Apple has made it abundantly clear throughout the iPad’s decade of existence that it’s a touch-first device. It can replace a traditional computer in many ways—especially when attached to a keyboard—but you’re meant to poke and swipe at the screen without a mouse. With the release of the new iPad Pro and iPadOS 13.4, the iPad will fully support a mouse and the upcoming keyboard case even includes a touchpad much like the one you’d find on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
If you’re using the iPad almost exclusively as a tablet, this may not seem like the biggest deal. After all, wasn’t the point that you’re not supposed to have to use a mouse? But, for truly replacing a laptop, this is a leap.
Last year, the company introduced some basic mouse compatibility as part of its accessibility features, but it was only designed for specific use cases. With iPadOS 13.4, the company designed an entire mouse experience.
The cursor appears as a circle on the screen instead of they typical arrow you’re used to from a computer. Apple says this is to more closely mimic your actual finger moving across the display. The cursor recognizes objects on the screen and morphs to their shape as it approaches them. So, if it sees a button or clickable graphic, the cursor will change shape to make it clear what you’re about to click on.
When you’re not actively using the cursor, it will simply go away.
Most of these features will work with an external mouse, but opting for the new Magic Keyboard adds the touchpad into the mix, which grants access to a variety of new gesture controls that will come in handy if you take the time to remember them.
You can pinch to zoom on the trackpad, obviously, and three-finger swipe up takes you back to your home screen. Three finger swiping side-to-side switches between open apps. Navigating to the bottom of the screen brings up the dock, just like it does on a Mac. It’s all very familiar, even if it’s new for this specific device.
In addition to its touchpad, the new Magic Keyboard also adds a hinge system that has its own USB-C for charging, which leaves the iPad Pro’s port open to connect accessories. The floating cantilever design gives will hold the iPad at whatever angle you find comfortable without having to rely on extra support from the back, which makes it feel more like a regular laptop instead of a tablet in a keyboard case. And, perhaps most importantly, the Magic Keyboard uses the new scissor key mechanism that’s more satisfying than typical iPad keys and more durable than the notoriously finicky butterfly keys, which the company had been using until recently.
There’s more to the new iPad than its keyboard case, of course. The LiDAR sensor uses the same basic tech that self-driving cars and some NASA crafts employ to build 3D models of their surroundings to help navigate their environment. That should be a boon for the device’s AR performance. The new faster processor should increase its overall performance.
Look for a full review soon.