Does The Apple Pencil Spell The End For Third Party Styli Developers?

Apple Pencil (Apple)
Apple Pencil (Apple)

Let’s face it, artists and other creative people that use iPads for drawing and painting all have one thing in common. The vast majority have either purchased or are in the process of purchasing the latest and greatest pressure sensitive stylus. The remainder are what we like to refer to as styli curious.

Over the past few years several developers have been attempting to fill the iPad pressure sensitive styli void. Some developers have been able to produce a decent stylus, but thus far, most pressure sensitive styli currently on the market simply lack the accuracy required for most serious artists.

We have seen some great work created with a wide range of pressure sensitive styli currently available. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to the performance of the stylus, it’s more of a reflection on the artist’s ability.

And there’s a very good reason developers have been having a difficult time producing the perfect pressure sensitive stylus for the iPad. Up until the new iPad Pro, all previous versions were never built to interact with styli.

Apple hasn’t exactly embraced the stylus. In fact, Steve Jobs famously shot down the concept. But with the passing of Jobs, all that has changed. With the release of the new iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil is definitely catching the attention of artists and designers. But don’t get too excited, the Apple Pencil is not compatible with previous iPad tablets.

You’ll have to purchase the new iPad Pro, and the Apple Pencil (sold separately) if you want to experience the best iPad drawing experience available. We say that because these two devices were made for each another, unlike third party styli.

Ultimately, the Apple Pencil will be put to a real test when it becomes widely available and is tested by creative people in the field. Until that time, we have to rely on the specs made available, and a few reviews by mostly non-artists that have tested and reviewed the product.

In terms of performance, Apple says the Pencil is highly responsive with virtually no lag. And just as we’d expect with any pressure sensitive device, the Pencil’s carefully positioned pressure sensors can measure a range of forces that can determine precisely how hard the tip of Apple Pencil is being pressed down. This results in wispy hairlines with gentle pressure and thicker lines with heavier pressure.

One of the most intriguing features is the ability of the Apple Pencil’s tilt sensors to calculate the exact orientation and angle of the user’s hand. This allows the user to create shading effects simply by tilting Pencil in the same manner as a piece of charcoal or conventional pencil.

On paper the Apple Pencil appears to be a real winner, but as mentioned earlier, time will tell. But will the new Apple Pencil spell the end for third party styli developers? That’s questionable, because millions of iPads not compatible with the Apple Pencil still exists and presumably will not be discontinued with the release of the new IPad Pro. But we fully expect that moving forward Apple will develop all new iPad models with Pencil capability. In that case, third party developers will probably still have the ability to develop new styli compatible with the iPad. Whether they will or not will not be clear until the Apple Pencil is thoroughly tested in the field.

The Apple Pencil will cost $99 (USD) and will be available with the iPad Pro in November.

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