Apple finds another use for USB-C – a cheaper Pencil

It’s also shorter, lousy under pressure, and needs a dongle on the cheapest iPad

Apple has found another reason to embrace USB-C – it’s allowed the iCompany to make a cheaper digital pencil.

Doodling on iPad screens is something Apple thinks we should all be doing, so it previously produced two generations of stylus. The first featured Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector hidden under a removable cap. Charging the Pencil required either an adapter for a Lightning cable, or for the Pencil to be poked into an iPad. The latter was an ungainly and precarious arrangement that saw the Pencil protrude while connected. Your correspondent tried it and feared the Pencil, or my iPad, would be damaged.

The gen-2 Apple Pencil charged wirelessly when nestled onto a special magnetized zone on iPads.

On Tuesday Apple announced Apple Pencil USB-C.

As the name suggests, it’s an electro-stylus with a USB-C port concealed beneath a cap that occupies the position you’d expect to find an eraser in a wooden pencil. Plugging in a USB-C cable will see electrons flow to the Pencil’s battery. The device also needs that connection to pair it to an iPad, even though it then operates wirelessly.

Once that connection’s established, you can iScrawl to your heart’s content – provided you don’t need pressure sensitivity.

Apple Pencil USB-C

Apple Pencil USB-C - Click to enlarge

That missing feature may explain why the Pencil will be sold for $79 when it goes on sale in November, rather less than the $99 Apple charges for its first-gen scribbler and the $129 it’s second-gen stylus will set you back.

Yet even that low price has a glitch: friend of The Register Alex Kidman pointed out that Apple’s cheapest iPad is the $329 9th-gen machine, which has only a Lightning port. Apple has a $9 Lightning-to-USB-C adapter for those folks, who will emerge $11 to the good if they decide to buy the new Pencil instead of the Gen 1.

The need for connectivity dongles is common to Apple products some MacBooks offer only USB-C ports, yet also offer the fruity firm’s MagSafe chargers.

Apple has a spotty history with USB-C. The firm adopted it years ago in some iPad models but didn’t add it to the iPhone until the European Union’s decision to standardise on USB-C for 15 types of consumer electronics. That decision means Apple’s prospects of making a profit on Lightning cables, which it monetises through first-party sales and licensing to other manufacturers, have dimmed. ®

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