Review: Apple Brings iPhone-style Multi-Touch to Magic Mouse

Magic Mouse Hero

Apple's Magic Mouse, introduced via simple press release on October 20, is the latest point-and-click peripheral for the Mac, and the latest showcase for Apple's multi-touch technology, first introduced in the iPhone and later the iPod touch. While the iPhone is still the premiere multi-touch experience in consumer electronics, however, Apple's modern history of mice has been... poor to mediocre. The hockey puck that shipped with the original iMac was goofy, the one-button Mighty Mouse hard to second-click with and prone to gunked up scroll balls.

Does the Magic Mouse work an iPhone-level spell, or is it just more of the middling? TiPb takes a look after the break!

Unboxing Beautiful

Magic Mouse Box Hero

Apple once again shows that their attention to detail and customer experience doesn't end with the device, it starts with the packaging. The Magic Mouse comes in small plastic box that shows it off similar to how the iPod touch is displayed in its packaging. Once open, you find the mouse and not much more, only some paper, and that's pro forma.

Magic Mouse connects to a MacBook or Mac desktop via Bluetooth, once again showing Apple's move towards fewer wires and farther range. It's not rechargeable, but comes with a battery already in place, ready to use with a flip of the power switch.

photo 2Magic Mouse Box Bottom

Getting Started

If you've got the Bluetooth icon in your menu bar, click on it and choose Setup Bluetooth Device... The Bluetooth Assistant will launch, it will detect your Magic Mouse, and as soon as it does, you can choose it and pair it. (If you don't have the BT icon in your menu, just launch System Preferences, choose Bluetooth, and hit the + icon at the bottom left to launch the BT Assistant).

It took me all of a minute or so to get up and running. Kudos to "just works". Or at least it does once you launch Software Update, download, and install Apple's Magic Mouse Software. This comes pre-installed with the new iMacs and Mac Minis, and will no doubt be integrated into Mac OS X 10.6.2 when it's made available, but for now it's an extra step and requires a restart. Apple must be patching something core, and that in and of itself is interesting.

Set Up Bluetooth Device

Hardware

Compared to the previous Mighty Mouse (a name which is now trademarked by another company), the Magic Mouse feels about the same on the table. It's alright, but it's not the smoothest experience. The weight feels good but the profile isn't as high. The angle of the edges feels great in the hand, but the lack of a higher, rounder top leaves your palm kind of empty. No doubt that's to make space for the multi-touch gestures, but it will take some getting used to.

Like the Mighty Mouse, the entire upper shell is one giant button (with an Apple logo on it this time), but the Magic Mouse's "click" feels much better and more satisfying. When setup to do so in System Preferences, it also detects the right (or left if you're right handed) second mouse click much, much better than the Mighty Mouse ever did (no doubt because the capacitive technology "knows" where you're clicking). From that purely old-school point-and-click perspective, Magic Mouse is a big improvement.

The bottom has a second Apple logo, along the laser and an on/off switch you can toggle to save battery power if you're going to be away for a long time.

photo 3-1photo 2-1

Multi-touching

Okay, on to the gestures. Those that are included so far work... from very well, and just okay. To back up a moment, like the iPhone, the surface of the Magic Mouse is capacitive (see the teardown for details) so it can detect multiple finger actions and execute whatever behavior those actions represent.

The scrolling, where you move a single finger around to pan left-to-right, up-and-down, and basically any direction is great. Say goodbye gunked-up physical scroll wheel or ball, evolution has selected you for extinction. In an especially nice touch, System Preferences lets you turn on (or off) momentum based scrolling, similar to how the iPhone flicks fast at the beginning, then slows to a stop. Sadly, there's no elastic banding like the iPhone in Mac OS X. Yet.

The "just okay" defines the two-finger sideways swipe, currently only implemented in Safari to go back and forth within a tabs history (I'd prefer switching tabs), and iPhoto to cycle through images. I have no problem with doing it (mad iPhone-derived skillz, yo!) but a friend who tried it with me found it difficult to annoying.

I mentioned so far, above, because I have a suspicion Apple is doing what they did with iMovie '08 here -- introducing something new and deliberately keeping it simple to start. The multi-touch trackpads in the MacBooks are another example. At first they introduced the second finger for left click, and the double-finger for scrolling. When the MacBook Air debuted, they added three-finger swiping and four-finger tabbing and Expose. Apple could easily be making the same play here, scrolling and swiping at first, Expose and tabbing (or other added functionality) in a future software update.

That might help allay those like Dieter, who miss the side buttons on the old Might Mouse, or a third button or other assorted mechanical doodads.

Magic Mouse frontMagic Mouse bottom front

Bottomline

I'd still prefer an Apple-produced iPhone or iPod touch app that exactly duplicates the functionality of the current MacBook (Air/Pro) trackpads. Absent that, the Magic Mouse is the best mouse Apple has made in a long time (I supposed in the same way, post Vista, many proclaim Windows 7 the best OS Microsoft has shipped). If you're a fan of the iPhone's multi-touch, like trying new, ambitious technology, or just want to stick completely within the Apple ecosystem (and don't mind paying $69 for the privilege!), this is the mouse for you. If you're not sold yet, head on over to your local Apple Retail Store and give it a test drive.

If you prefer clickety-clackety multi-button mega-mice, we've heard Logitech might be a better choice for you.

Magic Mouse Hero

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Review: Apple Brings iPhone-style Multi-Touch to Magic Mouse

52 Comments

^ Do u have depression? or r u just disappointed with your life? It's the same god-damn technology.
Hey, at least u didn't say First lol

Wheras if you have win 7 and the right hardware you can do multitouch on the screen or touchpad. And MS mice "just work" without software and haven't had rollerballs that gunked up for like 5 yrs now. But yeah way to "innovate" apple! "kudos"! Lol!

@rjd
"the right hardware" umm been there, done that. MSFT is far from "just works". I'll pass tyvm.
I have work to do and cannot afford BSOD or format lol

@haerin: yes - the right hardware such as a multi touch pad or monitor. And yes it just works. - unlike the apple mouse. Which is also a piece of "hardware" by the way. And doesn't "just" work and is hardly "innovative" by the way. If I want multi touch I will use a touchpad which I have been doing with win for almost a year now.

Oh and PS - I haven't seen a BSOD on any of the 10 win machines at my office since win95. You fanboys really need to get yourselves more up to date!

How well does it fit your hand, especially over long usage periods? I always found that, for long sessions, a logitech or MS mouse was always far more comfortable than my Mighty Mouse. While I love gestures on my trackpad, since the Magic Mouse is even lower and flatter, I worry that the ergonomics will be terrible.

@iShirk
The multi-touch technology of the iPhone led to the multi-touch magic mouse. Why is this so hard to understand? And are you physically harmed in any way by reading something that indirectly deals with the iPhone? You wasted time posting, so obviously time constraints are not an issue.

The mouse looks nice. I guess it's up to everybody to try it in store to see if they like it or not.
Holy crap--the commentors on here are like YouTube comments. So nasty right off the bat. Scary.
Btw, full feed RSS definitely should be reconsidered. ;)

I read your post again and you could have meant "post" as in our posts which my comment above would make zero sense and therefore I'd agree with you. But if you meant "posts" as in what Rene wrote then my above statement still stands.

@rjd - I've seen the BSOD on many XP and Vista machines, would love to know your secret. Since win95? Really? That's all Win ME was good at. And I have a mouse MADE by Microsoft that won't "just work" to save my damn life. I have the cd on file for whenever I do work on someone's comp...sometimes from getting the BSOD!

@Blake0767
Hey blake, new to the internet little kid? Ive been supporting this blog way back to where i was the only commenter so dont come in here thinking you know everything. Back to preschool with you /Thread.

Just picked mine up today. So far I like it! The 2 finger gestures and the "scrolling" are spot on. Worth it in my opinion.

Don't worry Gary, RJD likely uses his touch-screen PC to touch himself with.
Guys like him have never felt a live girl, and hence, hang out in Apple forums looking to get a rise out of those of us that appreciate the truly good things in life.
As for "touch my screen" boy, he's going to be one of about 20 people in the world that actually use one.
If you've ever spent 10 minutes doing that, you'll see why it's going to fail.
Not unlike most "innovating" MS does.

And no weenie-boys, if Apple make a "tablet" it is NOT the same thing.
Having a touch-screen lie flat on your lap or table is NOT the same as a monitor or laptop display sitting vertically.
Nobody will use that technology vertically.

@Rjd
I <3 my Windows 7 box, but I'm no chump. I've seen PLENTY of blue screens from Vista and XP in my past. I've seen my share of kernel panics from OS X as well. No OS is bulletproof especially when multiple sources of hardware and software come into play.
The Magic Mouse looks really nice and I'd like to try one out.
On my PC I'm using the Logitech MX Revolution for the past few years and I really REALLY like it. I wish I had one at the office.

"In an especially nice touch, System Preferences lets you turn on (or off) momentum based scrolling"
Where did you find this preference? I'm running 10.5.8 on an older iMac. I'm probably just dense, but could someone please enlighten me. Thanks.

In mail two finger left and right swipe moves up an down a subject line at a time.

@iShirk
Temper? I too have been commenting for years (roughly 2), not in the thread, only under a different name. I'd suggest we not make this a pissing contest. And seeing how you are so defensive, my statement holds even more water. So the question remains...does it hurt you to read something indirectly, or in my opinion, directly related to the iPhone? It obviously hurts your feelings...

@cardfan depends on user I guess. I use a Microsoft (logitech ODM?) mouse on my WinBox. I'm really liking the Magic Mouse on Mac.

My Magic Mouse is in the post, can't wait to try it out. I generally don't like mice and prefer to use the MacBook trackpad instead. I'm a little concerned about the shape (the low profile and shallow curve) - this looks cool, but does it handle well? Does it sit nicely in the palm of your hand?

@Rene
Since I have yet to take the trip to the Apple store to try it out, two further qestions, if you do not mind:
1) Ergonomics. Do you have any problem with having to keep your hand strained to accommodate how flat it is, or is that issue overblown?
2) Is the right click any better than the Mighty Mouse, or does this mouse also misinterpret right clicks frequently unless the left finger is moved significantly as well?

@PC
I couldn't find that momentum scrolling either, then I saw this on Apple's site:
* Momentum scrolling supported only on Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard."

A totally bizarre mid point between trackpad and mouse.
It's like adding a power window button on the end of an old hand-crank knob.

As someone who has recovered from a serious case of RSI (Repetative Stress Injury) I see this device as a big risk for Apple.
The design forces you to hold the device in a way that avlouds touching it with your palm or funky things happen. After half an hour my entire forearm was aching.
Am I the only one that smells class action? Maybe it's the odor of lawyers salivating.

@Fassy:
1) not so far, the underside angle feels really well designed for the grip.
2) right click is great so far. I'm guessing the capacitive touch knows where your finger is when you click
@Don
of my RSI acted up, I'd stop using it. The lack of personal responsibility is stupefying. I switched from Palm to iPhone and didn't consider BlackBerry due to RSI, I never once considered suing anybody... Wow. Just. Wow.

I think it is funny that people that are microsoft junkies talk about oh ive been using touch pads forever blah blah blah. Well no one does multi-touch like apple because it is patented. And i hardly doubt your touch pad is worth a shit. The best ones ive seen are bamboo. And their "multi-touch" version just came out about a week ago so you do NOT know what you are talking about a pen and pad to draw on your screen is not a multi-touch mouse. This combines point and click with other navigational function that NO mouse has ever come close to. I'm not for everything mac does but you need to get your facts straight. There are two types of people in the world...those who like mac products and have several...ore those who are jealous of the people that do. Get of your microsoft bandwagon there are some new players in town (Google and Apple). Peace

@John stou: I've had a bambo multi touch pad attached to one of my vista machines for 6 months now so I think it's you who doesn't know what you're talking about. (and I don't think that even at that time it had "just come out")

The magic mouse also works with Firefox....it IS the best mouse Apple has put out. This will be with me FAR into the future!

I got it too. But i have to admit in one way its annoying y'know with its niggerish ipod toch thingy

hey dont wanna spend a fortune like $500 on a shitty iphone? GET a kinda crap chinese iphone for only $20! FUCKING HELL! Apple are motherfucking shitters

No "just works" is reserved for my mouse. It is a microsoft wheel mouse optical. It is about 8-10 years old. It "just works" in 6-7 linux distros, OSX, windows 2000, windows xp, windows vista and windows 7.
I spilled oil IN IT (and all over it), coffee all over it (many times) beer, pop, ashes, dropped it alot etc. It is the only piece of computer hardware that I have owned that long and treated like complete garbage (I got it for $20 and it was supposed to be a temporary replacement) the wheel is still fine, so are the optics. It is the only thing I have NEVER had to install a driver or any software (even in osx, which was pretty suprising. It has outlasted my timex watch.
That magic mouse seems kind of, not very useful? I still use 2 buttons, if I had one exactly the same size and shape as this with 5 I'd use that, my hand is a deformed claw now exactly conformed to this mouse, I can't see how that could be useful except on a laptop, which has them anyway.

I completely agree with everything you have said. In reality, I browsed through your various other blogposts and I believe that you're definitely correct. Congrats with this online site.