Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: which generation of pencil is best for you and your iPad?

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: Hand drawing with Apple Pencil on iPad featuring colorful artwork
(Image credit: Apple)

If you want to do some photo editing, digital drawing, or other fiddly tasks on your iPad, using your fingers alone can be a clunky and frustrating experience when compared with a stylus. And let's be clear: the best stylus for iPads (opens in new tab) available today is the Apple Pencil. 

But it's not quite as simple as that, because there are two versions to choose from: the Apple Pencil (First Generation), commonly referred to as the Apple Pencil 1, and the Apple Pencil (Second Generation), usually known as – you guessed it – the Apple Pencil 2.

So which one should you choose? There are many factors to take into account, but the most important is compatibility, because some iPad models only support one or the other. 

The launch of the new iPad Pro M2 and iPad 2022 this month is a good case in point. The former is only compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, whereas the latter only supports the Apple Pencil 1. 

We'll start, then, by looking at which Apple Pencil your current iPad supports. And then look at the other main differences between these two styluses, to help you choose between Apple Pencil 1 vs 2.

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: compatibility

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: iPad Pro with Apple Pencil 2

The latest iPad Pro only supports Apple Pencil 2 (Image credit: Apple)

If you already have an iPad, and don't want to buy another one, then your decision may have already been made by Apple. Because the Apple Pencil 1 is only supported by the following iPad models:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation) 
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st generation) 
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch iPad Pro 9.7-inch iPad Air (3rd generation) 
  • iPad (10th generation)
  • iPad (9th generation) 
  • iPad (8th generation) 
  • iPad (7th generation) 
  • iPad (6th generation) 
  • iPad mini (5th generation)

Apple Pencil 1 (Image credit: Apple)

Conversely, the Apple Pencil 2 is only supported by the following iPad models:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (6th generation) 
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) 
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th generation) 
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation) 
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (4th generation) 
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation) 
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd generation) 
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation) 
  • iPad Air (5th generation) 
  • iPad Air (4th generation) 
  • iPad mini (6th generation)

Apple Pencil 2 (Image credit: Apple)

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: price

As the earlier and more basic model, you'd expect the Apple Pencil 1 to be cheaper than the Apple Pencil 2, and you'd be right. On the official Apple site at time of writing, the Apple Pencil 2 was listed at $129 / £139, while the Apple Pencil 1 was significantly cheaper at just $99 / £89. Third-party retailers may have both styluses cheaper still. Below, you'll find the absolute best prices for the Apple Pencil 1 and Apple Pencil 2 today.

When you do your cost-benefit analysis, it's worth noting that the Apple Pencil 1 comes with one extra tip, but the Apple Pencil 2 doesn't. If you need to replace yours, Apple sells packs of four for $19 / £19. Conversely, one benefit of the Apple Pencil 2 is that Apple will engrave it for free, as long as you buy it directly from them.

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: design 

The Apple Pencil 1 (top) is slightly shorter than the Pencil 2 (bottom) (Image credit: Apple)

Which Apple Pencil offers the best performance? Actually, in terms of pressure sensitivity and latency, there's no obvious difference between the two styluses. Both other great tilt sensitivity, pressure sensitivity and palm rejection.

When it comes to design, though, there are a number of key differences. The short version is that the Apple Pencil 2 is definitely the better stylus overall. However, whether it's so much better that it's worth the higher price is still questionable.

The first difference is ergonomic. The Apple Pencil 2 is thinner and shorter, and so looks and feels more like a real pencil. The Apple Pencil, in contrast, is more like holding a felt-tip pen.

Woman drawing artwork with Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil 1 (above) feels more like a felt-tip pen than a pencil in the hand (Image credit: Apple)

Also, while the Apple Pencil 1 is round, the Apple Pencil 2 has a flat edge. This makes it easier to grip, and it also makes it less likely to roll off the table. Finally, the Apple Pencil 1 has a shiny plastic surface while the Apple Pencil 2 has a matte surface which again makes it easier to hold.

A second difference is that the Apple Pencil 2's flat edge works as a button. That means this stylus comes with a double-tap function, which allows you to switch between tools in apps that support it. One popular use of this is to switch between drawing or writing and the eraser.

A third difference is the charging process. Underneath its cap, the Apple Pencil 1 has a Lightning connector, which allows you to charge it by connecting to the Lightning port of your iPad.

The Apple Pencil 1's Lightning connector (Image credit: Apple)

This is not ideal, because it means the stylus sticks out at right angles to your tablet, taking up space and making it very difficult to transport while charging. That said, an adapter is also provided. (Indeed, with the 2022 iPad released this month, this is your only option, as the new tablet charges with USB-C instead of Lightning).

Charging is much easier with the Apple Pencil 2, as it connects magnetically to the right side of your iPad for charging. This is makes it easy to carry your iPad and Apple Pencil 2 about, even when the stylus is charging.

Finally, note that if you're buying the new iPad Pro M2, you'll get a new feature from your Apple Pencil 2 called hover. This means your stylus is now detected up to 12mm above the screen, allowing you to see a preview of your mark before they make it.

The Hover function in action (Image credit: Apple)

With Scribble, text fields automatically expand when the pencil gets near the screen, and handwriting converts to text even faster. And no doubt third-party apps will quickly take advantage of this new feature, to enable new marking and drawing experiences.

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2: verdict

If you want to do precision work on your iPad screen, both Apple Pencils do a great job of making you feel like you're using a real pencil. In terms of performance, there's no real difference, but the Apple Pencil 2 has better ergonomics, is easier to charge, boasts a useful double-tap functionality, and benefits from the cool new hover feature on the latest iPad Pro. 

In short, we'd say that if you can afford the extra cash for Apple Pencil 2, it's a no-brainer. That said, if your current iPad only supports the Apple Pencil 1, it's probably not worth upgrading your tablet just to use the Apple Pencil 2.

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq (opens in new tab), and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, T3, Heat, Company and Bella.