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.

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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 finally exists on iPadOS 13. 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 called "AssistiveTouch.")

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

How to set up a Bluetooth mouse on iPhone or iPad

The easiest way to use a mouse with your iPad or iPhone is to set it up with Bluetooth. Any old wireless mouse should work. You can pair most mice through the AssistiveTouch menu itself, but because of some complications with the Magic Mouse 2 which prevent it from pairing through that route, I suggest pairing it the following way instead. It should work in every case.

First, make sure you have Bluetooth turned on and then:

  1. Go to your Settings app
  2. Press Accessibility.
  3. Press Switch Control.
  4. Press Switches.
  5. Press Bluetooth Devices in the menu that pops up and then put your wireless mouse into pairing mode. Your mouse's name should show up in the menu, so tap it when it shows up.

Your mouse should connect, but keep in mind that you won't be able to use it yet if AssistiveTouch isn't turned on. If you're using a Magic Mouse 1, you'll also need to enter a PIN number, which is 0000. But otherwise it should work fine.

Now you'll want to actually TURN ON AssistiveTouch, and this is how you do it.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press Accessibility.
  3. Press Touch.
  4. Press AssistiveTouch.
  5. Your mouse should immediately start working like a regular mouse.

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—although, as you can see in our how-to video above, even the 2018 iPad Pro struggles to run some of them.

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 menu item 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 > Assistive TouchAssistiveTouch 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 > Assistive TouchAssistiveTouch 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 your mouse, you can do so by going to Settings Accessibility Touch Assistive TouchAssistiveTouch 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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