Better late than never: Trackpad support is exactly what the iPad needed

Apple will release a software update next week bringing official trackpad support to its iPad line.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Life comes at you fast. In January, after spending a few weeks using Microsoft's Surface Pro X, I wrote a story detailing which features I thought Apple should borrow from the Pro X and bring to the iPad line. Most of my suggestions involved an improved keyboard experience, more viewing angles, backlit keys, and trackpad support. 

Recently, code in an unreleased build of iOS 14 indicated Apple was working on an iPad keyboard that included a trackpad. 

Then, on Wednesday, Apple announced a new iPad Pro and, perhaps more importantly, that iPadOS 13.4 would add true trackpad support. Also, in May, a new iPad keyboard with a trackpad will go on sale. The only downside? The new Magic Keyboard for iPad starts at $299 for the 11-inch model or $349 for the 12.9-inch version. Yikes

But with iPadOS 13.4 adding system-wide support for trackpad and mouse control, you don't have to wait for the Magic Keyboard to use a trackpad with your iPad. Apple will release iPadOS 13.4 on March 24. 

Apple, Inc.

I have a beta version of the update installed on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro and have been using a Magic Trackpad 2 for the last day or so, and I have to say: This is exactly what the iPad needed. 

The somewhat hidden mouse support that Apple included in iPadOS 13 in September was half-baked, lacking gesture support and a refined mouse pointer. Even the setup process was buried in the Accessibility settings. 

The current implementation takes full advantage of gestures to quickly switch between apps, go to the home screen, scroll, or select text. Setup is a breeze; if you've paired headphones to your iPad, you'll be able to pair a trackpad or mouse. 

Apple, Inc.

As you can see in the animated image above, the mouse pointer changes based on whatever it is you're hovering over. For example, it will highlight a button that you're hovering over. Move to a text field, and it turns into a cursor. Slide over an app icon, and the icon gets bigger. 

Apple provided a video walkthrough to The Verge of the gestures you can use on the Magic Keyboard's trackpad, which also works on the Magic Trackpad 2 I've been using. 

But there are hidden features, as well. Moving the mouse cursor to the right side of the screen will bring out any Slide Over apps. Going all the way to the bottom of the screen will pull up the app dock, or if you keep going, you'll go back to the homescreen. 

I'm still getting used to the new gestures and using a trackpad with the iPad as a whole. For the past decade, I've trained my mind to view the tablet as a touchscreen device, requiring taps and swipes at first, then using keyboard shortcuts, and now using a trackpad. 

That said, as soon as I started to use the trackpad, it made sense. There wasn't a moment of hesitation or questioning whether I should be using the trackpad. 

It's unfortunate the Magic Keyboard won't ship for a couple of months still, as the iPad is a portable device and carrying around a mouse or trackpad is cumbersome and inconvenient. Even if I'm only carrying it around my house (something we can all relate to right now, I'm sure). 

I can't wait to test out the Magic Keyboard in May. It's exactly what I asked for earlier this year. I only hope it lives up to expectations.

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