By Dan Moren
October 25, 2023 1:27 PM PT
A Mac event is the perfect time for Apple to show off its peripheral vision
The rumor mill continues to debate what exactly might be in store: will new iMacs been M2-based or usher in the era of the M3? Will there be new MacBook Pros with new high-end Apple silicon chips? Will that lonely 13-inch MacBook Pro be refreshed or banished into the night?
Amongst all those possible updates, I’m presonally looking for a dark horse announcement here, something that’s a bit…ancillary to the main event.
In 2023, Apple’s been on a mission to seek out and eliminate Lightning ports with extreme prejudice. We’ve already seen the introduction of USB-C iPhones, USB-C AirPods Pro, and even a USB-C Apple Pencil. But there remain a few stragglers in the line-up, and the ones that seem most ripe for replacement at this upcoming event are the Mac peripherals: the Magic Keyboard, the Magic Mouse, and the Magic Trackpad.
Now, Apple could just swap out the Lightning ports for USB-C and call it a day, and the smart money is on that being the case. After all, why mess with what seems to be basically a winning formula? But it’s also an opportunity to give each of these devices a more thorough refresh—and maybe it’s about time.
The Magic Keyboard has been revamped the most recently of the three, alongside the 2021 Apple silicon iMac’s introduction. At the time it gained a Touch ID sensor, rearranged function keys, and multiple colors to match the respective iMacs. But this update also made it an outlier in a couple ways: for one, rounded corners that give a bizarre shape to the keys there (the Escape, Function, Right Arrow, and Touch ID sensor) and, far more egregiously, the lack of an inverted-T layout for the arrow keys.1 The Magic Keyboard inexplicably stuck with the full-height left- and right-arrow keys and half-height up- and down-arrow keys in an era where Apple had abandoned that layout across the rest of its devices, including MacBook keyboards and the Magic Keyboard for iPad. This would be an ideal time for the company to return the layout, which many touch typists find much easier to navigate.
The Magic Mouse has remained unchanged since its introduction in 2015. Over the years, it’s achieved a certain degree of notoriety for the location of its Lightning port on the underside, which makes it impossible to use while it’s charging. While the charging is relatively fast, it’s still an awkward design that Apple could take the opportunity to update.
Finally, the Magic Trackpad, long my pointing device of choice, which also dates back to 2015. It’s hard for me to criticize it too much, since it does what it needs to do with aplomb, but it would be interesting to see Apple explore other options and capabilities, whether that means building in Touch ID or adding support for the Apple Pencil to turn it into a sort of mini graphics tablet.
I also want to call out two places where Apple could improve all of these devices: one aesthetic, one functional.
The first is color. While you can get very slick color-matched versions of any of these with an M1 iMac, those buying them on their own are relegated to just two options: white/silver and black/gray. And the compact Magic Keyboard only comes in the first of those. That’s a real shame, given that the iMac versions—complete with color-matched cables!—exist. I can understand Apple not wanting to manage all the various SKUs, but frankly, let people choose the color peripherals they want! It’s not too much to ask, especially when the rest of your products are woefully skimpy on colors.
On the functional side, Apple either needs to improve or replace its Bluetooth support. My Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad frequently disconnect from my Mac mini, which is all of about eighteen inches away, and the keyboard in particular is egregious in terms of the amount of time it takes for typed characters to show up on screen. This certainly seems like a place that Apple could use its vaunted engineering prowess to offer something that’s a little extra in much the same way that it does with AirPods. Not only would a custom wireless chip potentially allow for more robust and reliable connections, but it could also simplify switching peripherals between devices, a process that Bluetooth makes fairly painful.2
With eight years since the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse have been revamped, it’s about time for Apple to take a closer look at its Mac accessories. To be honest, I’ll probably replace my Magic Keyboard and Trackpad even if Apple just switches them to USB-C, but if the company’s looking to liven up what might otherwise be a ho-hum event, this could bring just a little bit of treat to a spooky occasion.
- The exception being for the extended Magic Keyboard, which features full height arrow keys in an inverted-T layout. ↩
- Many third-party devices have improved on this by building in the ability to pair with multiple devices at once, though even there it often requires a disconnecting/reconnecting dance.) ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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