Mouse and trackpad support is apparently coming to iPad with iOS 13

On last week’s episode of the Connected podcast, MacStories editor Federico Viticci revealed a pretty interesting scoop he’d been sitting on: mouse support is apparently coming to iPad with iOS 13, which will be previewed at WWDC 2019 on June 3 ahead of launch this fall.

Viticci said:

I want to go on the record with this because it’s the season of rumors. Something that I heard from a couple of people a few months ago sort of mentioned to me just casually, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you could have a mouse cursors on iPad as an accessibility feature?”

I thought that was a fascinating idea. My understanding of these conversations was that enabling mouse support on iPad as part of the AssistiveTouch accessibility feature would make sense—you plug in a mouse and you get a cursor.

But then I started doing some research and I learned that actually it’s already possible, if you have right accessibility hardware like special joysticks and motors, to have some kind of cursor on iOS. This is already possible and has been possible for years.

But what I heard from sources is that without any adapter you will be able to use a USB-C mouse, on your iPad, as an accessibility device.

His claim was corroborated by prolific Irish developer Steven Troughton-Smith who confirmed on Twitter that “as far as I’m aware, that is indeed in the works.”

Mouse and trackpad support seems to be an iPad-only feature and it’s something that’ll be buried in accessibility settings.

“I feel like every pro user will turn that on, day one,” Steve added. This has a lot to do with Project Marzipan, Apple’s upcoming framework for building cross-platform iOS/macOS apps.

Adding fuel to the fire, Belgian developer Louis D’hauwe who has created a proof-of-concept PointerKit framework to use a pointing device on iOS is now with Apple, and has been since at least October 2018.

Here’s a video showing PointerKit in action.

Of course, adding mouse support implies making changes to iOS to make the operating system cursor-friendly. There will need to be a pointer of some kind, perhaps a circle or an arrow.

Previewed last year, an improved Marzipan will be released to developers at WWDC 2019. “With UIKit adopting all kinds of API for mouse support for the Mac, it makes a ton of sense to let that be leveraged on iPad, too, if somebody has a mouse connected,” Steve opined.

In simpler terms, Apple won’t be de-emphasizing the primary touch paradigm in iOS 13. Touch is still going to be the main input method for a vast majority of users. But for power users, mouse and trackpad functionality will be there should they need it.

Earlier reporting indicated that iOS 13 will bring app windows with detachable menus to iPad and that apps will be able to open multiple windows. Managing windows on a tablet using just one’s finger doesn’t make for a very good user experience—hence, mouse support. I believe Apple will at some point release a Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad with a built-in trackpad.

“Mouse support on iPad is a band-aid that needs to be ripped off so that we can move on, just like for the stylus—which is now one of the most important iPad accessories,” he added. “New input devices beget whole new categories of apps, and that’s a good thing for iPad.”

Are you looking forward to mouse support on iPad? And if so, will this feature make iPad Pro so much more pro, do you think?

Do share your thoughts with fellow readers in the comments down below.