How Does Apple Pencil Work?
The Apple Pencil is a major accessory that puts the ‘pro’ in the iPad Pro. It allows you to draw and write fluidly and responsively, with tilt control and total pressure sensitivity, and all it needs is a simple setup process for you to start using it.
The Apple Pencil was released alongside the iPad Pro. For $99, it is a truly exceptional precision input device for the iPad Pro with the following benefits:
- Ability to draw and take notes
- Ability to annotate photos
- Ability to mark up documents
- Ability to select small menu items or precisely adjust app controls
- Perform a range of other tasks that require precision input
The Apple Pencil links to the iPad Pro via Bluetooth, and charges through a Lightning-to-Lightning connector that is concealed underneath a magnetic cap. You need about 12 hours to fully charge the device when using a regular iPad or iPhone charger.
The Pencil comprises the following components:
- A Bluetooth chip from Cambridge Silicon Radio (Qualcomm)
- A 32-bit RISC ARM-based Cortex-M3 MCU from ST Micro
- Several other chips with different functions
- A tiny 3.82 Volt, 0.329 Wh lithium-ion battery
- Pressure and angle sensors at the tip
Price when reviewed: $95
So, how does Apple Pencil work?
The Apple Pencil comes equipped with a series of internal sensors that allow it to detect how hard the tip is being pressed against the iPad, as well as the tip’s angle when sliding it across the screen. These sensors make it possible to create light or thick lines, or even shaded areas exactly the way you want them.
The Pencil works the same as a regular Pencil, but with a few differences. Here’s how to use it:
- Tap the Pencil’s tip on buttons, icons, and other interface features to navigate the iPad Pro. Keep in mind that the Pencil is not capacitive like your finger, which implies that gesture-based navigation, such as swipes, are not supported.
- To start writing or drawing, simply touch the tip of the Pencil to the screen of the tablet and move it.
- To obtain a darker or broader line, press the tip of the Pencil harder on the tablet screen
- Tilt the Pencil sideways, touch it to the tablet screen, and start moving to shade larger areas
For normal navigation, like swiping, use your fingers as the Pencil is not equipped with capacitive multi-touch. You can also use your fingers for shortcuts, like touching two fingers in Notes to get a ruler that you can use to draw straight lines with the Apple Pencil.
Troubleshooting: When the Apple Pencil Stops Working
There are a number of things that can cause the Apple Pencil to stop working with the iPad Pro. For instance, the Bluetooth pairing between the two devices tends to break when the tablet restarts, requiring you to pair the Pencil again.
Here are some other tips to help you avoid frustrations when working with the Apple Pencil:
Check the battery: If the Pencil was previously paired with your iPad Pro and then you find that it is no longer working, check the Battery section in tablet’s Notifications view. If the Pencil icon is not visible, it means that the Pencil has run out of power or you need to pair it again.
Charge the Pencil for a few minutes: If the Pencil icon is not visible on the iPad, use the Thunderbolt Adaptor to recharge it for about 10 minutes, and then check the Notifications again. If the Pencil is now visible, it means that the Pencil had run out of power. But if it is not, proceed to the next step.
Reboot your iPad Pro: To reboot your Pencil, you need to reboot the iPad as well. So, turn it on and off normally, and if this does not work, hard reset the iPad by depressing both the Home and Sleep buttons simultaneously for about 10 seconds, until the Apple logo appears.
Replace the Pencil tip: The tip of the Apple Pencil wears over time, and may eventually stop working when it needs replacing. To replace the tip, gently unscrew it counterclockwise and replace it, taking care not to damage the metal nib underneath.
Check the pairing: The Pencil pairs with your tablet via Bluetooth. To check if the device is connected to your tablet, go to Settings > Bluetooth > My Devices. The Pencil should be visible in the Devices list; if not, plug it into your tablet’s Lightning port for a few minutes and check again. If the Pencil is now visible, it should work with your iPad Pro. If it still does not show a connection, tap the “I” button beside the name of the device in the Devices list. Confirm that you want to ‘Forget this Device’, and then remove and re-plug the Pencil into your tablet’s Lightning port. It should now be working.
If the Pencil still doesn’t work, contact Apple Support for more assistance.
Apple boasts that the Pencil can give you 30 minutes of use following a single 15-second charge. So, connecting it to your iPad Pro should be a simple process. When you connect the Pencil to your tablet via the Lightning port, the standard pairing dialogue should automatically appear. But if the Pencil is short of charge, it will take a bit longer for the dialogue box to appear (as it charges). When prompted to Pair Pencil with your iPad Pro, tap ‘Agree’ and the Apple Pencil should start working.
Just so you know, the Apple Pencil can be purchased for $99, while a set of four replacement tips sell for $19.