Apple may not have plans to merge macOS and iPadOS anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean the iPad and the Mac aren’t getting closer in functionality.
Case in point: Apple has actually added mouse support for its lineup of tablets in the very first version of iPadOS. That support does come with a caveat, but it’s a huge step toward the iPad becoming a full-fledged computer replacement.
The company didn’t officially announce mouse support at its WWDC ’19 keynote, but developer Steve Troughton-Smith ran across the additional feature in the first iPadOS beta version.
At this point, Mouse Support is an accessibility feature baked into AssistiveTouch. Mostly, that means that instead of a regular cursor, the pointer in iPadOS is meant to mimic the touch of a human finger — in other words, it’s roughly the size of a human finger.
On the other hand, mouse support will be compatible with both wired USB-C mouses, like Apple’s own Magic Trackpad, and wireless Bluetooth mouses.
Presumably, the feature will be an option for any iPad device that can run iPadOS — not just iPad Pro devices. It isn’t clear whether mouse support has also been added to iOS 13.
The change will be a welcome move from an accessibility standpoint. But it could also bump the productivity and capability of iPad Pro owners who use their tablets for work or creativity. Touch input is great and works perfectly for mobile devices, but it isn’t always the most ideal UX option for many workflows.
It could also open the door for Apple to add a more traditional computer cursor to a future version of iPadOS. Mouse support is a feature that iPad Pro users have been clamoring for for quite some time. Now, users will be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard and Bluetooth mouse to mimic the capability of, say, a MacBook.
It’s not the only change to iPadOS that will make Apple’s tablet much closer in capability to a PC. The tablet-exclusive software update also adds a more fleshed-out file management system and support for external generic media like USB flash drives and SD cards.
iPadOS is currently on its first developer beta. Apple says the final public release will launch sometime in the fall.