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

But what’s grinding my gears is the fact that the new Apple Pencil Pro only works 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.

Person writing on an iPad with the Apple Pencil Pro

You can’t use this Pencil on older iPads.

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

The only answer I am drumming up 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 that’s often equated with everything Apple. Not so with the Apple Pencil.

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