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New, cheaper Apple Pencil adds USB-C but sacrifices some features

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Something to look forward to: Apple hasn’t released a new Apple Pencil model in five years, but users waiting for a significant upgrade will have to keep waiting. The latest iteration is a relatively minor revision that adds USB-C charging while sacrificing a few features from its predecessors to offer the most affordable Apple Pencil yet.

Apple has unveiled plans to release a new version of the Apple Pencil with USB-C support in the US next month. At $79, the pared-back refresh targets entry-level and budget-minded users.

The iPad accessory uses a USB-C port underneath a sliding cap for charging and pairing. Unfortunately, it replaces wireless pairing and charging, which remains exclusive to the $129 2nd generation Pencil that Apple released in 2018. The new model also lacks double tap, which 2nd generation owners use to change editing tools quickly, and pressure sensitivity, which translates force applied into brush thickness.

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Like the high-end version, users can preview their markings on an M2-powered iPad Pro by hovering over the screen. It also magnetically attaches to the side of any supported iPad. Although it won’t top off via the magnetic charger, the USB-C Apple Pencil will enter sleep mode to conserve power.

Lowering the Apple Pencil’s price barrier could expose more users to the new annotation features Apple introduced with iPadOS 17 last month. Freeform, the collaboration app Apple introduced with iPadOS 16 last year, gains additional markup tools, and the Notes app now allows users to view and draw on PDFs and scanned documents.

The new Apple Pencil supports every iPad with a USB-C port, including every model compatible with the 2nd generation Pencil, plus the 10th generation iPad. In addition to standard pricing, college students and faculty of all grade levels receive a slight education discount at $69.

Apple has migrated its entire product line toward USB-C somewhat more slowly than other hardware companies. While iPads have utilized USB-C for years, the Cupertino giant launched its first USB-C-compatible iPhone, the iPhone 15, last month. Apple likely phased out its proprietary lightning cable due to rising regulatory pressure from the European Union, which now requires manufacturers to adhere to a single charging cable standard.

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