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

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.