Hidden Multitasking Gestures Uncovered in iOS 4.3

Posted on 15 March 2011, Last updated on 15 March 2011 by

iosFor a platform that regularly takes flak for not being able to multitask, it looks like iOS is way ahead of the game when it comes to quick switching between apps.

As of iOS 4.3, four and five finger gestures are being added to the software. Using them, you can easily slide back and forth between running apps, pull up the quick-switch menu, and jump back to the home screen.

Oddly they are currently locked for developer use only, but that hasn’t stopped non-developers from enabling them.

Our friends over at GottaBeMobile.com have a guide that shows you how to unlock the gestures on any iPad (original, or the new one) running iOS 4.3. Unfortunately you’ll need a Mac, and it’ll run you $5.99, but it almost looks worth it; check out the video of the gorgeously animated gestures in action:

The gestures are certainly more quick and natural than having to double tap the home button, then tap and on-screen element to switch apps. And while they may be natural in terms of execution, they lack initial intuitiveness. Until they are taught the first time, it isn’t straight forward to try four or five finger gestures.

There’s also the question of  whether or not implementing these gestures will limit developers. In multiplayer games like Harbor Master, you can have multiple people docking ships at once. In MultiPong, four player mode requires that each player have a finger on the screen at once. It’s possible that iOS might interpret the movement of four individuals’ fingers as a single four-finger gesture, and that would really wreak havoc on the game experience if you’re defending your goal with a paddle then suddenly switching to another app!

If I had to guess, I’d say that this is why Apple hasn’t yet enabled the gesture for all. They probably need to give developers time to specifically disable such gestures in apps that would be ruined in some way if an improper four or five-finger gesture was detected.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. Chuck Daly says:

    Great find. If I used an iPad, it would be money well spent. I just don’t get how this puts Apple ahead of the game. Its definitely a prettier way of multitasking compared with other OSs but not necessarily any better. Android and Blackberry offer multitasking with the same amount of button pushes.

  2. Jan says:

    I do not like this at all! iOS started as a refreshing take on operating systems, removing all complexity and making computing understandable to everyone. If a load of gestures and complex behaviours are added then sure Apple will please the geeks, but this will be very hard to explain to people of old age and young children, and complexity will be back once again. I don’t want to learn key combinations on mac and windows, and neither do I want to learn special finger moves for iOS devices.

    And what will happen if you play a chord with 4 fingers in garageband? Reserving gestures with 4+ fingers for the OS seems far too restrictive for apps. And if some apps are allowed to claim rights to listen to 4+ fingers for themselves, overriding the OS gestures, then chaos will be complete, your gestures will sometimes work and sometimes they won’t, depending on the apps you’ve loaded.

    Luckely, for now, these “geek gestures” haven’t been fully enabled yet. I really hope Apple will realize that this is a mistake. Perhaps they should play the copycat a little bit and look at how WebOS does multitask switching.

  3. Se7en2 says:

    @Jan If you don’t like them or don’t want to learn them, don’t turn them on. They’re optional, via the settings.

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