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The iPad Could Be Getting USB Mouse Support (Update)

(Image credit: Apple)

Update, 5/6/19, 6 a.m. PT: Bloomberg published an in-depth report exploring what it's heard about iOS 13, macOS 10.15 and watchOS 6 ahead of WWDC 2019. The report claimed iOS 13 would bring new features to the iPad, "including an updated interface for multi-tasking, tweaks to the home screen and the ability to cycle through different versions of the same app." Assuming those features actually debut this year, they would be a great complement for expanded USB mouse support because all of the updates would help make it easier to use the iPad as a primary device. The usual caveats about leaked plans for operating system updates apply--Apple has until June 3 to decide what features it wants to release with iOS 13.

Original article, 4/24/19, 8:28 a.m. PT: 
It's easier than ever to use an iPad Pro as a primary device. Apple's updated its high-end tablet line with powerful custom processors, increasingly large displays and support for many accessories. A new rumor indicates that the iPad Pro could become even more capable with the release of iOS 13 later this year, as Apple is said to be planning to add support for USB mice.

The rumor arrives courtesy of MacStories editor-in-chief Federico Viticci via the Connected podcast. Viticci said he's been hearing for a while that Apple plans to expand an existing accessibility feature that allows people with specialized hardware to use a not-quite-cursor while they navigate through iOS devices.

But the addition of mouse support wouldn't only benefit iPad users with impaired mobility. Having to poke at the display to perform certain tasks while using the iPad with an external keyboard isn't comfortable, at least in our experience, and it's often difficult to do anything requiring accuracy. Moving the cursor without a bunch of keyboard shortcuts, selecting text and interacting with sliding user interface elements can all be hit-or-miss.

Introducing USB mouse support to the iPad Pro would also show that Apple's heard the criticism about iOS limiting the device. The newest iPad Pro models are powerful systems and feature USB-C and Bluetooth connectivity.

That criticism hasn't come from just a few people--many of the pundits who contributed to the annual Apple report card for Six Colors cited iOS as the limiting factor for the iPad. Many people (including this writer) are particularly curious why Apple bothered including a USB-C connector with the iPad Pro when iOS makes some accessories unusable. This is especially apparent when it comes to using external storage and audio devices. All of which means that even though it's easier to use an iPad Pro as a primary device, it isn't necessarily easy.

Some of those limitations result from the apps available for the platform, but developers have made increasingly capable utilities as the iPad has gone from an entertainment device to a bona fide system. The bigger problem is that iOS hasn't received similar upgrades.

Hopefully the rumors Viticci has heard prove correct--and indicate that Apple's listening. We'll most likely find out when the company shows off iOS 13 at WWDC in June. In the meantime, well, we're just going to keep muttering under our breath every time we have to poke our iPad Pro in a vain attempt to get the cursor in the right position.