For reasons best known to Apple, the new 10th-gen iPad has been assigned to work with the 1st- rather than the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, even though it doesn’t have the Lightning port necessary to charge and pair with the former accessory. To circumvent this problem, Apple simultaneously released a new $9 dongle that has female connectors for both Lightning and USB-C, and lets you use the original Pencil with the new iPad.
Some have complained that this solution is lazy and greedy, given that Apple has had years to plan for the transition to USB-C on the iPad range. But it must be admitted that the idea of a general-use Lightning/USB-C adapter isn’t totally unappealing, offering the possibility of using old Lightning accessories with newer devices. The female/female design isn’t ideal for such usages—you’d still have to use a USB-C cable to connect at the iPad end—but it could save money for those with a large library of legacy accessories.
Not so fast. It’s since emerged that the Pencil dongle is strictly limited in its usefulness. It cannot be used for any purposes other than connecting a 1st-gen Apple Pencil to a USB-C cable, and then to a power adapter (for charging) or an iPad (for pairing or charging). Nothing else connected at the Lightning end will work.
If you’ve actually got your hands on the dongle, this may seem obvious: its female Lightning end is an unusual shape that fits the Apple Pencil, but not a standard-format Lightning connector. But the limitation is not merely imposed by the physical shape of the accessory, as a committed Redditor has discovered through extensive testing with a belt sander. After filing down the Lightning end until a cable could be inserted, the user u/ftpcolonslashslash concluded that none of the five legacy accessories tested were compatible:
- Lightning-based thermal camera: Does not work
- Lightning power cables, USB-A and USB-C: No power passthrough/Does not work
- Lightning digital AV and VGA adapter: Does not work
- Lightning SD card adapter: Does not work
- Lightning to USB camera adapter: Does not work
It isn’t clear at this point why the dongle doesn’t work with other Lightning devices, other than that Apple didn’t want it to. And we should stress that Apple doesn’t claim anywhere that the dongle is designed for anything other than connecting an Apple Pencil to a 10th-gen iPad. But as the iPhone is expected to switch to USB-C next year, a universal Lightning-to-USB-C adapter would be a welcome accessory, especially if it had more than one very specific use.
As it stands, it’s another frustrating aspect to an already frustrating situation and another point in favor of the theory that Apple has lost interest in making life easier for its customers.