Hands-on: Apple Pencil Pro — so good, it might have even won Steve Jobs over

The most advanced stylus ever? We go hands-on with Apple Pencil Pro.

What is a hands on review?
Apple Pencil Pro and iPad Pro
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

Apple Pencil Pro may be 'just' an accessory, but it steals the show in the new iPad hardware line-up thanks to a great price and useful new functionality layered on top of an already responsive foundation.


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    Useful new gestures

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    Gyroscope opens advanced brush techniques

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    Find My network support


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    Not backwards compatible

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    Further complicates the Pencil range

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Apple Let Loose Event

Let Loose Live

(Image credit: Apple)

- Let Loose event LIVE — Everything announced at the Let Loose event, as it happens
OLED iPad Pro — M3 and a major display upgrade expected!
iPad Air 6 — Apple's thinnest and lightest tablet gets a new processor!
Apple Pencil Pro — Or should we say Apple Pencil 3?

Considering Steve Jobs’ well-documented hatred of stylus input on touchscreen devices, it's stunning that the Apple Pencil has become the go-to accessory for the best iPads on the market. Letting creatives get arty on canvases and note takers jot down their scribbles, Apple Pencil has become a key factor guiding people to the iPad range, aside from the size of its screen. Why buy an iPad, you may ask? You can do most of the same stuff on your iPhone, with little of the workplace flexibility that a MacBook has. Well neither iPhone nor MacBook support Pencil, do they?

Apple seems increasingly aware of the importance of Pencil to the iPad’s fortunes, spending lots of its May 7 ‘Let Loose’ event showcasing an all new scribbler, the Apple Pencil Pro. You could argue that it even stole the show, acting as the connective tissue between the new iPad Air 6 and OLED-equipped iPad Pros it launches alongside, each benefiting from the new features the Apple Pencil Pro introduces.

iPad Air 6

(Image credit: Future)

Despite feeling identical to the Apple Pencil 2 in the hand, the Apple Pencil Pro has a bunch of new features hidden away in its slim frame, each sure to delight artists and note takers.

The most advanced stylus ever?

The first new feature is a simple one, and was previously rumored. Find My network support is now built into the Apple Pencil Pro, making it easier to track down a misplaced pen via an iPhone, Mac or iPad. No more digging down the sofa for a lost stylus.

More exciting are the introduction of a pressure sensor in the barrel and the new haptic motor. The first adds support for all manner of programmable shortcuts that developers can add to their apps, activated by a squeeze of the Pencil Pro. In Apple’s native apps for instance, this brings up a brush wheel, letting you quickly jump between shortcut input selections. The second, haptic feedback, is handy for helping a user feel a more tactile interaction between the pen and their projects — it can trigger a rumble, for instance, when a highlighted object has snapped into alignment on a layer’s grid, something that might not be easily eyeballed when your hand covers half the screen.

Apple Pencil Pro and iPad Pro

(Image credit: Future)

For the true artists out there, a new gyroscope in the Apple Pencil Pro has perhaps the most potential of all. Working in tandem with the ‘Hover’ feature (which lets you preview where a stroke is going to be placed on the tablet before you commit to it), you’re now able to twist and turn digital brush tips as you place them on the iPad’s surface. The best way to picture this is to imagine replicating the motion of pushing a paintbrush vertically down on a page, and then twisting it to splay its fibers out like the petals of a flower. It introduces the sort of strokes and actions that simply haven’t been possible with pen input — digital or traditional — before this point, potentially taking hours of work out of painstaking simulated twist brush strokes.

That's all before considering Apple Pencil's signature low-latency input, traditional pen-like feel and smart magnetic charging features. If it wasn't already an essential part of the iPad experience, the Apple Pencil Pro now feels like THE reason to own an iPad.

There’s still too many Pencils, and too much compatibility confusion

Pencil Pro and its many new features are a much needed high point for the Apple Pencil line up, but they haven’t quite solved a wider issue at the heart of the Pencil range. The Apple Pencil, like the iPad range itself, has been a confusing part of Apple’s product family for years. 

Before the Let Loose event, Apple offered three different versions of Apple Pencil: 1st-gen, 2nd-gen, and the half-way-house cheaper USB-C variant. Each had frustratingly overlapping feature sets and drawbacks, plus differing supported tablets per pen. No one, for instance, wants to be left scrabbling for a converter dongle just to charge their Pencils, as was the bizarre case owners of the 10.9-inch 10th-gen iPad suffered from.

Apple Pencil Pro and calligraphy app

(Image credit: Future)

While Pencil Pro is the premium offering most people will clamour for, it introduces its own complexity to the range. Due to a new charging and pairing method (both magnetically triggered on the sides of the new iPads) it is compatible exclusively with the new tablets it launches alongside. Even the last generation M2 iPad Pros, which have the exact same chip under the hood as found in the latest (Pencil-Pro-supported) iPad Air 6, won’t be able to make use of Pencil Pro. It’s a further splintering of the feature set, with the 10th-gen iPad necessitating the continued sale of the first-ever Apple Pencil. That means there are now four Pencils those walking into an Apple Store have to understand and choose between.

Apple Pencil Pro is a thorough and exciting revamp of Apple’s stylus lineup then, even if it will give some poor Apple store staff a headache when it comes to upselling the accessory to its corresponding customer in the coming weeks. Apple Pencil Pro is available to buy now, priced at $129 — the same price as its 2nd-gen Pencil predecessor launched at — and will ship next week. Our full Apple Pencil Pro review will follow this early hands-on look in the coming days, once we’ve had more time to extensively put electronic pen to digital paper.

Gerald Lynch
Editor in Chief

Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 15 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. 

Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar, Space.com, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews, Mirror.co.uk, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.