When it was announced that Apple is going to update iPad OS to feature trackpad and mouse support, I was pretty excited. A new, but familiar way of interacting with our iPads will certainly be a game changer. Most importantly, if implemented well, it will certainly enhance the overall experience in interacting with our iPad and ultimately, increase overall productivity.
I mentioned before that I was very adamant in not getting the Magic Keyboard. As sleek and stylish as it comes, even from an engineering perspective, the cost is prohibitively high for an accessory that simply allows you to type better and use the trackpad that comes with it.
I settled on a different approach and bought the Trackpad 2 to be used for my iPad Pro. It is my personal belief that combining a separate trackpad with my current Smart Folio Keyboard will give me added flexibility in how I arrange my workspace and set my desk as I see fit. I can even continue to use the trackpad when I upgrade to future iPads in the future. Ultimately, iPads are touch devices, so even in the absence of a trackpad in certain situations, you will still get a great experience just by using touch. After all, for many years since the conception of the iPad, touch as always been the primary mode of interaction.
So with that out of the way, what are my first impressions of using the trackpad on my iPad Pro? Two words: Pretty amazing!
The first thing I’d like to point out is how huge the trackpad is. I am well aware as to how generous Apple give in terms of real estate space to the trackpad on their laptops, but the standalone trackpad is incredibly huge. When placed beside my 11 inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folio, it spans almost the width of the keyboard itself.
I bought the white one, because paying another $30 for the black one just so that it can match the current color of my iPad Pro just screams bloody murder. If they are identical, I’d rather go for the cheaper, white version. After all, it is just a trackpad.
The build and finish of the trackpad is terrific. It’s a single piece of glass on the surface that gives you the illusion of a button click no matter where you press due to the Taptic Engine. It’s battery operated, and you can recharge using the lightning connector at the back of the trackpad with the provided lightning cable. The battery is able to last for 3 months in a single charge before needing to be charged again.
Using the trackpad on the iPad feels like using a mouse or a trackpad on a laptop. It is as natural as that, with some key differences. The cursor is a translucent grey (in which you can change the color and size of the cursor) that is round in shape. In minutes, it feels immediately natural. From the immediate onset, you know just by using it that Apple has implemented cursor support really well. I will not dive too deep onto what features that you can change on the cursor in the settings menu, but to anyone who is familiar with using the trackpad on their laptops, all the multi-finger gestures will feel familiar.
For all the incredible effort Apple has invested in making cursor support a viable mode of interaction on your iPad, there are a few caveats. Apps still need to be updated to fully take advantage of the cursor support. I encountered certain issues with interacting certain app functions within the app using the cursor and trackpad. In Adobe Lightroom for example, I am unable to swipe up and down while browsing my photos. Instead, I have to click and hold while swiping up and down just to browse the photos in my album. Microsoft Excel is another app that I encounter issues while using the trackpad. In certain situation, the menu bar is unresponsive to the clicks on the trackpad. But reverting to touch is fine. Overall using the trackpad on these two apps doesn’t feel 100% natural just yet. I am sure over time, App developers will implement greater trackpad support in the future app updates.
Browsing the web using Safari, switching apps, copying chunks of texts, feels so much more natural and efficient just by using the trackpad. The multi-gesture support feels natural and accurate. There were very few instances where certain multi-gesture support were tracked wrongly, giving a different response then what was originally intended. These errors, no doubt will be refined in future iPad OS updates.
Overall, I am glad that I made the purchase. Having cursor support for the iPad OS is going to be a game changer. As more and more apps fully utilises cursor support for their apps, doing things on the iPad will get faster, more efficient and more productive in the long run. Having cursor support in iPad OS may have accelerated Apple’s goal of the iPad as the the ultimate laptop replacement and productivity tool.