Future MacBook Could Feature Removable Key That Works as a Mouse

Apple is researching a MacBook keyboard that features a removable key to be used as a precision mouse, according to a newly published patent application.

removable key patent 1
The patent application, first spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Deployable Key Mouse" and was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The filing envisages a standard-looking MacBook scissor-system keyboard that features a hidden removable key. This key would contain a position sensor to be used as a pointing device. Apple describes the system as providing a "comfortable, portable, and precise pointer input for a computer input system."

The filing explains that some precise tasks, such as graphic design, computer-assisted design and modeling, and editing large and complex documents, are better suited to a handheld mouse than a trackpad. Apple acknowledged that carrying a separate mouse with the computer can be a burden and may be "redundant when the computer already has built-in pointing devices."

The removable key is a viable solution to this issue, according to Apple. In some embodiments, the key would be able to work as normal on the keyboard when it is not deployed and feature a small battery.

removable key patent 2
Apple outlined various mechanical systems to facilitate the removable key, including sliding a single or set of multiple keys out of the housing vertically, as well as sliding a key out from the side of the machine horizontally. The patent's illustrations showed the deployable key located toward the edge of the keyboard so that it would not be a key that sees frequent use.

Patent filings cannot be taken as evidence of Apple's immediate plans, but they do indicate areas of interest for the company and what it is considering developing behind the scenes. While the prospect of a removable key may seem like an outlandish potential MacBook feature, it may be less obtrusive than other unusual features such as the Touch Bar and could appeal to certain pro-users who require maximum portability but could still benefit from occasional precise input.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

DanTSX Avatar
6 weeks ago
Lol this sounds like a patent from 1999
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
6 weeks ago

Apple outlined various mechanical systems to facilitate the removable key, including sliding a single or set of multiple keys out of the housing vertically, as well as sliding a key out from the side of the machine horizontally.
I can imagine nothing more seamless than needing to play this game every time I want to use my mouse:

Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Icarus73 Avatar
6 weeks ago
What is this, a mouse for ants?! It needs to be at least... 3 times this size!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jz0309 Avatar
6 weeks ago
That is a cool patent but I bet this will never make it into a product
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wesd1234 Avatar
6 weeks ago
Apple could start by adding backlighting to their standalone keyboards before adding this kind of gimmick
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
velocityg4 Avatar
6 weeks ago

What happens if you lose a keyboard key?
You have to pay Apple $99 for a replacement key. In store only to make it part of the Secure Enclave.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

macbook pro m1 keyboard

Apple Researching Keyboards With Adaptive Displays on Each Key

Tuesday December 29, 2020 9:02 am PST by
Apple is researching keyboards with small displays on the keys to dynamically change the label on each key, according to a newly-granted patent filing. The filing, spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Electronic devices having keys with coherent fiber bundles" and was granted to Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the final patent day of this year. The patent explains how...
PMClogonewer

Apple Won't Have to Pay $309M After Judge Accuses Patent Troll of Abusing System to Fleece Tech Companies

Friday August 6, 2021 11:10 am PDT by
Apple today scored a victory in an ongoing patent dispute with Personalized Media Communications (PMC), with the judge overseeing the case tossing out the $308.5 million verdict that Personalized Media Communications won in March, reports Bloomberg. Apple was a victim of PMC's plan to milk the tech industry for high royalties on old ideas, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap said when...
genesis gv70 nfc key

Apple Preparing to Support Digital Car Keys for Genesis Vehicles

Tuesday September 21, 2021 2:45 pm PDT by
Last year, Apple debuted support for digital car keys, which let users lock, unlock, and start their vehicles using a pass stored in the Wallet app on the iPhone. And with iOS 15, there's now Ultra Wideband support on the iPhone 11 and later that will let the feature work without having to remove your iPhone from your pocket. Car manufacturers need to add the NFC technology to their vehicles ...
apple watch series 6 product red back

Apple Develops Innovative Hydration Sensor for the Apple Watch

Tuesday August 17, 2021 8:45 am PDT by
Apple has developed a first-of-its-kind hydration sensor designed for the Apple Watch, a company patent filing has revealed. The patent, first spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Hydration measurement with a watch" and was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "Traditional techniques for tracking hydration are generally invasive, expensive, or unreliable," according to Apple. ...
applewatchseries4lte

Apple Ordered to Pay Optis Wireless $300 Million in Second LTE Patent Trial

Monday August 16, 2021 1:39 am PDT by
Apple must pay $300 million in damages to Optis Wireless Technology for infringing a handful of patents related to 4G LTE technology, a Texas jury has ruled (via Reuters). In August 2020, a jury found that Apple had infringed five Optis wireless patents and awarded $506 million in damages, but a Texas judge vacated that award in April and ordered a new trial to focus on damages only. US...
applewatchheartrate2

Apple Can't Escape Apple Watch Heart Rate Sensor Patent Lawsuit, Court Rules

Monday August 2, 2021 1:03 pm PDT by
Apple must face a patent infringement lawsuit over the heart rate technology in the Apple Watch, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled today. Back in 2018, Apple was sued by Omni MedSci, with the company alleging that Apple used its patented technology in the Apple Watch. Apple reportedly met with Omni MedSci between 2014 to 2016 to discuss a possible partnership,...
bmw car key photo

Apple's Digital Car Key Feature Will Soon Work With Your iPhone in Your Pocket

Tuesday July 13, 2021 8:13 am PDT by
The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that its Digital Key 3.0 specification with support for Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth LE connectivity is finalized and now available to members, including Apple. In 2020, Apple introduced a digital car key feature that allows users to unlock and start a compatible vehicle by holding an iPhone or Apple Watch near the driver-side door. The feature ...
satechi keyboard deal thing

Exclusive Deal: Take 30% Off Satechi's Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard for Mac

Thursday September 16, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
MacRumors readers can take 30 percent off Satechi's Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard this week, knocking the price of the accessory down to $56.00, from $79.00. The keyboard comes in Silver and Space Gray color options. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. ...
iPhone 12 Pro Layout

Chinese AI Firm Wants Apple to Stop iPhone Production Over Patent Infringement Claims

Wednesday September 8, 2021 3:31 am PDT by
Ahead of next week's Apple event, which is expected to include the launch of the iPhone 13 lineup, a Chinese AI firm is asking a court to stop the production and sale of the iPhone in China, alleging that Siri infringes upon its patent, South China Morning Post reports. Apple last year was hit with a $1.4 billion lawsuit from the Chinese AI firm Xiao-i Robot, which claims Apple violated its...
Whatsapp E2EE Backups

WhatsApp to Let Users Encrypt Chat Backups Uploaded to iCloud

Saturday September 11, 2021 1:53 am PDT by
WhatsApp has announced it will give its two billion users the option to upload their chat backups to Apple's iCloud using password-protected encryption. Currently, WhatsApp on iPhone lets users back up their chat history to ‌iCloud‌, but messages and media that users back up aren't protected by WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption while in ‌‌Apple's cloud servers‌. Given that Apple...