Backstage: Apple’s Bluetooth future begins with mice

Based on Apple’s public patent filings and job listings, that little verbal slip-up from Motorola’s car accessories division a couple of weeks ago, and the recent surprise introduction of Bluetooth 2.0+EDR components into the latest PowerBook laptop computers, we get the distinct impression that Bluetooth wireless technologies are about to make an even bigger splash in the iPod world than before. If you haven’t seen our reviews of Bluetake’s i-Phono wireless headphone system and TEN Technology’s naviPlay, they’re worth a few moments of your time: while both systems had their appeal, Apple’s integration of Bluetooth 2.0 into iPods or accessories would be a major step forward for audio quality and convenience, amongst other factors.

In addition to Apple’s own Bluetooth wireless keyboards and mice, a number of third-party companies have been developing Mac-friendly Bluetooth add-ons, and as Bluetooth fans, we’ve been playing with two of them for a while: MacMice’s The Mouse BT ($69.99), and Macally’s BTMicro ($44.99). Both have performed well as wireless accessories, interfacing flawlessly with our Bluetooth-equipped PowerBook, but as mice go, they feel about as different from one another as they get. The Mouse BT is a total style winner, with clear and metallic (or white) plastics that perfectly match Apple’s current computers, while the BTMicro is considerably cheaper, smaller, and surprisingly more precise in the specifics.

Both mice offer the two-button-and-a-scroll-wheel design that PC users accept as standard and many Mac users have come to prefer, but the buttons and wheel are a bit more responsive on the BTMicro: the wheel clicks in increments rather than scrolling smoothly, and the buttons click quicker. There are also rubberized grips on its sides for easy movement. Macally also includes AAA rechargeable batteries, a charging dock and power adapter; The Mouse BT doesn’t, and uses standard AA alkalines.

Despite the BTMicro’s numerous functional design benefits and pricing, we continue to be drawn to The Mouse BT on looks. It’s almost exactly the way we wanted Apple’s own Bluetooth mouse to look and work, albeit without the recharging dock that we think is key for wireless mouse accessories. That said, the BTMicro’s an easier sell – especially for travelers and those needing precision in their clicks and wheel scrolling.

Click on Read more below to see more shots of these Bluetooth accessories, and get a sense of what the future has in store.

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