Who needs Apple Pencil when any old stylus will do? [Opinion]

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Apple Pencil vs dumb stylus: This old Wacom Bamboo is more than enough
This old Wacom Bamboo stylus is more than enough "pencil" for many people.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

I’ve owned an Apple Pencil since I bought the first iPad Pro a few years ago. There’s nothing to touch it when it comes to drawing and painting on the iPad, but I found I didn’t ever use it for that. I mark up PDFs, make selections when editing photos, and sketch the odd diagram.

This time around, I’m saving my $130 by not buying the Apple Pencil mkII. Why? I don’t need it. Instead, I’m using the cheap, dumb stylus I found in my jam jar of pens and pencils. Let me tell you why.

Who needs the Apple Pencil?

If you need pressure sensitivity and perfect palm rejection, then the Apple Pencil is cheap at $130, especially when compared to alternatives like the Wacom Cintiq. But if all you need is a way to not use your finger, it’s expensive overkill.

I’m not arguing against the Apple Pencil. I think it’s amazing — especially the new improved version. But it’s far from a necessary purchase. If you write on the screen, paint or draw, or need the Apple Pencil’s skills for your particular uses, then ignore this article.

But if you’re wondering whether you need an Apple Pencil for your new iPad Pro, then you probably don’t.

Sometimes a dumb stylus is enough

Sometimes, all you need is a way not to use your finger to make a selection, or to make some marks on the page. In these cases, consider a cheap stylus. With mine, I can mark up a PDF with surprising accuracy — especially when the iPad is on a stand. (I mark up music notation with notes.)

And what about photos? Often you might want to select a section of an image to, say, remove it. In a Photoshop-like app, you might want the control the Apple Pencil gives. But if all you’re doing is removing objects with Touch Retouch, a stick with a rubber tip is just fine. And it works with any iPad.

So, before you drop all that money on something you might not need, dig out an old stylus from the back of the kitchen drawer and try it out with your iPad Pro. It might be all you need. And if it’s not, you’ll know you’re buying the Apple Pencil because you need it, not just because it’s there.