Some game developers are warning players not to update to iOS 16 due to a bug with the system three-finger gestures, affecting gameplay. The issue is that the triple-tap system gesture to reveal the undo/cut/copy/paste menu, and the three-finger swipe gestures to undo and redo, are a bit overzealous in iOS 16, activating in contexts where they shouldn’t.
Most normal apps will work fine, as they only rely on single finger touch interactions. But games and apps that require the user to perform multi-finger gestures — such as rhythm games or music-making virtual instrument apps — are impacted as the system gestures are inadvertently firing, stealing touches or generally interfering with the intended app experiences.
If this sounds familiar, a very similar issue cropped up at the launch of iOS 13, when the triple-finger menu was first added. Apple quickly changed it so the three-finger gestures would not activate in situations where the user was unlikely to want those actions, such as in a full-screen game or when a textfield was not focused.
These mitigations appear to have been lost in iOS 16. You can easily compare iOS 15 and bugged iOS 16 behaviour yourself. The issue presents itself in system apps too, it just doesn’t usually impede what you are doing, so it can be ignored.
For instance, open the Camera app and do a three-finger pinch on the viewfinder to zoom in and out. On iOS 16, you will likely trigger the system menu to show or undo/redo pasteboard action alerts. On iOS 15, no system menu would appear as the three-finger gestures would not activate at all. The same behavior can be replicated in Safari, Settings, and most other Apple apps.
It happens sometimes — but not always — in GarageBand when playing chords on the virtual keyboard. Almost all third-party full-screen games we tested demonstrate the bug. It just depends on whether the gameplay necessitates three-finger interactions, as to whether it is actually problematic for that game. This explains why most of the developers telling users to hold off on updating are publishers of rhythm games; these inherently require fast sequences of taps to be used and any delay or hitch in touch responsiveness means the player could fail the level.
Presumably, the over-eagerness of the gesture detection can be fixed by applying the same strategies as were in effect in iOS 15, which now seem to have accidentally regressed. For what it’s worth, Apple has not officially acknowledged the problem yet, and the issue is reproducible on iOS 16 and iOS 16.1
Author: Benjamin Mayo