For the past few months, I’ve been cheating with my Apple Pencil. Instead of using The $129 Apple Stylus with my iPad Mini for note taking, I use an alternative that I bought on Amazon for about $25. It looks nearly identical, works nearly as well, and even snaps and charges from your iPad. And while this $25 stylus doesn’t quite match all the features of the Apple Pencil, it comes very close to delivering a similar experience for a fraction of the price.
The stylus I’m using is from a random brand called “StylusHome”, but there are plenty of similar ones listed on Amazon for about the same price. It looks exactly like the style of Apple’s second-generation Pencil – if it weren’t for the first-party logo, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart visually. It has a flat side that magnetically snaps onto the edge of my iPad Mini (and would also do so on an iPad Pro or iPad Air), where it also charges its battery. It even comes with a replacement tip in the box if the original wears out.
Amazon lists this pencil clone for around $30, but it was about $25 when I bought it a few months ago. As of this writing, there’s a discount plus a 10% coupon that brings it down to around $24. Compare that to the Apple Pencil’s regular $129 price or even the $90 to $100 it costs when it’s on sale, and it’s a pretty wide chasm.
Given this price difference and the fact that apart from Logitech Pencil, the world of third-party Apple Pencil options doesn’t seem to really exist, I really didn’t expect it to work that well. But the StylusHome Pencil is just as responsive and lag-free when writing on the screen as the Apple Pencil. It’s very slightly lighter (15.2 grams versus 17.9 grams) but otherwise feels exactly the same. It supports tilt shading but has no pressure sensitivity. Not a problem for me as I only use it for writing notes, but if you’re an artist you might miss this feature.
What I miss the most is the Apple Pencil’s double-tap feature, which lets me switch between writing and erasing by simply double-tapping the side of the stylus. The StylusHome doesn’t support it at all, just like the first-generation Apple Pencil, so you have to use the onscreen controls to switch between stylus and eraser every time.
Unsurprisingly, the StylusHome also doesn’t have as tight integration with iPadOS as Apple’s Pencil. You don’t get a little pop-up notification telling you about battery life when you stick it to the side of the iPad, for example. But it does support displaying battery life in Apple’s battery widget, which you can place on your iPad’s home screen or in the widget bar on the left of the iPad. homepage. This is a good workaround for me since I never use the pen long enough to completely drain its battery anyway.
The Fake Pencil uses Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad, and there’s an initial pairing you need to do the first time you use it through the iPad’s Bluetooth settings menu. And when you use the pen again after some time away, it doesn’t write on the screen because it’s sleeping. The remedy here is to simply stick it to the side of the tablet for a second or two to wake it up and try again – from there it’s instantly responsive, just like Apple’s Pencil.
For serious iPad users, those who perhaps create digital art for a living, I would still recommend sticking with the first-party Apple Pencil. But if you’re curious whether an Apple Pencil could add to your iPad experience, whether it’s for occasional doodling, navigating software or taking handwritten notes, but have been scared off by the high cost of the version from Apple, a counterfeit version like this can provide you with many of the same features for a fraction of the price.
Photograph by Dan Seifert/The Verge