How Apple reinvented the cursor for iPad

After defining and delivering the mouse cursor to the world, a few weeks ago, Apple debuted a new kind of cursor, or pointer, for the iPad.

Apple reinvented the cursor for iPad
Apple reinvented the cursor for iPad

Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

In order to dive a bit deeper on the brand new cursor and its interaction models, I spoke to Apple SVP Craig Federighi about its development and some of the choices by the teams at Apple that made it.

The iPad cursor takes on the shape of a small circle, a normalized version of the way that the screen’s touch sensors read the tip of your finger. Already, this is different. It brings that idea of placing you inside the machine to the next level, blending the physical nature of touch with the one-step-removed trackpad experience.

Its size and shape is also a nod to the nature of iPad’s user interface. It was designed from the ground up as a touch-first experience. So much so that when an app is not properly optimized for that modality it feels awkward, clumsy. The cursor as your finger’s avatar has the same impact wherever it lands.

Honestly, the thinking could have stopped there and that would have been perfectly adequate. A rough finger facsimile as pointer. But the concept is pushed further. As you approach an interactive element, the circle reaches out, smoothly touching then embracing and encapsulating the button.

MacDailyNews Take: The beauty of the iPad cursor is that even though it’s new and does new things, it feels natural to use as soon as you begin to use it. Only Apple!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]


  1. Using a mouse on a iPad is a revolution and a revelation. It really does enable it to be used almost in place of a laptop.

    What could be improved with the mouse pointer is when moving over icons, the mouse pointer disappears. Even though the icon increases a little in size, it is not significant enough to be noticeable. It can, therefore, be difficult to see where is the mouse pointer or what is the icon being selected.

    1. I think this is a nod to Apple’s reluctance to have a mouse pointer on the iPad in the first place, they were dragged kicking and screaming into implementing this by what people wanted and needed. I didn’t ever focus on it until now that when I hover over a clickable link on my Mac the arrow cursor turns into a Mickey Mouse-type hand. From what I’ve read this has been around for 35+ years. What a concept to inform the user that they can take an action with a representation of their hand, it makes an amorphous dot that disappears when you have something to click on seem like a step backwards in 2020 doesn’t it? Wouldn’t want that skeuomorphic UI element interfering with our flat, unintuitive OS by providing people with too much useful information for navigating their devices.

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