A removable dongle that works like a mouse could be coming to future MacBooks

by Hartley Charlton

Apple has explored a MacBook keyboard with a removable key designed to function as a precision mouse, according to a recently granted patent application.

The patent, first discovered by AppleInsider, is called “Mouse with Expandable Key.” Apple first filed for the patent in 2021, and it was granted today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent calls for a seemingly conventional MacBook scissor-style keyboard that features a hidden, removable key. This key will be designed to be used as a pointing device and will contain a position sensor. Apple describes the system as a “convenient, portable, and accurate pointer-based input system for computer input systems.”

The documentation states that some precision tasks such as graphic design, computer-aided design and modeling, and large-scale editing and complex documents are better suited to a manual mouse than a trackpad. Apple acknowledges that carrying a separate mouse with your computer can be cumbersome and may be “overkill if the computer already has built-in pointing devices.”

The company says the removable dongle is an effective solution to this problem. Apple. In some implementations, the key may function as normal on the keyboard when not unfolded, and have a small internal battery.

Apple describes various mechanical systems that facilitate the removable key, including sliding out one or more keys from the body vertically, as well as extending the key from the side of the machine horizontally. Illustrations of the patent show a slide-out key positioned closer to the edge of the keyboard to prevent it from being used all the time.

Patent filings may not be taken as evidence of Apple's immediate plans, but they are what they are. outline the company's areas of interest and what it plans to develop behind the scenes. While the prospect of a removable key may seem like an outlandish potential MacBook feature, Apple is clearly interested enough in the prospect to patent the concept. It may be less intrusive than other fancy features like the touchpad, and may appeal to some professional users who require maximum portability but can still benefit from occasional precise input.

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