iOS 13: How to use a mouse with your iPad or iPhone

Mouse support has finally arrived on the iPad and iPhone with iPadOS 13 and iOS 13! As you might expect, that support comes with a catch or four.

mouse with ipad pro
Leif Johnson/IDG

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A vocal number of heavy-duty iPad users have begged for mouse support on the iPad for years, and that support is finally coming with iPadOS 13 this fall. A little surprisingly, iOS 13 also brings mouse support to the iPhone.

It’s not so surprising, though, that Apple chose to bury it deep within the iPhone and iPad’s Accessibility settings. And when you do hook up a mouse through a Bluetooth or wired connection, you’ll still have to deal with an ugly circular cursor that’s meant to mimic a human fingerprint and a few interface complications. We’re glad the feature’s here, but it doesn’t quite work the way we’d hoped. (It is, after all, designed as an Accessibility feature.)

But with that out of the way, let’s jump in!

How to set up a Bluetooth mouse on iPhone or iPad

Bluetooth is your best option if you want to set up mouse support on the iPhone or iPad. It’s fast, relatively easy, and it’s also stable. So far it’s worked with every Bluetooth mouse I’ve tried, with the notable exception of Apple’s own Magic Mouse 2. (The Magic Mouse 2 works through a wired connection, but considering the infamously awkward method of charging it—yeah, that’s not going to work.) Fortunately, the first-generation Magic Mouse works fine.

Here’s what you need for that (or any other Bluetooth mouse). Before we begin, though, make sure you have Bluetooth turned on and that you’ve unpaired the mouse you plan to use from any other device.)

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down to Accessibility and press it.
  3. Press Touch under the Physical and Motor section.
  4. You should see a toggle for AssistiveTouch at the top. It will likely read Off. Press it.
  5. You’ll then go to another menu. Turn on AssistiveTouch through the toggle at the top.
  6. Now, in the same menu, scroll down to Pointing Devices. Press it.
  7. Press Bluetooth Devices.
  8. Grab your Bluetooth mouse and set it to pairing mode. For convenience, we’ll use the first-generation Magic Mouse as an example. Make sure the mouse is unpaired from its previous device, and then put it in pairing mode. With the Magic Mouse 1, that means holding down the top for a couple of seconds. In the case of the Magic Mouse, you’ll see a request for a PIN pop up. Enter 0000 in the prompt.
how to set up mouse on iphone ipad Leif Johnson/IDG

Your Bluetooth mouse should immediately start working.

How to set up a wired mouse on your iPhone or iPad

You can also use a wired mouse with your iPad, but the setup is considerably more awkward than it is with Bluetooth devices. For one thing, you’re going to have a hard time hooking up anything besides a generic laser mouse to anything below the iPad Pro and you’ll likely get a message like this one.

iphone logitech g502 ios13 Leif Johnson/IDG

Fortunately, all wired models we tested worked with the iPad Pro.

For another, you’re going to need to buy the $29 USB-A to Lightning dongle before you can hook up most standard wired mice to older and lower-end iPads. If you have a 2018 iPad Pro, you’ll need the $19 USB-A to USB-C dongle. Once you’ve attached the dongle to your mouse, you’ll need to repeat many of the steps above:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down to Accessibility and press it.
  3. Press Touch under the Physical and Motor section.
  4. You should see a toggle for AssistiveTouch at the top. It will likely read Off. Press it.
  5. You’ll then go to another menu. Turn on AssistiveTouch through the toggle at the top.

And from here, simply plug in your mouse to your device. It should immediately start working.

Tips for calibrating your mouse

Now for the bad news. You shouldn’t expect your mouse to work the way it would when you’re working on a Mac or PC. You can move the cursor around the second you plug it in, but the cursor itself is a big, gray circle that’s meant to mimic a fingerprint. (The only option to change it is to make it bigger and change the color to a variety of equally obnoxious hues.) It’s not impossible to get the same precision that you’ll get with a desktop cursor, but it takes practice.

By default, the circular AssistiveTouch menu stays on the screen while AssistiveTouch is active, although you can move it around the display with your finger. By default, you also activate the menu for AssistiveTouch by right-clicking your mouse. To hide the menu, though, you can go to Settings Accessibility Touch AssistiveTouch and untoggle Always Show Menu. Provided you don’t change the settings, it will always reappear when you right-click.

As you can probably tell, there’s a lot about this setup that takes some getting used to. For one, if you don’t use the right-click menu button mentioned above, you’ll need to use your mouse to mimic the gestures you use with your finger for navigation (such as swiping up from the bottom in order to open Exposé). You can’t just tap down and select text as you would with an ordinary mouse; instead, you need to double-click on a word with the left mouse button and drag the toggle if you want to highlight the rest of the selection.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can make your mouse experience on the iPhone or iPad more pleasant. Below, you’ll find some of my favorites.

Adjust the tracking speed

Right out of the gate, I thought the tracking speed for my mouse was way, way too fast for my iPhone. If you have the same problem, you can easily change it by going to Settings Accessibility Touch AssistiveTouch and scrolling down to Tracking Speed. You’ll see a bar there that you can adjust as needed.

Customize the buttons on your mouse

If you want to customize what your buttons do on you mouse, you can do so by going to Settings Accessibility Touch AssistiveTouch Pointing Devices and then selecting your connected mouse.

In the case of the Logitech G502 gaming mouse that I hooked up to an iPad Pro, these are the default buttons:

  • Left click (Single-Tap for selection)
  • Right click (open AssistiveTouch menu)
  • Middle mouse button (Home screen)
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