True motion control in an iPhone is still pretty far off

The AppMesh iPhone app.

People with access to the developer beta version of iOS 7 have discovered a nifty feature: the ability to control an iOS device with a head nod.

9to5Mac was alerted to it first, and it certainly seems useful: head movements can replace tapping the screen to select, act as a substitute home button, launch Siri, control volume, open the App Switcher drawer and access Notifications. And that’s about it.

It’s not exactly the kind of motion control features that other consumer products are deploying. It’s not even close to what Microsoft is doing with Kinect, or what Leap Motion has planned, or even the “eye-tracking” feature of Samsung’s Galaxy S 4.

And it doesn’t sound like something Apple would highlight — it didn’t call it out at WWDC, for example — or even recommend for normal usage. And you can tell why based on 9to5Mac’s assessment of the experience:

We’ve tested this ourselves and found it to be quite accurate, but it’s quite tedious to control your device this way since it cycles through all of the options on the screen and you move your head when it is bordering around the option you want.

Head movement control in iOS 7 is under the Accessibility menu, so it’s not designed to be a principle mode of interaction for everyone. But its inclusion also does not yet look like a solid sign that Apple is working on true motion control either. If Apple does want to incorporate it into its mobile products, it’ll have to be just as good or better an experience than touching, tapping and swiping on a display.

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