As was heavily rumored prior to iOS 13 and iPadOS 13’s announcement earlier this week, Apple confirmed that mouse support was indeed arriving as an accessibility feature.
While that feature is aimed at helping people use touch-based devices who would normally struggle to do so, it also means every iPhone and iPad owner can use a mouse to control their deices. And Apple knows it.
While Apple is keen to note that this is indeed an accessibility feature first and foremost, it does also acknowledge that plenty of people will take mouse support for a spin regardless.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger said as much.
Mouse support lives in the AssistiveTouch menu, the suite of options designed for users with physical motor delays who can’t easily interact with the touchscreen itself. Apple says it works with both USB and Bluetooth mice, although the company doesn’t yet have an official compatibility list. It’s telling how mouse functionality is purposely included as an accessibility feature — meaning, Apple obviously sees its primary value as a discrete assistive tool. Of course, accessibility features have far greater relevance than simply bespoke tools for disabled people […]
People without disabilities will use this feature, regardless of its actual intended utility, and Apple recognizes that. No one will stop you from plugging a mouse into your iPad Pro. It’s no different from someone using Magnifier to get up close on a finely printed restaurant menu or using Type to Siri in order to quietly give commands in a Messages-like environment.
“Accessibility features can benefit more than the original community they were designed to support,” Herrlinger said. “For example, many people find value in closed captions. Our goal is to engineer for specific use cases so that we continue to bring the power of our devices to more people.”
Apple does however want people to know that the plan isn’t to change the touch-first approach of the iPhone and iPad. In fact, Herrlinger took pains to make sure everyone knows that “this is not your old desktop cursor” and that it shouldn’t be seen as a primary input method.
Mouse support will arrive as part of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 when they ship to the public later this year.
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