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There’s a Reason Apple Isn’t Ready to Enable Multi-Touch Gestures in iOS 4.3.x

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I’m sure you’ve heard that you can enable a few multi-touch gestures on your iPad (either the original or the iPad 2. We blogged about it here where you can find the instructions to turn them on. Essentially you download Xcode 4 (now up to 4.1) from the Mac App Store for $4.99. Hook up the iPad and tell Xcode that you’re using the device for development and the switch to turn on those multi-touch gestures appears in your iPad’s settings.

All well and good and it was a hot topic a week or so ago. Most who tried it really seemed quite smitten with being able to pinch the screen to get back to the home page or swipe left and right between Apps, or swipe up to bring up the bar at the bottom that shows you what Apps are running or have been recently run. Many who tried it said Apple needed to turn this on now they were so smitten.

Well, there’s a reason Apple hasn’t done so. I noticed this yesterday while I was taking notes during the preview performances of our new show, Groucho: A Life in Review. I downloaded Xcode 4.1 overnight (it’s a hefty download and takes some time even on a fast WiFi connection) and installed it and enabled the gestures. For note taking during the first preview, I was using a dreaded stylus and the Penultimate App. With the multi-touch gestures enabled there was all sorts of crazy screen action going on, making it impossible to use the stylus. I did some doodling with my finger and the same occurred.  Switching off the multi-touch gestures brought life back to normal.

Later, I tried this with a few other touch heavy Apps and found out the same kind of erratic behavior can be duplicated in some cases. I tried Inking in some other Inking Apps and also discovered similar behavior there as well. So, essentially what this means is that App developers are going to have to address this if Apple ever does decide to turn it on for all comers. Or Apple is going to have to at least provide guidance in the development tools. That may already be going on and this may not be news to those who’ve given these multi-touch gestures a try, but I thought I’d point it out.

Don’t think for a moment that Digital Inking Apps on the iPad are going to take any sort of priority here when it comes to these decisions. I may be wrong on that, but I’m guessing games and game developers will be heard before the developers of Digital Inking Apps. I would also speculate that this is one of the reasons Steve Jobs hates the stylus so much.

The multi-touch gestures are indeed cool, but with the exception of swiping between Apps you really don’t gain any new practical functionality that you can’t have from using the home button. I can certainly live without the new multi-touch gestures, especially since I need to do some Digital Inking on the iPad.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    03/28/2011 at 1:08 am

    I think a stylus is a great boon on a tablet and ultimately it is a choice I want.
    Would I buy a tablet without it?
    Possibly.
    But given the choice would I chose to have it?
    Abso-freakin-lutely.

    However, I would be quite happy to have to flip a switch to enable a mode for it’s use.
    A quick one on the pop-up keyboard for written text entry on the fly.
    Then a quick one in a pop-up settings pane to use it in a more dedicated fashion.
    That would be absolutely fine with me.
    I think I would actually prefer it to some crazy advanced algorithms trying to guess what it is I want at any moment.
    Just let me tell you what I want.
    That is my stance.

  2. Josh

    03/28/2011 at 8:10 pm

    Well I just got a stylus and fortunately I had read this post and remembered it when I experienced the same issue. However I’ll be leaving multitask gestures on. Do I think they are more important than inking? F no. But inking is uch a rig on the iPad anyway that it’s unusable. A shame bc using a stylus as a pointer on the iPad is great. Better than Windows even cause there’s no hover BS or calibration. But inking I have taken or granted and it’s abysmal on iOS. Steve Jobs should be forced to use a pen for the next 6 months.

  3. Gqsmooth1981

    05/30/2011 at 4:34 pm

    I activated Multi touch gestures and I don’t have any problems with my iPad. I used an older version of Xcode which was free. I don’t think I would call myself smitten with MTG but it is nice to have and use. As long as it doesn’t pose to be a problem then I’m happy for what it is.

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