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Apple is redesigning the iMac. Here’s what it must get right

Apple’s iMac has recently been back in the limelight after a long absence. Not only are we expecting a wide-ranging redesign later this year, but noted leaker Jon Prosser recently claimed Apple is working on multiple new colors for the computer. Aesthetic changes aside, there is one area where the iMac needs a serious overhaul: Its mouse and keyboard. Here is everything we want to see in the iMac’s key peripherals.

A dedicated Touch ID button

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These days, a crucial element of almost any Apple device is secure authentication. The iPhone has Face ID, MacBooks have Touch ID on their keyboards, and yet, the iMac has nothing at all. It is stuck in the past, and it really shows.

Integrating the Touch ID button into the keyboards of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air would show Apple knows it is an idea that works. True, doing this on the iMac would require integrating something akin to the T2 Security Chip into the keyboard itself to prevent your fingerprint data from being sent over the airwaves. But we know Apple is at least considering the idea, having filed several patents in recent years.

Adding Touch ID to the iMac would greatly increase its security by blocking access to your computer by someone who learns or knows your password. Perhaps the reason we have never seen Touch ID on the iMac is because Apple is working on a much more secure form of authentication for it: Face ID. Reports indicate Face ID may (finally) reach the iMac in 2022. If that never comes to pass, though, Touch ID is a must.

The keys to success

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review close
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Aside from security, a more basic aspect of the iMac keyboard needs a major revamp: The keys themselves. Right now, you still cannot buy an official iMac keyboard with backlit keys. That may not sound like a huge problem, but it can make a big difference if you work in lowlight situations or simply want to quickly locate a key in a split second. Sure, it might impact battery life, but you can always just plug it in — it comes with a cable, after all. Plenty of other keyboard manufacturers make backlit keyboards that can still go the distance. Why can’t the biggest tech company in the world?

There is another issue with the buttons: The arrow keys. Apple has a horrible habit of squashing the up and down keys onto tiny buttons, making them much harder to find simply by touch. The company realized its mistake in this area and restored them to the normal T-shape arrangement, first on the MacBook Pro 16. Yet the iMac’s keyboard is the lone holdout. It is about time it got the same treatment as Apple’s MacBooks.

The final thing we want to see in the iMac’s keyboard is multidevice pairing. Apple loves to promote its own locked-in ecosystem — what better way to do that than by allowing you to pair your iMac keyboard with multiple Apple devices and type on all of them? It would save you having to buy an expensive Magic Keyboard case for your iPad and would make typing emails on your iPhone an absolute breeze. Again, this is something plenty of other companies have been able to do. It is time for Apple to finally catch up.

The Magic Mouse needs love, too

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While the iMac’s keyboard needs a lot of attention and improvement, the Magic Mouse is also still far from perfect. A good mouse is key to enjoying your computer, yet there is plenty that Apple needs to change with its own mouse — following on from the keyboard, adding multidevice pairing to Apple’s own mouse would be a great start.

Years ago, Apple’s Magic Mouse was infamous for only having one button. The joke went: “What is the one thing a PC can do that a Mac cannot?” The answer: “Right-click.” Thankfully, those days are long gone — yet the Magic Mouse still only has two buttons. I am not asking for it to be so button-heavy it resembles an old telephone keypad (Razer Naga, anyone?), but a couple of side buttons would not be overkill. Maybe even some sort of Touch ID zone or button, although I know this is a long shot. I can dream though, right?

When your products are causing your users pain, you know it is time for a change.

The problem is that Apple is still trapped in the shadows of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive and their unrelenting demand for minimalism. This legacy manifests itself in another way on the Magic Mouse: Its shape. Sure, it looks sleek and smooth and lovely, but it is an ergonomic nightmare. I know one writer who got repetitive strain injury from the device’s low-profile shape and had to switch to an ergonomic mouse. When your products are causing your users pain, you know it is time for a change. The Magic Mouse needs to be reshaped to a much more comfortable form.

A more convex shape should not interfere with gestures, which is currently one of the Magic Mouse’s top selling points, We would also like a few more gestures to be implemented on the mouse. There is no way to open Launchpad, for example, or show your Mac desktop. Those are two of the most useful Mac trackpad gestures, and we would love to see them make their way to the Magic Mouse.

Fingers crossed

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review keyboard and mouse
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The flurry of attention the iMac has received in recent months gives us hope that Apple has a lot up its sleeve and is ready to redo the desktop computer in a big way. But the overhaul cannot just focus on the iMac itself — its peripherals are just as important for a great experience.

As the switch to Apple’s custom M1 processors has shown, we are entering a new age for the Mac. The MacBook Pro is set to get a major redesign later this year, with a new 14-inch model in the works. Improving the iMac — in particular its long-unloved peripherals — would show Apple still cares about its desktop users.

There are reasons to be optimistic. Apple tends to do a pretty good job when it redesigns its Macs, with the MacBook Pro 16 being a good recent example (let’s just not talk about the butterfly keyboard from the 2016 redesign, OK?). Here’s hoping Apple keeps that good form going when the iMac gets a makeover later this year.

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