models.

When purchased from Apple, the second-generation Apple Pencil costs $129 and can be financed with Apple Card. Apple resellers offer much lower prices, though, with Amazon running an aggressive sale at press time, dropping the price to $79.

Second-generation Apple Pencil compatibility

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, third generation through sixth generation

  • 11-inch iPad Pro, first-generation through fourth generation

  • iPad Air, fourth and fifth generation

  • iPad mini, sixth generation

Apple Pencil USB-C



Apple released the Apple Pencil USB-C in November 2023, bringing the device in compliance with laws passed by the European Union requiring port standardization for rechargeable devices.

Functionally, it falls somewhere between the original Apple Pencil and the second-generation Apple Pencil. While it can connect to an iPad magnetically, it does not pair and charge wirelessly. It must be charged via the included USB-C port.

There is a sliding cap and USB-C port on the new Apple Pencil
A sliding cap reveals a USB-C charging port



It supports the Apple Pencil hover on M2 iPad Pro and iPad Air models. It also supports tilt sensitivity.

Interestingly enough, the Apple Pencil USB-C does not support pressure sensitivity, which is even supported on the first-generation Apple Pencil. This makes it less ideal for artists.

The Apple Pencil USB-C is available for $79 and can be financed using the Apple Card when purchased through Apple. Like the Apple Pencil 2, Amazon is currently discounting the Apple Pencil USB-C.

Apple Pencil USB-C compatibility

  • M4 13-inch iPad Pro

  • M4 11-inch iPad Pro

  • M2 13-inch iPad Air

  • M2 11-inch iPad Air

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, third generation through sixth generation

  • 11-inch iPad Pro, first-generation through fourth-generation

  • iPad Air, fourth and fifth generation

  • iPad mini, sixth generation

  • iPad, tenth generation

Apple Pencil 1st Generation



Largely a legacy model, with a now-limited lifespan, the original Apple Pencil was introduced in 2015. It features a female Lightning connector used to charge and pair with compatible iPad models. It also features an entirely round design, whereas all newer Apple Pencil models feature one flattened side to prevent rolling off flat surfaces.

Apple Pencil and its charging adapter against a white background.
First generation Apple PencilFirst generation Apple PencilFirst generation Apple Pencil



It does not support Apple Pencil hover, as it is incompatible with M2 iPad Air and iPad Pro models. It also does not connect to any iPad magnetically.

However, it features tilt and pressure sensitivity, making it a better option for iPad artists who have not moved on to a model that supports the second-generation Apple Pencil.

The first-generation Apple Pencil is still priced at $99 at Apple the same as its introductory price, and can be financed with Apple Card. However, resellers have dropped the price to $79, offering a better value compared to buying from Apple directly.

First-generation Apple Pencil compatibility

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, first and second generation

  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro

  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro

  • iPad Air, third generation

  • iPad mini, fifth generation

  • iPad, sixth through ninth generation, tenth generation with adapter


Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 5
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,788member
    This is ridiculously confusing for the user. It’s like the Performa days. Apple needs to consolidate a number of their product lines - especially iPad and Pencil. I wonder how many people buy the wrong Pencil and are disappointed that it doesn’t work. 
  • Reply 2 of 5
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,966member
    elijahg said:
    This is ridiculously confusing for the user. It’s like the Performa days. Apple needs to consolidate a number of their product lines - especially iPad and Pencil. I wonder how many people buy the wrong Pencil and are disappointed that it doesn’t work. 
    Agreed - the fact that this article is even necessary is absurd. Instead of making things simpler with the pencil pro, they made things even worse.
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 3 of 5
    Anilu_777Anilu_777 Posts: 558member
    I’m pretty sure that during the event Apple said that the iPad Air is compatible with two Apple Pencils, not just the Pro. 
  • Reply 4 of 5
    I'm deeply annoyed that the iPad Pencil 2nd gen is not compatible with the new Airs and Pros. The USB-C pencil is supported by previous and current gen Airs/Pros. So technically, the 2nd gen iPad pencil should be compatible as well. I want to buy a new Air, but then I'll have a 2nd gen pencil I have no use for (I sold my iPad last year, so currently have a 2nd gen pencil but no iPad). To me it seems like Apple simply software-locked the 2nd gen apple pencil. No other explanation as to how the new iPads support the USB-C pencil, but not the 2nd gen.

    I'm still hoping that they list it as 'unsupported' because they changed the location of the magnet or something, and that the older pencil will still work. Even if it doesn't charge, I'll be okay since I can charge it with my wife's Air. But at least I won't have to buy a new pencil if it still works.
  • Reply 5 of 5


    Apple Pencil 1st Generation



    Largely a legacy model, with a now-limited lifespan, the original Apple Pencil was introduced in 2015. It features a female Lightning connector used to charge and pair with compatible iPad models. It also features an entirely round design, whereas all newer Apple Pencil models feature one flattened side to prevent rolling off flat surfaces.

    Apple Pencil and its charging adapter against a white background.
    First generation Apple PencilFirst generation Apple PencilFirst generation Apple Pencil
    That's not a female connector.
    Alex1N
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