by Jim Lynch

Why a stylus beats the Apple Pencil for navigating iOS

Feb 29, 2016

Yes, you can use the Apple Pencil to navigate iOS but a stylus is still better in some ways. The Apple Pencil still can't access the Control Center or Notification Center, and it can't move forward and backward between web pages in Safari.

The Apple Pencil has been all over the news lately after Apple yanked the ability to use it to navigate iOS from a recent beta of iOS 9.3. Thankfully, the company has decided to add the Apple Pencil navigation features back into an upcoming beta. So you will be able to use the Apple Pencil to navigate around in iOS 9.3 when it is finally released.

But should you use the Apple Pencil for navigation in iOS? Or does it make more sense to use a regular stylus?

This question occurred to me recently, so I found an old stylus that I’d bought back when I had the iPad 3. I started using it to navigate around in iOS and I quickly found that it’s still much better than the Apple Pencil.

Why a stylus works better than the Apple Pencil for iOS navigation

Here’s why a stylus beats the Apple Pencil to navigate around iOS:

1. The rubber tip of the stylus makes it easier to press down and hold for scrolling and other navigational uses.

2. A stylus can pull down the Notifications menu at the top of your iPhone or iPad, while the Apple Pencil still cannot access it.

3. A stylus can let you go backward or forward between web pages in Safari, while the Apple Pencil remains unable to do so.

4. The Apple Pencil cannot pull up the Control Center at the bottom of an iOS device’s screen, but a stylus can.

These are just some of the navigation problems with the Apple Pencil that I noticed as I was using it. There may be more that I’m not aware of, so please feel free to share any additional ones you’ve seen in the comments below.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Apple Pencil

I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea here, I’m not bashing the Apple Pencil. It’s a fantastic tool for drawing and painting, and for taking notes. Apple did a great job when it created the Apple Pencil. And I think it’s certainly worth buying.

But using the Apple Pencil for navigating iOS is still a bit of a kludge. Yes, you can use it for certain things but not for others. And that’s where a regular old stylus can really come in handy. You can do pretty much anything with a stylus in iOS, so for me it ends up beating the Apple Pencil for navigation purposes.

Of course the Apple Pencil beats a stylus when it comes to drawing, taking notes, etc. So each tool has its pluses and minuses, depending on what you intend to use it for in iOS. I’m not much of an artist, so I tend to lean on the stylus a lot more now to move around in iOS.

The Apple Pencil might eventually eliminate the need for a stylus

When Apple announced that they were adding the Apple Pencil’s navigation features back into iOS 9.3, they also said they intended to improve them. While I’ve seen no details about what that specifically means, it’s entirely possible that the company might expand what the Apple Pencil can do in terms of navigation.

If that happens then the Apple Pencil might end up making it totally unnecessary to use a stylus at all in iOS. I have my fingers crossed that eventually the Apple Pencil will be able to do everything a regular stylus can do in iOS. It would add real value to the Apple Pencil and simplify everything for those of us who need or want to navigate iOS with something besides our fingers.

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