Apple’s Magic Mouse and the Disconnect Problem

Apple's Magic Mouse
Magic Mouse. Photo by Paul Ingram

Apple’s Mac products are pretty outstanding. They’re also arguably overpriced in many respects. However millions of people worldwide buy their products – including me. I have an iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad Air and iPhone 5S. My experience with their support and Genius Bar in the past has always been outstanding (and I believe that your higher prices not only pay for the fantastic build quality but also the support you receive).

However, like any company they’re not perfect and while I have few complaints about their products, one particular bug bear I have is with their Magic Mouse. It’s a fantastic concept, taking the responsiveness of the capacitor touch screens of their iPhone product and incorporating it into a device that has been used for years to control an arrow on a screen.

The problem
I got my Magic Mouse in 2012 – it was a product that had already been out 3 years so should have been fairly polished. The problem is that it’s not – the device is plagued by constant disconnections and it’s sadly not an isolated issue as mentioned here, here and here. Given that the earliest posts are from 2009, it makes you wonder why Apple haven’t addressed such a simple issue.

Possible fixes
There are only two real fixes. Either it’s a software fault within the mouse, or it’s a design flaw which causes the radio hardware to drop its transmission and therefore drop the connection. Or something’s shorting. Or the mouse is losing power. Somehow.

My fix
I’m not endorsing this as an “official” bodge fix. I’m not saying this will work for everyone. But it’s worked for me and apparently several other people as well.

The actual problem appears to be the design of the battery compartment. The fault can be replicated at will, either by tipping the mouse on its end and tapping it gently on the desk, or gently dropping it on the desk. Or knocking it against something with little force. A little investigation revealed that the slightest jolt of the mouse and the batteries move relatively easily.

It’s clear that the batteries are losing contact with the metal contacts in the mouse, causing a brief power interruption which in turn causes the loss of radio transmission and ultimately disconnection of the mouse. I fixed this in two ways – packing out the connection between the negative terminal of the batteries with small squares of aluminium foil*, making it more difficult for the batteries to move about. The second way was to pack the bottom of the compartment (between the batteries and the cover) with a small square of paper which would reduce any movement in that direction. Many years ago most battery-powered items had a piece of sponge glued to the compartment cover to act in the same way.

* Take care to ensure you don’t cause the potential for short circuit by allowing the aluminium squares to touch each other.

The ideal fix
Apple actually addresses the issue and designs the battery compartment to stop battery movement and disconnections. Many other companies manage it, so surely it’s safe to say that one of the largest companies in the world, known for its focus on design innovation, should really be able to make this simple issue go away?

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