I’ve experienced (and deeply investigated) the same exact trackpad issues on my 2012 retina MacBook Pro that people are now reporting in 2016, and Im going to share my experience with y’all.
Here’s how you replicate this issue on ANY retina Mac since 2012:
- Put the cursor on any side of the screen
- Remember where the cursor is on the screen
- Don’t touch your Mac for at least 5 seconds
- With any number of fingers, and from any side of the trackpad, try to move the cursor to the opposite side of the screen
- You will notice a split-second where the cursor jumps
- The trackpad is listening because the cursor does quickly catch-up
TL;DR – it’s working as it’s designed to work. Some Apple employees will go to great lengths to listen and help; others will say they do not see what you’re seeing & get annoyed with you quickly.
I had these same /exact/ trackpad issues the day I unboxed my maxed out 15″ retina MacBook Pro. Before that, I had a 13″ Air and a Mac Mini which did not exhibit any trackpad delay. I even paired the Magic Trackpad from my Mini to my Pro to rule-out the onboard hardware, and the trackpad issue was persistent across both.
That rMBP had a bevy of other issues. Aside from trackpad delay from day 0, a stick of RAM died, the display was the LG that had severe image retention, the hard drive failed, and eventually a GPU, all of which led to me paying $350 for Apple depot in 2015, and Apple eventually swapping out the top half (screen) and bottom half (main board, internals, including glass trackpad & keyboard.)
I had made so many repair trips, I started fiddling with demo units, and was able to narrow down which exact PCs had this issue. I also travel frequently for work, so I started going into every Apple Store in every city I was in, to check their machines for this problem, and all retina laptops have it – not the Air, Mini, or Pro (even when connected to 4K displays.) Maybe not the iMac, but I don’t remember because I was never interested in purchasing one.
I ended up buying an 11″ Air as my daily machine to replace my lemon of a 15″ rMBP, and it was a flawless workhorse. [I now use a 12″ MacBook, and it had a rough start to life, but is now also very great (even with the cursor delay.)]
Anyways, after back-to-back trips to Apple depot for top & bottom replacements, my old laptop was now comprised of only new-to-me hardware & still exhibited the exact same trackpad delay even on the El Capitan installation screen (I checked before I left the store.)
I chucked at the (very nice) Apple employee, and told him they could keep the stupid thing – I didn’t want it anymore & I already had an Air to use. He gave me the number to Apple corporate, and I gave up – I never called, because I was the only person annoyed by this, and it issue was much bigger than me.
So… rather than fix the issue, Apple introduces a mouse-jiggle animation to find a lost cursor instead.
The problem is palm rejection. It was originally an option in System Preferences, but Apple decided you’d never want this off, so they force-activited it & removed it for us. Here’s how it works:
- You move the cursor to do something, and stop for a few seconds
- Apple averages the time between input transitions to be about 5 seconds (if you haven’t moved the mouse again, it’s unlikely you’re going to soon.)
- In software, macOS feathers the edges of the trackpad that are listening for input, to cancel out the tiny palm nudges you are bound to make on a laptop
- If you start from the center and move outwards, the trackpad works perfectly
- If you start from the edge and move inwards, the trackpad appears broken and glitchy
Bigger trackpads and external displays exacerbate the was a User perceives this glitchiness
- There is no cure for everyone for this problem, because everyone uses the trackpad differently, and everyone perceives the delay differently
- All modern retina Mac devices have this issue, but many people never notice it. Even when you show it to them, they are able to tolerate it & work around it.
- It’s plausible there’s an old bug in the accidental palm rejection software, since this is retina only. Maybe the calculation between trackpad-size to display DPI is off, causing the larger 15″ tbMBP to make this more obvious?
- If there’s a terminal command to turn off palm rejection entirely (or to tune its sensitivity) I never bothered with it. Maybe the old setting is still in there somewhere and users can disable it.
- Why it isn’t disabled when using a Bluetooth Magic Trackpad seems like a bug to me, but I never filed a report to Apple aside from the numerous in-store visits and what-not.
Hopefully Apple is able to debug this further for an improved UX. As display technology improves and more people move towards externals for production, the delay becomes more noticeable to more professionals with high expectations on expensive hardware.
If anyone has questions, I’ll try to reply when I see them. If anyone from Apple wants to chime in, that’d be pretty neat too. ❤️