Update on Apple’s Magic Trackpad: Battery Life + As A Mouse Replacement | iLounge Backstage

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Update on Apple’s Magic Trackpad: Battery Life + As A Mouse Replacement

Three weeks into using Apple’s Magic Trackpad, there’s some good news and not so good news to share as an update to my earlier articles on both the Trackpad and the Apple Battery Charger.

The good news: my “early hands-on” left open the possibility that the initially good accessory could come to feel great, and it did. One week into using the Magic Trackpad, it became a completely comfortable replacement for a comparable desktop mouse (specifically Apple’s solid Magic Mouse, which I’d liked but not loved before getting the Trackpad), and when I hit the two-week mark, I was ready to say that I wouldn’t give up the Magic Trackpad for a mouse again. The act of calibrating the Magic Trackpad properly for the screen size of your computer is the point at which you start to appreciate how viable it is as a mouse replacement, and though finger- rather than laser-precision may be an issue for some people, it hasn’t been a problem for me at all. Between the complete access to multi-touch gestures, including ones left out of the Magic Mouse, and the fact that I can achieve the same use of my computer without the footprint of a mouse pad, I’m sold, locked in, and very happy with this accessory. It’s become a “pry it from my cold, dead hands” add-on for my Mac, which is exactly what I hoped for when I made the purchase.

 

The bad news: yeah, about that battery life thing. I popped in a fully charged set of Apple’s rechargeable batteries on August 3, the day the Apple Battery Charger arrived, which is to say it’s been nearly 15 days since I started with a 100% Trackpad Battery Level. Today, it’s at 14% percent, which means I might get three or four more days out of these batteries before they need to be swapped and recharged. Even by Magic Mouse standards, 20-day battery life* sucks. Based on early testing noted in the comments to the original Trackpad article, it looked like the higher-capacity disposable batteries included with the Magic Trackpad would have lasted for three months before needing to be thrown away and replaced, but the rechargeables are running down at a rate that seems disproportionately and suspiciously high. In any case, since I regularly use a wired Apple keyboard, I would seriously prefer to just pop a USB cable from a wired Magic Trackpad into the spare USB port on the keyboard’s side. But Apple doesn’t make a wired Magic Trackpad. I wish the company’s growing team of magicians would conjure one up, because as fun as battery swaps with coin-operated swirled metal compartments may be, I could do without them. You probably could, too.

 

(* = Battery life will, of course, depend on how much you use your computer, how efficiently Apple’s software manages the power of its accessories, and the type of batteries you’re using. Since I’m using Apple’s hardware, software, and batteries at this point, there’s really no excuse for short run times except that wireless accessories eat batteries when you actually use them—which I do for eight or nine hours each work day, five or six days a week. My machine’s on a 10-minute automatic sleep timer. You’ll get longer battery life if you use your machine less and turn it off properly when it’s not in use.)

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Comments

1

Interesting. I’ve been using my magic trackpad for a similar period of time - all workday monday through friday, and my battery life is at 68% currently.  I’m more than happy with that.

Posted by TomHandy on August 18, 2010 at 3:43 PM (CDT)

2

#1: With rechargeable batteries, or the ones that Apple included with the Magic Trackpad? And for one week or two?

There’s definitely something weird going on with battery drain here. The ones that were included within the Trackpad showed roughly 1% drain per day after 5 or 6 days of use. For whatever reason (different capacity very likely, perhaps also failure of the Mac to properly sleep?), the Apple rechargeables have drained at a considerably higher rate since they were inserted.

Also: I’ve added a little to the original post to note that this burn rate strikes me as suspiciously high, while also noting that my Mac’s on a 10-minute sleep timer and thus shouldn’t be causing the Magic Trackpad to run down its batteries… unless there’s a software glitch.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 18, 2010 at 3:49 PM (CDT)

3

The Logitech Trackman Wheel costs under $30 and never needs batteries. The cordless model costs $40 and can easily yield a month or more of battery life, and also dispenses with the finickiness of Bluetooth.

As three-button (GOOD buttons with very positive tactile feedback)+ scroll-wheel devices, each seamlessly uses the built-in OS X mouse driver. What they lack in fancy gestures, they make up with infinite mousing space. (There’s no “running off the edge” of a proper trackball.)*

Posted by Farnsworth on August 18, 2010 at 4:12 PM (CDT)

4

Try using alkaline or lithium non-rechargeable batteries.  They last a long time. With daily use starting on day 1, I have 76% battery life remaining with regular lithium.

Posted by rebo on August 18, 2010 at 4:23 PM (CDT)

5

I switched out the batteries that came with mine (second day of release) for year old, fully recharged eneloops. I’ve been using it exclusively for 8-10 hours a day and have 48% left on mine. Not sure what’s up with yours, but it seems you should be getting more life out of the batteries than you are.

It seems like it wouldn’t be too difficult for an accessory maker to create a slender twist on tube with a small USB cable extending from it to take the place of the existing batteries and cap. The first iLounge branded accessory? ;) Also, not to be confrontational, but are once a month, max 30 second battery changes really that big of a deal?

Posted by skip on August 18, 2010 at 10:06 PM (CDT)

6

Calibrate? What the heck are you talking about? I don’t see anything that shows you how to do that.

Posted by DM on August 18, 2010 at 11:29 PM (CDT)

7

#5: “Are once a month, max 30 second battery changes really that big of a deal?”

Yes. Having to perform monthly maintenance on a peripheral, particularly one that is essential to the computer, is a pain.

#6: System Preferences > Trackpad > Tracking Speed. You adjust this to eliminate the need to swipe five times to move from one edge of your screen to the other.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 19, 2010 at 7:38 AM (CDT)

8

Check out “Apple Trackpad hacked to use USB” on TUAW today.

Exactly what I mentioned earlier. Now if only a real manufacturer would take the idea and run with it. It seems like it could be made to work in either the trackpad or the wireless keyboards, too.

In regards to changing batteries, I guess people have different tolerances, but I wouldn’t define what amounts to what is truly less than 10 minutes a year as painful “maintenance” - especially for a CE device. I guess it is 10 minutes more than 0 though. I will admit that having the option for either wired or wireless in the same device would be great.

Posted by skip on August 20, 2010 at 8:29 PM (CDT)

9

#8: I sent a similar idea to Steve Jobs via e-mail. His response boiled down to “No, sorry.”

Posted by Farnsworth on August 25, 2010 at 4:47 PM (CDT)

10

Just as a brief update: the Magic Trackpad’s battery indicator within OS X has now been stuck at 10% for four full days, which is where it started on Monday morning. Clearly there’s something wrong with the way the battery life is being measured or reported. I’ll update this again when there’s greater clarity on whatever’s going on.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 26, 2010 at 4:40 PM (CDT)

11

any other updates on this? it seems that maybe there should be a separate calibration for NimH vs alkaline.

it seems mine started off with rapid discharge, but it has slowed appreciably on the lower end of the percentages. i’ve had my first set of batteries (straight out of the box, they were at 85% or so…but i also had a 2.5 week vacation but today, after a net 6.5 or so weeks, i’m at 11% so close to your usage if it didn’t drain in my 2.5 weeks from the desk (it did some)

Posted by derek on September 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM (CDT)

12

The batteries were swapped proactively a week after that post and the newer set is now stuck at 11%.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 14, 2010 at 4:13 PM (CDT)

13

interesting…mine are at 10%, first set…guess i’ll keep them running until they die to see what happens.

did your fresh set start off at 100%

i’m guessing apple needs to add some sensing circuit or at least have a preference in the systems preferences that allows the user to select battery meter for NiMH vs alkaline…

Posted by Derek on September 15, 2010 at 2:15 PM (CDT)

14

My Apple batteries are down to 80% after TWO days. I think I get maybe 5-6 day charge off these batteries on the MT. I use it all day—maybe 8 hrs—but still, this is terrible performance.

Posted by Steve on September 22, 2010 at 8:35 AM (CDT)

15

really odd follow-up…as i had noted previously, the battery life on my magic trackpad plummeted rapidly to about 10% within a few weeks and then stayed pegged at that for a long time…

well, i had it down to 7% after 4-5 weeks of use and i just got a new MacPro…swapped it over from the older mac pro—first one introduced) and low and behold the new computer thinks the same trackpad has 38% left! what the?...

was there some subtle update sent out that i wasn’t aware of for this device?

not complaining though…and very curious what i’ll find when i install the next set of fresh batteries…

Posted by Derek on November 1, 2010 at 6:36 PM (CDT)

16

Mine would never indicate a 100% full even after fully charged batteries were added. It is now stuck at 40%. Obviously, this is a software problem. Hopefully, Apple is aware of it and a fix will be coming. In any event, the trackpad rocks.

Posted by Terry S Freedman on November 3, 2010 at 9:49 AM (CDT)

17

The metering is broken.  I’ve done a very careful analysis of this, and here’s the behavior I’ve noticed.  It takes only a few days - 3 to 4 - before my freshly charged batteries go from full to 15% or so.  Then it takes SIX WEEKS for them to go dead.  This happens quite consistently:  10% after Week 1 (and the warnings start), then 5 or 6 more weeks until the pad dies.

The meter is just broken, period.  Ignore it and you’ll get almost two months of continuous usage out of the pad from a freshly-charged set of batteries.

Posted by Hoppah on November 3, 2010 at 10:53 AM (CDT)

18

Just bought my trackpad tonight. Batteries came installed. Preferences say battery level at 100%. Will keep advised. I would have MUCH preferred a wired trackpad. Nothing to ever think about again. I HATE thinking about batteries, but that’s just me.

Posted by Marvin8 on November 4, 2010 at 2:35 AM (CDT)

19

OK, one week of solid use later….
Have gone from 100% to 93%

Posted by Marvin8 on November 11, 2010 at 12:43 AM (CST)

20

Ok, just finished the two week mark. 88% remaining. Cautiously optimistic. I’d say I’m a medium user. Computer is on most of the day and evening, but mostly used for surfing, browsing, and financial research.

Posted by Marvin8 on November 18, 2010 at 1:00 AM (CST)

21

Nov. 24th…..82% left. So far so good.

Posted by Marvin8 on November 25, 2010 at 1:34 AM (CST)

22

Update….
Dec.  1st     76%
Dec.  8th     63%
Dec.  15th   55%

Posted by Marvin8 on December 16, 2010 at 1:23 AM (CST)

23

Update….
Dec.  22nd   40%
Dec.  29th   18%  Whoah!

Posted by Marvin8 on December 30, 2010 at 4:02 AM (CST)

24

Jan.  5th 10%

Posted by Marvin8 on January 6, 2011 at 2:21 AM (CST)

25

I use regular rechargeables from radio shack and after a month im down to 53%.  I know from the RC world rechargeable batteries need to be Broke in. It takes 4 or 5 heavy cycles for them to run there best. Run them in a flash light a few times im sure they will last much longer.

Posted by Timmy on February 2, 2011 at 7:13 PM (CST)

26

My iMac is 5 weeks old.

Magic Trackpad battery down to 5% while Apple Wireless Keyboard battery is still at 90%+.

There’s obviously something wrong with the Magic Trackpad’s consumption.

Posted by Paul Michael on June 20, 2011 at 8:51 PM (CDT)

27

I have had an iMac 27 with trackpad for less than a week.
Today the trackpad was not recognized by the iMac, no attempt to sync would recognize the device.
After rebooting, the device was re-acquired.
Bluetooth syncing may be flaky, or the device(s) may be flaky.
Either way a wired trackpad would present be MUCH better.

The wireless apple trackpad sucks big time.

Posted by fred friedrick on August 17, 2011 at 10:12 AM (CDT)

28

I have not had a single problem with my trackpad and my 27” iMac, I got the computer October 4th, I use it most of the day and i just got a warning that my battery was low (says 14%). Today is Nov. 21st. I think your problem is with rechargeable batteries. We use them at the Lodge facility that I host at and no brand of them seem to last too long in any device, be it computer mice or fire alarms.

Aaron

Posted by Aaron Gibson on November 21, 2011 at 1:28 PM (CST)

29

I bought my magic trackpad yesterday, and already switched 2 pairs of alkaline 1.5 v batteries. Is it hardware problem with trackpad and should apple replace it? After reenabling trackpad it says 13% battery, it’s enough for about 5 minutes and when it power off again.

Posted by Maxim Kapranov on December 23, 2011 at 10:50 AM (CST)

30

I have had the trackpad for a little over a year now and the battery life is exceptional compared to most bluetooth mice. I have model number A1339 (not sure if this matters). I’m a programmer and use my trackpad 8-9 hours a day and I can go around 2-3 months without ever changing the batteries. I use Energizer MAX non-rechargeable batteries. It’s paired with a 2011 Mac Book Air 11”. I think its probably a hardware issue or a an issue in OSX. It’s not communicating to the device to shut it down. Also, i’m on OSX Lion.

Posted by glenbot on August 13, 2012 at 9:43 AM (CDT)

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