iOS 9.3 Betas Remove the Ability to Navigate iPad UI With Apple Pencil

Serenity Caldwell, at iMore:

Unfortunately, whether by bug or intentional design, the Pencil’s navigational prowess appears to have vanished in the iOS 9.3 public betas. With 9.3, you can no longer scroll or manipulate text; the only places the Pencil works are on canvas or when pressing digital buttons.

Normally, I don’t write about beta bugs and features, because it’s a beta: There are always bugs, and features change. But this functionality is important enough that I wanted to talk about it before Apple submits its final 9.3 release. It could be a bug, yes: But several betas in, we’ve seen fixes for Smart Connector keyboards and new features, and the Pencil remains crippled. Which makes me think, more and more, that this is a conscious decision on the part of Apple’s engineering team. (I did reach out to the company about the issue, and will update if and when I receive a response.)

Myke Hurley and CGP Grey talk about this on the latest episode of their podcast, Cortex. Grey says:

Sources in the know confirm that removing the functionality of the Apple Pencil is a decision inside of Apple. It is not a bug they have overlooked for three betas. It is a decision.

My only guess as to why Apple would change this is that they want to enable you to scroll/pan (with your finger) while drawing/marking-up with the Pencil. If so, the mistake wasn’t making this change in iOS 9.3 — the mistake was allowing the Pencil to control the UI in the first place.

I hate to say it, but now that iPad Pro users have gotten used to using the Pencil to navigate the UI, maybe it should be a setting? Maybe under Accessibility? Grey, for example, says using the Pencil to navigate the UI helps him avoid RSI pain.

Update, two hours later: Apple has told The Verge that UI navigation via Pencil will return in the next iOS 9.3 beta.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016