I’ve needed a new IPad for a good few years and despite looking into alternatives I decided this quarter was the time to get one, the only decision was whether to get a second hand Pro or the new 2018 version. A business trip and a delay at the airport led to the impulse buy of a 2018 Ipad and more shockingly the Apple Pencil. Despite ridicule from colleagues, it is one of the most enjoyable and useful purchases I have made.
There isn’t much you can write about an Ipad that hasn’t been applicable since the first iteration. The 2018 version which replaces my Ipad 2, is a massive step up in terms of performance, yet still is as pleasant to hold, browse the internet and read books as always. However when you add Apple’s new and it must be said expensive Stylus, the Apple Pencil, you suddenly realise the potential that the device should always have had.
Like most apple devices post-Steve Jobs, there are a few user-friendly issues with it. Pairing it with the Ipad and charging it is seamless thanks to the lightning port where you would expect the eraser to be on a normal pencil. Yet no one has seemed to account for the fragility of the pencil for the 15 minutes or so it takes to charge fully. It literally sticks right out of the charging point on the Ipad. While this means you will never be left short of charge as long as your Ipad has some battery life, it adds a bit of fear to anyone who has young children or is just generally clumsy. Again like most apple products an alternative has been added as an afterthought with a connector to allow charging from a normal lightening device. A simpler solution would have been to detach the battery element and have it small enough to slot in the bottom, but this is a minor gripe from a clumsy person.
The pencil is quite large and made of a lightweight plastic material. While some people would expect the usual Apple aluminium, the lightness of the plastic probably appeals to the art community more and makes it feel about the weight of a normal pencil. With its size and cost, you really don’t want to be carrying it around like a normal pen, so it is worth investing in a case for the Ipad that has a compartment for the pencil. These are plentiful and more creative than the official apple offerings.
Nothing quite prepares you for the lag-free experience of using your pencil on the Ipad. It just works. When Apple get it right things like this just click. The pressure sensitive pencil when combined with a drawing app like Procreate or a note taking one like Notability just feels light years ahead of what anyone else can do portably. It is perfect for someone looking to get back into drawing after many years and even more useful in business and management applications for the annotation ability in real time. If you were looking to go out, buy canvas, art pencils, paints or more you would soon run into the costs of the Ipad and Pencil, it feels that good when you draw that soon the expense is ignored.
It also works as a stylus and using a stylus on the Ipad suddenly makes you think why it was never available from the start. Suddenly the need for fingerprint cleaners and extreme zooming are suddenly replaced with greater precision. It elevates the Ipad from what it once was and makes even gaming more appealing. Football Manager Touch and various other games that were a chore on the Ipad interface now operate better than even a mouse and keyboard could provide.
The Cynical View
To many, this will just be Apple catching up with the rest of the world and to an extent this is true. However, the reasons people prefer Apple, are the interface, App store and general usability. To now have the stylus and genuine ability to use this as an artist’s tool in such a portable manner is genuinely a worthwhile step and one I’m glad I took despite the expense.