Apple Is Turning up the Heat on Boring, Old Trackpads for the iPad and Mac

MacBook Trackpad Concept Credit: Handy Abovergleich
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We know – it’s a stretch to ask people to get excited about trackpads. A mouse is generally seen as preferable, while the trackpad is usually an emergency alternative for the average user.

But the past several months have unveiled some very interesting news from Apple about the future of their trackpads and of features that could finally make them a more viable option for people on the go, and maybe even users at home.

The iPad Finally Received a Trackpad

The Smart Keyboard Folio was designed as a portable accessory that fits right alongside your iPad, and attaches to it whenever necessary to turn the iPad into, basically, a small laptop. We sort of prefer the mobility of a Bluetooth-connected Magic Keyboard, but for other users – especially iPad Pro owners – a connected keyboard is the ideal way to get more laptop functionality.

It’s not exactly surprising, then, that Apple unveiled its newest line of Magic Keyboards made for iPad – with USB-C connections and trackpads specifically designed for the iPad Pro. In practice, the trackpad looks a lot like the trackpads on the current generation of MacBooks, albeit in a smaller form factor.

If putting a trackpad on an iPad keyboard seems a little weird to you, it’s important to understand this is a step in a larger plan Apple has for its trackpads…which brings us to the next point.

iPadOS Now Has Full Trackpad Support

With iPadOS 13.4, Apple introduced trackpad support made with iPad Pros in mind. While you can probably arrange for other trackpad activity, this compatibility is specifically designed to work with Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard with the trackpad.

Of course, the iPad Pro already has a perfectly usable touchscreen, but things get more interesting: iPadOS treats the trackpad differently than, say, macOS does.

Instead of a traditional arrow cursor, iPadOS defaults to a small bubble with smooth movement specifically made to work with iPad apps. Apple points out that this method can make it a lot easier to do more complex document formatting, copy and paste specific text, and other tasks that your fingers aren’t always accurate enough for. In other words, it looks like a great addition for business or school users.

It’s also worth mentioning that this trackpad support will extend to the Magic Trackpad 2, if users want a standalone version they can use with the keyboard arrangement of their choice. That’s some welcome versatility for people who already have their preferred keyboard but would be interested in testing trackpads for specific tasks.

Massive Trackpads May Soon Be on the Way

When we say larger MacBook trackpads, we aren’t talking about a slight modification – we mean that Apple is planning to turn the whole bottom section of the MacBook into a giant trackpad.

Pros: This is an innovative way to solve the “MacBooks don’t have touchscreens” problem, essentially making the bottom part of the MacBook into (somewhat limited) touch panel for a variety of purposes.

It also makes use of a lot of wasted real estate on the MacBook. Plus, Apple may include the ability to set the boundaries of a customized trackpad for whatever size and location you want, along with haptic feedback for better results when completing tasks.

Cons: The Apple Touch Bar was annoying for many users because they kept accidentally brushing it or couldn’t find much use for it. This mega-trackpad could run into similar problems without careful design.

Wild New Trackpad Designs for the Future

The size isn’t the only thing that Apple is planning to change about its MacBook trackpads. Specifically, for the MacBook Pro, Apple has been granted a number of fascinating additional patent features for exploring ways to totally reinvent the trackpad. There’s so much going on here that it’s actually easier to list the trackpad innovations that Apple could be adding.

  1. A dynamic input surface, which essentially turns the entire bottom half of the MacBook into a virtual keyboard, trackpad, or whatever you need it to be.
  2. Light-extraction features that will allow the trackpad to light up in customized ways when used (and offering backlighting).
  3. Additional lighting options that would glow to let you know the state of an accessory or encourage you to activate new notifications on your Mac.
  4. Touchpad areas that automatically shrink or grow based on the app you are using, or if you start typing.
  5. Trackpad compatibility for other devices – a smartwatch was specifically mentioned as an example.

See what we mean about the trackpad being exciting, maybe for the first time ever? We definitely want to try out these new trackpad options for our Apple devices. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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