For the past few months, I’ve been cheating with my Apple Pencil. Instead of using Apple’s $129 stylus with my iPad Mini for note-taking, I used an alternative I bought from Amazon for about $25. It looks almost identical, works almost as well, and even clicks 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 a similar experience at a fraction of the price.
The stylus I used is from a random brand called “StylusHome”, but there are many similar ones listed on Amazon for around the same price. It’s exactly like the style of Apple’s second-generation Pencil – if it weren’t for the logo on the first-party, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart visually. It has a flat side that snaps magnetically to the edge of my iPad Mini (as well as an iPad Pro or iPad Air), where it also charges the battery. It even comes with a replacement tip in the box if the original ever wears out.
Amazon lists this Pencil clone for about $30, but it was about $25 when I bought it a few months ago. At the time of writing, there’s a discount plus a 10 percent coupon that brings it down to about $24. Compare that to the regular $129 price of the Apple Pencil or even the $90 to $100 it costs if it goes on sale, and that’s a pretty big gap.
Given that price difference and the fact that outside of Logitech’s Crayon, the world of third-party Apple Pencil options doesn’t really seem to exist, I really didn’t expect it to work this well. But the StylusHome Pencil is just as lag-free and responsive when writing on the screen as the Apple Pencil. It’s slightly lighter (15.2 grams versus 17.9 grams) but otherwise feels exactly the same. It supports tilt shadow, but has no pressure sensitivity. That’s not a problem for me as I only use it for writing notes, but if you’re an artist you might miss that feature.
What I miss more is the Apple Pencil’s double-tap feature, which lets me switch between writing and erasing with just a quick double-tap on the side of the stylus. The StylusHome doesn’t support this at all – as does the first-generation Apple Pencil – so you’ll have to use the on-screen controls to switch between pen and eraser each time.
Unsurprisingly, the StylusHome isn’t as tightly integrated with iPadOS as Apple’s Pencil is, either. You don’t get a little pop-up notification telling you the battery life if 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 drawer to the left of the home screen. This is a great solution for me since I never use the stylus long enough to completely drain the battery anyway.
The fake pencil uses Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad, and the first time you use it, you’ll first need to pair through the iPad’s Bluetooth settings menu. And when you use the stylus again after a while, it won’t write on the screen because it went into sleep mode. The remedy here is to just stick it to the side of the tablet for a second or two to wake it up and try again – from there it responds instantly, just like Apple’s Pencil.
For serious iPad users, those who might create digital art for a living, I’d still recommend sticking with the first Apple Pencil. But if you’ve been curious if an Apple Pencil could add to your iPad experience, whether for casual scribbling, navigating the software, or taking handwritten notes, but have been put off by the hefty cost of Apple’s version, then a fake version like this one can offer you many of the same features for a fraction of the price.
Photography by Dan Seifert / Acutely