Apple has finally done what it probably didn’t want to ever do and has brought fairly comprehensive systemwide mouse support to its iPad line up. Via the launch of the new iPad Pro models, the company has also announced a Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro that includes, for the first time, a trackpad.
Given that Apple has always said that the iPad Pro is the tablet that can replace your laptop, it sure looks even more like a laptop now. But I really feel like this is not a big deal, because Apple is not forcing you to use your iPad like a laptop if you don’t want to.
Check out Craig Federighi on The Verge talking you through the new trackpad. It has no features that can’t also be achieved through touch input, and it doesn’t irreversibly change the way you use an iPad. It simply adds another choice for those that want it, and highlights UI elements in ways not possible on a Mac.
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The new iPad Pros will still work with the older Smart Keyboard Folio (without trackpad) meaning you can use full touch input if you want to and not pony up for the newer, pricier keyboard. The Smart Keyboard Folio costs from £179, which is already a lot, whereas the Magic Keyboard will cost from £299 when it launches in May (the newer keyboard does however have superior backlit keys with better travel).
Many iPad purists will shun Apple’s move to the mouse saying it shows the company can’t help but cater to the whims of its Mac audience, who can’t use iPads because they don’t have traditional desktop input methods when docked with a keyboard. I once agreed with these purists – it made more sense initially to have a full laptop experience on a MacBook and a full touch experience on the iPad or iPad Pro, thus distinguishing the consumer choice.
But to be fair to Apple, it will have got tons of feedback from iPad users saying they want a mouse because they love the versatility of the tablet form factor and prefer it to a bulkier, pricier MacBook Air or Pro. And I’ll bet it hears even more about the iPad sales it’s missing out on because of the very fact this so-called laptop replacement doesn’t have a mouse. The company is giving people what they are asking for, something it has been criticised for not doing in the past.
The iPad is ten years old, and it has evolved to an astonishingly complex level from the simple newspaper and email machine it was initially. If any company can weather unfair criticism it is certainly Apple, but the tribal shunning of mouse input on the iPad is baffling to me. I get that some will argue it will further confuse people, but I think adding a familiar input method to the iPad will, if anything, make it easier for more people to use - if the argument is that iPadOS is getting convoluted (it is).
The below advert for the new iPad Pro barely mentions mouse input. It is merely one of the features of the iPad and not its defining one.
Divide and conquer
Apple’s approach looks contradictory, but really it is giving you the choice about how to use an iPad without forcing one way. With mouse support coming to any iPad that can run iPadOS (that’s 2014 iPad Air 2 era or later), we are sure to see third party keyboards with trackpads for the cheaper iPads, bringing mouse support to even more users. Logitech has already announced one for the cheaper iPad and iPad Air for £120, and Apple even sells it.
Apple also confirmed that its Magic Mouse 2 will work with any of these iPads – paired with that and a wireless Mac Magic Keyboard would also be a viable set up for many people.
I think this is excellent, and means students or those who don’t have silly money to blow on an iPad Pro, iMac or MacBook can get a £349 iPad and the aforementioned Logitech trackpad keyboard for £469 in total – less than most decent PC laptops and with a lot of the functionality.
Ignorance is bliss
If this has got you all riled up, then the good news is you can ignore it all anyway. You can keep using your iPad with full touch input. You can buy the new iPad Pro and get the older keyboard and not have a trackpad. You could even buy the new iPad Pro and keyboard with a trackpad and simply not use the trackpad! We bet you don’t use your Apple Pencil much anyway.
If you’re a Mac user furious that iPad lovers are getting some of that sweet mouse action then let’s all take a step back and get on with our lives (or buy the new, cheaper MacBook Air). There are more important things to worry about in this uncertain time for global health, and Apple has done the sensible thing and made the iPad more accessible not only to those who prefer mouse input, but more accessible to those with physical impairments for whom the iPad is a much more versatile and usable computer than a MacBook.
Apple will cane the new iPad Pro adverts to make it look like there’s a trackpad with every iPad now. Just remember that there isn’t, and that the iPad remains one of computing’s most successful, versatile and creative products. Let’s tone down the tribalism.