Apple Unveils the Magic Mouse

Magic Mouse perspective view

Today Apple revealed the Magic Mouse — the world’s first multi-touch mouse. Inspired by the multi touch technology in the iPhone and trackpad on modern MacBooks, Magic Mouse is the zero-button, gesture-sensing, wireless pointing-device of your dreams.

Its design is quintessentially Apple. The sleek, minimal lines of Magic Mouse definitely look like something straight out of Jonathan Ive’s workshop. Apple describe it as an “entirely new kind of mouse” that’s “Intuitive, smart [and] dynamic.”

But unlike its distant (and ill-received) ancestor the Mighty Mouse, this new pointing device really does do things no other mouse has ever done before. Apple says “We’ve built a better mouse” and, if you hated the Mighty Mouse, you’ll be hoping Apple isn’t exaggerating, but have got things right this time!

Magic Mouse profile view

The top shell of Magic Mouse is one huge seamless multi-touch sensor that does away entirely with buttons and scroll-nubs. (Great news for those frustrated Mighty Mouse users with gunky nubs. You know what I mean.)

Magic Mouse tracks and clicks like a regular mouse, but since the entire shell is touch-sensitive, it’s possible to click practically anywhere along its upper surface. That said, Secondary-click (right click) functionality is achieved, as you’d expect, by clicking in the top-right area of the device.

Click Anywhere
Click Anywhere

Scrolling is achieved by sliding, or swiping, a finger along the surface, rather like you would on an iPhone or iPod touch. Magic Mouse even senses the speed at which you ‘scroll’ — Apple calls this “momentum scrolling.” Scrolling is also supported horizontally and also through 360 degrees.

360° scrolling
360° scrolling

Just like an iPhone or a MacBook’s trackpad, Magic Mouse detects and tracks the number of fingers you are using at any given time. So, two finger swipes allows a user to move between albums in iTunes, web pages in Safari, pictures in iPhoto…you get the idea.

Two finger gestures
Two finger gestures

My immediate concern was room for misinterpretation; a dumb, regular two-button mouse can’t get all clever and start deciding it knows what I want to do. Those clunky buttons have to be pressed. That’s the only option. It might be dumb, but it’s predictable. However, Apple assures us Magic Mouse is smart enough not to be too clever.

Inside Magic Mouse is a chip that tells it exactly what you want to do. Which means Magic Mouse won’t confuse a scroll with a swipe. It even knows when you’re just resting your hand on it.

If, for some unfathomable reason, you don’t like your fancy new multi-touch mouse offering multi-touch functionality, you can choose to disable some, or all, of those features.

Magic Mouse supports all the old mousey tricks you’ve come to expect on the Mac; for example, holding Control and “scrolling” vertically will zoom in and out just as it always has with a wheel or nub-wielding mouse. Like the wireless Mighty Mouse before it, this one connects to your Mac via Bluetooth, enjoying a 33 foot radius. Unlike the Mighty Mouse, this one uses laser tracking technology which is far superior to the old optical tracking method. This provides far higher tracking resolution, which means far higher tracking accuracy across almost any surface.

Bluetooth wireless, laser tracking, and multi-touch goodness sucks down a lot of juice. Apple says Magic Mouse makes the most of its two standard AA batteries by employing power management features, making it more energy efficient. But Apple also doesn’t say how much life you can expect from your batteries. I’m not sure yet whether that ought to be cause for concern, but in any case, no one really takes Apple’s battery-life claims seriously, particularly on a first-generation device.

Magic Mouse requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later. Starting today it comes as standard with the new iMac, or for $69 is now available to order on its own via Apple’s online Store. Get all the juicy details, and watch a video demonstration here on Apple’s Mighty Mouse website.