Using the Apple Pencil at University
If you haven't already read the Ipad pro 10.5 inch review we wrote. This article is a snippet of the Apple pencil section of that review. If you are only interested in the Apple pencil then feel free to read this article. If you enjoy it then check out some of our other material.
I was hesitant to use the Apple pencil and iPad for note taking in class. No technology has come close to the intuitiveness of a pencil and paper. It has been a semester now and I have tested the pencil under a full university workload.
I had been already using my iPad heavily at school. Its my text book and my laptop for writing essays or lab reports. My idea was to have one master device since the iPads battery life is so incredibly reliable.
The first week of using the Apple pencil I was mildly surprised with the accuracy of the pencil and how well the palm rejection worked, but I still kept a critical view as I tested the pencil in more detail.
A pencil or pen is a very reliable utensil and when it fails a second writing utensil is not far behind to pick up the slack. At $100 I would only have one Apple pencil so consistent reliability was important.
For the semester I used penultimate, an app that will sync notes with Evernote. This was one of my preferred apps as the notes are then backed up to Evernote and also can be viewed on a evernote.com or evernote app. This meant I could keep evernote as a slide over app while I write on penultimate app if i needed to reference something from a previous note. Additionally I could open up Evernote on a computer and use penultimate on the iPad.
After one whole semester my conclusion is the Apple pencil works fine. Every once in a while the pencil would get confused and not write but a simple lift of the pencil and a second attempt seemed to resolve this. Palm rejection was great and never accidentally started writing as my hand dragged across the screen.
For note taking it was precious and quick. An advantage I found when using the pencil is I never had to turn a page. In the penultimate app it perpetually scrolls down never needing to compensate for that last line that I know my next sentence wont fit on. I also found I was color coding and highlighting my notes more since I did not have to pick up and put down another writing implement. Sharing notes is as easy as emailing them and assignments could be printed.
Writing with the apple pencil is like writing with a smooth bold pen. The pencil writes on the iPad how you would expect it to write on glass. Each stroke has little resistance but after a while you get used to the writing style.
One big issue I thought I would have was battery life. This turned out not to be an issue. The Apple pencil can be charged either directly from the iPad pro or with a lightning cable using a dongle. The Apple pencil lasts 12 hours on a full charge which is a decent amount but is not what impressed me the most. What had saved me in class many times was the ability to charge the pencil for 15 seconds and get at least 30 minutes of battery life. If I ever received a message on the iPad stating I was at 5 percent I could plug in my pencil while the professor was egotistically ranting about his or her achievements and get enough charge to take notes for the rest of the class period and longer.
The Apple pencil started to blend into my workflow. It became almost indistinguishable to a normal pencil. The Apple pencil is beautifully designed, premium feeling, and intuitive. The pencil maintains an always on connection with the iPad so once I take it out of my backpack I can start writing. If it ever disconnected all I needed to do was plug it into the lighting port and it was synced again. I forgot that it uses a bluetooth connection with the iPad because the pencil just works. That is the beauty of the Apple pencil.
The Apple pencil is not without flaws. One issue I have with the Apple pencil is that it is quite slippery and when I am done with my pencil I have nowhere to put it. I solved this issue with one item (affiliate link). This magnet sleeve for the Apple pencil gave me a soft rubbery grip that also has a very powerful magnet build into it. This meant I could write for hours without fatigue and then simply snap the pencil onto the smart cover and the bond would be so strong I could throw it in my bag and have the pencil be in the same place when I go and take it out again. I cant imagine using the pencil without this.
The only additional feature I wish the pencil had is a customizable button. I would then assign that button to an eraser or maybe undo. This would save me a lot of hassle when taking notes but is not a deal breaker by any means.
Will I go back to the tried and true pencil and paper? I think a better question is not to ask if the Apple pencil can replace a traditional pencil but to ask if it will be as reliable.
I forgot my Apple pencil one day and had to use a pencil and paper. I then realized how cumbersome a pencil and paper can be. I had to poorly erase mistakes the professor makes his erasable whiteboard, think about the continuity of my notes as I approach the last line of the page, click my pencil to sharpness as the point breaks, think about if i need to apologize to the person next to me as my broken graphite shoots into their face, and decide if I should waste the time switching colors and risk falling behind on the lecture. The mighty pencil and paper did not seem as reliable as it used to be.
Edit: One limitation I seem to be getting close to hitting is the battery life of the ipad. I thought the pencils battery life might be in issue, but quick charging works well. The ipad on the other hand must be charged over %30 for a 2 hour class with wifi on. If wifi is turned off then I can get away with about %30 percent. This means I need to make sure my ipad has adequate charge or I am stationed near an outlet.