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Magic Sales for a Not-So-Magic Mouse

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Holiday spending has seen sales of Apple’s (s aapl) Magic Mouse soar. According to a report by NPD and covered today by AppleInsider, last month saw a twofold increase in Apple’s share of domestic mice sales. By the end of November, Apple had captured 10 percent of the market.

NPD analyst Stephen Baker told AppleInsider:

Sales in November were through the roof. The Magic Mouse had the best month for a mouse product from Apple that we’ve ever seen.

It’s the first time Apple’s share of the domestic mouse market has ever reached double digits, and even more impressive considering the data was compiled from standalone sales. Units sold with new iMacs were not counted.

While that’s fantastic news for Apple, I find myself wondering whether those new Magic Mouse owners aren’t going to be feeling somewhat disappointed because, despite its name, the Magic Mouse is anything but magical. For a company that gets so much of its user experience spot-on, it does keep missing the target with its pointing devices.

Andy Ihnatko said it best:

I can’t think of a single good Apple mouse released this millennium. Ideologically, they’ve all been covered with spray-glitter and rainbow stickers.

When I got my Magic Mouse I admired its diminutive form factor and minimalist lines but it was clearly not an ergonomic design. That super slimline, ground-hugging shape took some getting used to. But aesthetic and ergonomic matters aside, I think the thorniest issue isn’t with the hardware at all. The problem, as I see it, is one of user perception.

You see, users accustomed to the touchy-goodness of an iPhone or MacBook trackpad lament the lack of similar functionality in their supposedly ‘magic’ mouse. The major criticism is usually expressed in the form of common questions, like, Why is there no pinch to zoom functionality? Why do we have to click, when we could tap? Why aren’t more swipe-gestures supported?

“It’s just a software fix,” reviewers on popular Apple tech sites have concluded, “Apple will likely add that functionality later in a software update.”

Well, I don’t think so. In fact, I think Apple will intentionally avoid adding further touch functionality to this mouse, and I think I know why.

Be Careful What You Wish For

In the relatively short time since the Magic Mouse was released in late October, several third-party applications have appeared, both free and paid, that (ahem) ‘tap’ into the Magic Mouse software and foist upon the device all that pinching, swiping, multi-touch functionality people think they want. Well, I also thought I wanted those things…until I got them.

Remember how, with the Mighty Mouse, you had to handle it with care because those side-buttons could be way too sensitive? They were so sensitive, in fact, many people disabled those buttons entirely because they proved such a nuisance. Turns out, having multifunctional touch-sensitive controls all across the surface of the Magic Mouse turns the thing into a far greater nuisance than its “mighty” predecessor ever was.

I swiftly discovered that controls I wanted to trigger (say, a three-finger-tap) often wouldn’t register. I’d spend an inordinate amount of time obsessive-compulsively tapping the mouse with minimal success. Pinching and zooming was literally painful, transforming my hand into a deformed claw of knotted knuckles and cramp. Yet, for all my efforts, it still never zoomed in a controlled, predictable manner.

Worse still, functions I didn’t intentionally invoke would trigger while I was doing something else entirely. It got to the point where simply moving the pointer across the screen — an action so natural and normal I normally give it no conscious thought — was now an event demanding deliberate care and attention. I tried two of the most popular apps and got the same results each time.

In short , it’s not a software problem, but rather, a limitation imposed by the very form factor of the mouse. As long as Apple wants its flagship pointing device to be small, svelte and sexy, it’s just not going to be the right shape and size for full-fledged multi-touch controls.

Software like MagicPrefs introduces hugely varied additional functionality

Apple, I’m sure, did a lot of R&D to determine what were the most appropriate default touch controls for the Magic Mouse. Therefore, a feature’s absence is a deliberate choice. It makes perfect sense. One of the most celebrated aspects of Apple’s user-experience is its consistency; across all Macs the user experience is predictable and dependable. There are rarely unexpected (or unwelcome) surprises. Much of the time, that’s made possible by Apple’s minimalist, ‘less-is-more’ approach to interface design.

That is why so many people disliked the Mighty Mouse. In trying to do so much it was just too unpredictable and ruined the user experience. And that is why the Magic Mouse is so limited. It’s better this way.

I just wonder if all those new Magic Mouse owners will agree?

37 Responses to “Magic Sales for a Not-So-Magic Mouse”

  1. i’m sick of clicking five tomes to make this thing work…i’ve had the magic mouse for months now and it still takes at least three clicks to get it either left or right. ohhh but when i swipe two fingers um maybe once in a week its cool god!!! i love mac shit to ath but this mouse doesn’t work

  2. Archibald Frasier

    I just bought one to use with my 2ghz Core2 duo iMac, and I love it. Has a much better feel to it than the Mighty mouse did. Some people don’t like small mice, but that’s their problem. I had to wait for them to come back into stock, so somebodys buying them.

  3. 3DModeler

    Form vs Function?

    I just recently bought a new iMac 27″ Quad i7.
    With it, I received the new Magic Mouse and Keyboard.

    If you’re a designer like me, you probably love Apple products.

    Esthetically speaking, the Magic Mouse is beautiful.
    Simple clean lines, a work of art. It is a minimalistic masterpiece!

    But functionally, it proved to be slightly annoying. I’ve added the extra third party applications, but because this mouse relies so strongly on the touch features, it seems to have a mind of its own.

    If you’re using a 3D application like Maya, don’t bother with this mouse. The middle mouse (click) button is crucial for Maya. I know some people have suggested a fix for this, but it is just not reliable. So if you need a heavy duty mouse for design work and one that also looks gorgeous (which is also important), I would suggest the Logitech MX Revolution.

    Otherwise if you just need a mouse for browsing the net and like basic functionality, go for the Magic Mouse.

    What can I say, the Magic Mouse is nice to look at.

  4. Mfrankel

    with magic mouse everytime i am on safari if i scroll down it will scroll back up unless i click somewhere off the page a few times because it auto scrolls threw each box on the screen. wtf is that about?

    • Hey, I have the same problems, sometimes when i am working in safari. suddenly, when i’m not doing anything, the page keeps on scrolling down and will not stand still in the middel anymore. I can scroll up but have to click down constantly to keep the page in place . After a reset it works properly for 1 minute or so. Then it starts again.
      After a while it will go away, so i can work without any problems for a week or so, and hey ! there it is again ! Can’t find any solution on the net these days. I will call Apple for this one some day.

      hope for an answer.

  5. I found this in response to the issues I am having with my Magic Mouse. It scrolls uncontrollably at odd times – VERY disturbing when I am working (in InDesign in particular – I am suddenly 15 pages away from where I was working). Is there a pref (that I can’t find) to control the sensitivity?

  6. Thumbs up for the Mighty Mouse here as well.

    I trying out software MagicPrefs to a few extra features. For:
    Middle click: spaces
    Three finger click: expose
    Four finger click: show desktop

    They the main features I want, and are the best ones that work trouble free in MagicPrefs. I have tried BetterTouchTool.

  7. I love my magic mouse. And with the third party app I have added for extra preferences, it is amazing. Forward and back swipes for navigating tunes, photos and safari. I can replicate the old “squeeze” for getting to dashboard, and the progressive scrolling is amazing.

    Do not get the hate for this mouse at all.

  8. Tsubame

    I don’t get all the hate the Magic Mouse gets from the critics, cause I’ve heard nothing but good things from the actual users.

    It isn’t the best gaming mouse, for sure, but after using it all other mice feel big and bulky in my hands. It’s small, but comfortable and easy to use. No parts to break like in the Mighty Mouse. Plus all the controls seem very intuitive. The one thing I find myself doing, that I can’t do, is trying to tap to click like I was using a trackpad.

    Plus, it is gorgeous for a mouse.

  9. It’s a lovely mouse but i don’t understand why Apple went with white. They make one computer that is still white, the magic mouse matches not a single other computer they make. I won’t buy one until they have one that matches my unibody MacBook.

    • i completely agree, but the keyboard is white/aluminum as well, which also doesn’t match my computer, of course, and now i have a white cable on my desk going to a white iphone dock, cradling a white iphone, and a giant (24” imac) in the middle thats black and aluminum, this is a run on sentence kids. The desk is glass, black and aluminum, also no white, which makes the keyboard look the weirdest, but the mouse actually kind of looks nice with a black background, because makes the mouse really stick out, and the mouse itself is just like a piece of art. I am an apple user i want my shit to look good! as for the quality of the mouse itself: post magic mouse i can’t stand the Apple (mighty) mouse anymore, that i used for years before it, so from there huge improvement (with 3rd party plugins).

  10. This is one instance when the “pundits” are just plain wrong and sales are proving them so. I love my Magic Mouse. I liked the Mighty Mouse as well, the scrollball was great. I am not a gamer, Photoshop user, video editor, computer graphics creator, etc, so I do not need 34 buttons and 4 trackballs on my mouse. The only useless function on the Mighty Mouse was the squeeze, so I turned it off. The new Magic Mouse is a breath of fresh air, no moving parts to wear out except the microswitch. Scrolling is great and I love the two-finger swipe to navigate backwards and forwards in web pages. The only gripe I have about it is that it could be a bit taller for my bigger male hands, but I accept that compromise is necessary to make it usable by all. Good job Apple!

  11. I had never loved a mouse so much as I do my Logitech MX Revolution it makes working on my mac so much easy.

    The Magic Mouse while it does not appeal to me is a piece of art I mean it looks beautiful in any desk.

  12. Still haven’t bought the Magic Mouse yet due to lack of stock every time I go by a reseller shop!
    However, the Mighty Mouse is still doing ok for me…. found that the gunky scroll ball is best ‘fixed’ by turning the mouse upside down, and then vigorously rolling the ball on some rough surface like a corkboard. Guaranteed to work every time. There’s still some life left in this Mighty Mouse.

  13. The Magic Mouse is a very good mouse. It is a bit too low for my hands but it is smooth and precise. Mice are just one of those things that are personal and not one size fits all.

    Rory has it right about the Wacom. The small tablet can be a great computer input device; I have used them often since 1993 when one saved me from corporal tunnel.

  14. although i see where you are coming from having tried the plugins my self and realizing that all the added functionality can be a huge pain (pro tip: don’t have a gesture input command W) The form factor of this mouse is just right for MY hands, and with the keyboard here for keyboard shortcuts, i was able to find a zen with the amount of functionality to add to the mouse and what to leave out. also both plugins i know of (BTT and magic prefs) are updating on almost a bi-daily basis so far.. so expect more to come! JUST DON’T GET GREEDY WITH ADDING GESTURES! limit yourself.

  15. François

    I was skeptical about the Magic Mouse form factor when it came out. After trying it extensively on a couple of occasions, I found out I really like it and I finally bought mine… today! As other pointed out, I really love the smooth scrolling. The low shape profile fits perfectly with the way I hold a mouse and the pointer is so much more precise than the Mighty Mouse.

    I also think that Apple took the right decision regarding the Magic Mouse limited feature set. I never envisioned using a mouse with more than 3 buttons and a scroll wheel anyway. Too complicated. I prefer a simpler approach that always work. That way you don’t have to think about what your fingers are doing. And nothing is more upsetting than an erratic input device…

  16. I love the Magic Mouse.

    I liked the Mighty one but now when I plug it in during a battery change for the magic mouse, I really can’t stand it any more.

    The sooner I can get the batteries in the Magic mouse and have the nice smooth mouse with the super smooth top, the better

  17. I love mine. The only thing I miss is the center click to get Expose. The keyboard works fine for that or I can activate a hot corner like I used to.

    The scrolling is what I really like. It is so smooth and you don’t have to worry about that ball getting gummed up with junk.

    Left click, right click and scrolling is all I really need and it does those things very well.

    • I agree with Rob D’s comments. I miss the Expose function, but the smooth scrolling function of the Magic Mouse is wonderful and more than makes up for the lost Expose feature. I tried 3rd party apps on the Mouse, but they ended up being spotty and more trouble than they were worth. I just use a hot corner for Expose, and life is good.

    • Can you help. I just bought the magic mouse and the click functions no problem but I cannot scroll at all. Is there something I am not doing or is there some setting I am missing?

  18. I tested out all the third party extensions as well and found it to be more painful than helpful. What it does point to though is an opportunity to create a touchpad for desktop machines with all the gestures.