how apple pencil works

How Apple Pencil Works in 2022 | All You Need to Know Before Using the Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is an amazing piece of hardware, it is very similar to a stylus but comes with better more accurate features and performance. It is even fun to watch someone using it, how it recreates real time hand movements and delivers smooth, even strokes with great accuracy, perfect for artists and designers to get those precise moves.

This precision has driven many people in the graphics, art and design professions to switch from the more conventional sketching methods to the Apple iPad and Apple Pencil pair. These Apple products bring in more portability to your work station and will allow you to work from literally anywhere and you will no longer be desk bound.

    When it comes to looks the Apple Pencil seems like any other stylus around if you look at it, but once you have used it and also seen the technology and hardware that goes into it, the complex levels of build it has, you will start to discover its true potential.

    So if you have ever wondered about how all this comes together to create the Apple pencil and how each component combined with its software and features produces detail and precision that is unmatched by other similar products, just continue reading below.

    How Apple Pencil Works

    how apple pencil works

    Apple officially announced the first iPad Pro that came with the option of buying a stylus at additional cost in 2015, this marked Apple’s change of perception of such devices in its product line.

    When Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs was still heading the company back then, he was against the idea of having any device that worked like a stylus. This changed in 2015 but this decision proved to be a good one seeing how useful it is when it comes to sketching or making notes in class.

    That original simple stylus has evolved to become the sleek and elegant looking Apple Pencil we know today. Between these two Apple Pencils, they work along with all models of the iPad, pick the one that is right for your model.

    After doing some research into the components such as gauges and sensors and also the functions of the Apple Pencil, in this article, we will explain what we have learnt, so before you decide to buy or if you already do have an Apple Pencil you will know what goes on to make it work.

    What Is An Apple Pencil?

    how apple pencil works

    The Apple Pencil is Apple’s own unique stylus and is designed to function along with Apple iPads. The name comes from its looks, it was designed to look and feel like a real pencil in your hand, although the second generation pencil is slightly flat on one side.

    The Apple Pencil replaces the use of your finger for most tasks like taskbar navigation. Using the Apple Pencil is especially helpful when more precise and accurate movements are needed. When used for things like art, drawing or taking notes at college, your finger can never match up to the accuracy the Apple Pencil offers.

    The Apple Pencil has a small plastic nib at the end of the pencil shaped casing, this tip is what makes contact with the iPad, it also has a built in battery and wireless charging coils, although this is only available with the second generation Apple Pencil. The first generation pencil has a lightning pin to connect to the tab to charge.

    So in short Apple designed this pencil to replace the traditional method of pencil and paper with the iPad and Apple Pencil. And with features like palm rejection, pressure and tilt sensitivity it really feels like the real thing, with a lot more functionality.

    How Does The Apple Pencil Work

    In order for the Apple Pencil to work properly, it first has to be paired with an iPad that has a pen enabled screen. When working together the Apple Pencil and iPad collect various types of data like pressure on the tip, the pencils orientation or tilt angle and of course the location of the nib on the surface of the iPad.

    All this data is collectively processed by the iPad and Pencil, this data is then combined together to finally produce the perfect stroke. There are three core sets of data without which the Apple Pencil cannot function properly, these are listed below.

    Path tracking, this data tracks the movement and position of the pencil in relativity to the iPad’s screen, so when you move the pencil from one end to the other this data registers the movement and plots the line.

    Pressure sensitivity data, this data comes from the nib of the Apple Pencil, it senses how much force you are applying onto the surface of the iPad with the pencil tip and adjusts the output accordingly.

    Tilt angle data, this data comes from the nib of the pencil and the iPad surface, this data calculates the angle at which you are touching the nib to the surface of the iPad, this is important when doing tasks like shading to achieve thinner lighter strokes.

    Tracking The Nib

    how apple pencil works

    iPads that support the Apple Pencil have special screens that are responsible for tacking the movement of the nib on the surface. This screen will not only recognise the pencil but your finger as well. This type of multi input is not available in other Apple devices like iPhones and Macbooks.

    The iPad tracks the movement of the pencil by running scans at an astonishing 240 times a second to help record the position of the pencil, this high number of scans results in greater accuracy.

    The number of scans the iPad runs also changes when you are using your finger to operate it, it scans at approximately half the rate as opposed to when you use the Apple Pencil.

    Apple Pencil’s Pressure Sensors

    how apple pencil works

    These sensors are extremely important when it comes to how the Apple Pencil performs. They measure the pressure you apply onto the nib of the pencil and in turn calculates the thickness and darkness of the stroke to be drawn, for example, if your press down harder on the pencil you will get a thicker more visible line and a faint light one with limited pressure, this creates the feel of using a regular pencil to draw.

    The nib on the pencil is the component that registers all this data and transmits it to the iPad to be processed into the stroke itself. A more detailed explanation of how this happens is given below.

    When the force that needs to be calculated is coming from only one perpendicular direction it is easy to calculate, but the Apple Pencil measure it from all angles and therefore requires more hardware.

    To calculate this perfectly Apple uses three dimensional force calculation with the help of its multiaxial pressure sensor. This not only accounts for perpendicular force but also measures Axial and Radial forces, which result in perfect responses not just when held straight but also at angles.

    Apart from these sensors in the Apple Pencil, even the surface of the iPad that is touch sensitive performs the function of turning on and off the pencil when touched by the pencil

    Tilt Calculation

    how apple pencil works

    Unlike the above data, calculating tilt involves using data from both the iPad and the Pencil.

    There are sensors located at different points on the pencil, these sensors calculate capacitance between them and the screen of the iPad to measure the angle of the pencil, this data is then used to adjust the thickness of the stroke you are making.

    In the nib of the Apple Pencil, there are two electrodes, the tip electrode in the tip and the other called the ring electrode is located a bit above the tip.

    To calculate the angle of the nib accurately, first, the capacitance of the tip electrode is measured and then the capacitance of the ring electrode, the correlation of these two capacitance figures in relation to the screen of the iPad is how the calculation of tilt angle is done.

    What’s Different Between The 1st Gen and 2nd Gen Apple Pencil?

    The first Apple Pencil was launched in 2015 and the second generation in 2018. The overall functionality is pretty similar but Apple did add a few new features to the second gen pencil.

    They both have slightly different designs, the first pencil is longer due to the lightning connector and is completely round. The second generation pencil has a flat surface on one side and is smaller, sleeker and has a matte texture finish. The first is a smooth polished finish.

    Compatibility is also different between the two, The second generation pencil works only with the iPad mini 6th generation, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd, 4th and 5th generation, iPad Pro 11-inch 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation and the iPad Air 4th and 5th generation.

    how apple pencil works

    And on the other hand, the Apple Pencil one works with the iPad 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th generation, iPad Air 3rd generation, iPad mini 5th generation, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 1st and 2nd generation, iPad Pro 10.5-inch and the iPad Pro 9.7-inch.

    The method of charging also differs between the two, the Apple first gen pencil has a lightning connector on one end and has to be plugged into the iPad for charging. When you buy this version of the pencil, Apple also includes an adapter you can use to connect to any lightning cable easily.

    The second generation pencil uses magnetic induction wireless charging, to charge it just attach the flat side of the pencil onto the right side of the iPad, it will hold itself on with the magnet it has, once in this position it will begin to charge.

    The second gen pencil also comes with a double tap feature, just tap the flat side above the nib to switch between tools you work with, this is not present in the first pencil.


    If you are considering buying a new Apple pencil or you have been using it for ages and did not know the difference between the two and how they actually worked, we hope the information in this article helped you get a better understanding of the Apple Pencil, its features and functions and how it all comes together to create the perfect drawing and writing accessory for you to use at work, university or home.

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