Is the Apple Pencil Pro worth buying? A singular new feature could propel it to the mainstream

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event May 7 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

On Tuesday, Apple announced a slew of incredible new products for its iPad line-up, including the iPad Pro M4, iPad Air M2, and a redesigned Apple Pencil Pro. 

A common question about the Apple Pencil is whether it's worth buying. A new feature for the Apple Pencil Pro could propel it beyond the world of artists and students into the mainstream. 

This exciting new feature is squeeze control, which unlocks a whole new level of functionality and makes the Pencil a surprising competitor for a conventional mouse. This upgrade could make the Apple Pencil Pro a must-have accessory.

I love my Apple Pencil and have been using it nearly every day for years now, so I was ecstatic to see the new tech Apple baked into this upgraded Pencil. 

Whether you're trying to decide which accessories to add to your iPad Pro M4 or you currently have an iPad and want to upgrade your Pencil, you don't want to miss out on the Apple Pencil Pro and its revolutionary squeeze controls. 

The Apple Pencil Pro introduces squeeze controls, haptics, rolling, and hover

Apple Pencil Pro specs

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple gave the Apple Pencil a makeover, decking it out with new features, including squeeze controls, haptic feedback, barrel roll sensitivity, double tap controls, and hovering. These upgrades make the Apple Pencil Pro vastly more capable than the second-generation Pencil or the USB-C Pencil. The Pro might look just like the second-gen Apple Pencil, but the new tech inside is cutting-edge. 

Most of the upgrades in the Apple Pencil Pro are in the lower end of the barrel, so you can now use a range of new controls with just your thumb and index finger. Barrel roll sensitivity is mainly for creative applications that feature tasks like changing brush sizes. It's effectively a more advanced version of the existing pressure-sensitive tip on the second-generation Apple Pencil. 

Hovering is a smaller, although useful, addition that allows you to use certain functions and controls while hovering the tip of the Apple Pencil Pro over your iPad's display. 

Apple mainly demoed this for hovering tasks, but there are all kinds of ways you could potentially use it. I could see developers using hover a bit like a mouse cursor for precision control without the Magic Keyboard

Apple also brought support for "Find My" to the Apple Pencil Pro. While this isn't as groundbreaking as the new control setup in the Pencil's barrel, it is very useful (speaking as someone who has misplaced their Apple Pencil more than once). 

Squeeze controls

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event May 7 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Squeeze control is the most revolutionary upgrade to the Apple Pencil. The pressure-sensitive barrel significantly expands the control and navigation capabilities of the Pencil, and not just in art apps. Squeeze controls make in-app navigation seamless, convenient, and intuitive. There are countless ways developers can use this new feature to give iPad users precise control capabilities in the convenient form factor of the Pencil. 

For example, the iPad is great for 3D modeling and design, especially with the new M4 chip in the iPad Pro. A designer walking around an R&D lab or an architect touring a construction site could reference design files and take notes on their iPad while using the Apple Pencil Pro to not only write, but change tools, jump between apps, and navigate through menus using squeeze control. 

Squeeze control is the most revolutionary upgrade to the Apple Pencil.

The ability to utilize virtually all of the features of an app through one tool makes the iPad far easier to use with one hand (while holding it with the other on the go). If you haven't used an iPad before, that might seem like a little thing. However, it's hard to understate what a big quality-of-life upgrade this is. It allows the iPad to be even better at one of its most distinct use cases: flexible, modular mobile computing. 

It's far easier to use a tablet while standing, walking, and moving around compared to a laptop (as anyone who has tried typing with one hand knows). However, we all write with one hand all the time. So, the Apple Pencil form factor makes it the perfect mouse replacement for mobile computing, unlocking precise controls for the iPad without the need for the Magic Keyboard. 

Apple iPad screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Squeeze control is useful for more than artists and graphic designers. In Tuesday's presentation, Apple made it clear that third-party app developers are welcome to create squeeze controls for their apps. 

That means we could see squeeze shortcuts and menus pop up in everything from educational apps to web browsers to productivity programs like Microsoft or Adobe apps. 

We'll have to wait and see how developers decide to use squeeze controls in their products, but the door is open for a whole new range of features. 

I would love to see Apple introduce local shortcuts for the Apple Pencil Pro, as well, allowing users to create their own custom squeeze controls for navigating around iPadOS with the Pencil. However, that type of feature is more likely to be unveiled in iPadOS 18 at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference next month. 

How to upgrade to the Apple Pencil Pro

Screenshots from Apple "Let Loose" event May 7 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple is keeping the price at $129 for the Apple Pencil Pro

The Apple Pencil Pro bakes a ton of new features into a familiar sleek white chassis—with a familiar price. It is replacing the second-generation Apple Pencils, so if you're upgrading from a second-generation Apple Pencil or the USB-C model, you can keep it as a spare.

Apple is keeping the price at $129, which makes the Apple Pencil Pro a steal. 

If you want to add it to your iPad setup, you can pre-order the Apple Pencil Pro today and it will ship out by May 15, when it officially becomes available. 

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't have a trade-in program for Pencils. So, if you're upgrading from a second-generation Apple Pencil or the USB-C model, you can keep it as a spare or you'll have to sell it on a third-party resale marketplace like eBay or Back Market. 

As someone holding out on upgrading my old iPad setup from 2020, the Apple Pencil Pro might finally get me to make the switch. I can't wait to see how app developers utilize the new squeeze controls. We're sure to hear more at WWDC 2024, which kicks off on June 10, so stay tuned for more details, info, and insights on the latest updates from Apple. 

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Stevie Bonifield
Freelance Writer

Stevie Bonifield is a freelance tech journalist specializing in keyboards, peripherals, gaming gear, and mobile tech. Outside of writing, Stevie loves indie games, photography, and building way too many custom keyboards