“Update your apps to use new features and test your apps against API changes.”
This classic line displayed on every single release note from Apple’s developer website may be more prominent than ever in terms of developing interactive mobile websites and rich-media advertisements.
The latest iOS update dropped onto iPhone users is 12.2, which brings in an array of features, some of them much anticipated, such as Dark Mode for the Web. Other features are not being met with high regard, such as the default disabling of
DeviceOrientationEvent in iOS Safari. Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away as they say.
This new feature of disabling device motion and orientation data comes with Safari 12.2, which is included in the iOS 12.2 and macOS 10.14.4 update. Simply put, once you update your iPhone, a new settings feature for Safari is generated and defaulted to off. If you navigate to
Settings / Safari / and scroll down to Privacy & Security you will notice the inaugural “Motion & Orientation Access” setting set to off. This will essentially block all accelerometer (motion) and gyroscope (orientation) sensor data from the device to the web browser.
While this immediate denial of the motion and orientation sensors provides creatives in the mobile space with a few more hurdles to overcome, there has been speculation on Mac Rumors that in subsequent iOS releases, the setting will be turned on by default, yet require a permission prompt for users to allow websites to access their device orientation and motion data. Similar to the already in effect permission prompt for websites to access your camera and microphone data. This touch point allows users to remain in control with what data websites have access to, while allowing the option to opt into enhanced web experiences. Rather than websites accessing data from our devices without our knowledge or consent. Having the orientation and motion data toggled off by default have others worried that this is abruptly closing doors on AR & VR apps, interactive advertisements, and games.
While an initial reaction to this update may view the lack of sensor data access as negative, fortunately there remains alternatives to develop interactive and engaging scenarios without the need of orientation or motion data. Of course, this setback affects many units that currently leverage motion and device orientation data such as tilting your device to navigate a panoramic image, and shaking your device to trigger an action. Fortunately, being part of the creative team means working towards solutions in, well, creative ways. Our first step is acknowledging that this change in access to device sensor data is simply a change in approach to developing creative units. For example, rather than relying solely on device orientation to navigate a 360° video, we can incorporate functionality using natural touch gestures. This inherently opens up a new method of interaction, where users can not only change their viewing angle, but also zoom in and out, something that was not possible with device orientation data alone.
This browser update remains consistent with the trend of providing users with transparency and control in navigating a safer web environment. Back in July of 2018 Google Chrome released version 68, which introduced an explicit “Not Secure” warning in the address bar. It took Apple some time to catch up, but with this new iOS release, Safari now displays a similar warning to inform users whether they are navigating an insecure website.
It is important that the web is progressing towards more secure and transparent features for users. Many websites were given an inch, but took a mile of our device data. According to Wired, a research study surveyed 100,000 websites and found that over 3,600 used scripts that tapped into mobile device sensors, without users knowledge or consent. Many of which collected device data that was not directly relevant to the purpose of the website. While the web itself has been evolving for quite some time now, the mobile web is opening an entirely new world of experiences, many made possible through an extensive suite of device sensors, from camera and microphone, to device motion and orientation.
For now, all orientation and motion-driven interactions should be translated to alternative methods, such as touch events.
Written by: Samuel Legros, Creative Front-End Developer at Curate Mobile