Earlier today, Apple released iOS 5.0.1. Among other things, this update added multitasking gestures to the iPad 1. According to information uncovered by Patently Apple, these may not be the last gestures we’ll need to learn.

According to the site, a patent application published today by the the US Patent & Trademark Office points out two new ways to navigate iOS devices. They are called, aptly, “Swipe Then Hold” and “Hold then Swipe,” so you can probably picture how they’ll function.

But what problems are they intended to solve? Simply put, they get around the issue of navigating around a large amount of visual information on small screens. Panning, pinching and spreading maps or photos can move you through information precisely, but not necessarily quickly. These gestures would be less precise, but they would allow users to zoom, scroll or scan quickly.

For example, if you were looking at a map and wanted to zoom in quickly, you might be able to swipe your finger in the general direction you wanted to zoom, then hold your finger on the screen. The map would then zoom along the direction vector of your swipe, and you could adjust your finger or tilt your device to alter its course.

“Hold then Swipe” would work similarly, but would let the user remove their finger from the display after the gesture is completed and watch as information scrolls by. An example of this presented by Patently Apple examines the use of this gesture in a photo app. The user could select a face and then swipe to scroll through other photos of that person.

These both sound like useful gestures, especially for smaller devices. But as with any patent application, there is no guarantee we’ll see these implemented in a future iOS update. If we do, it will likely only happen after Apple ensures that the iPhone is capable of distinguishing these gestures from those that currently exist without confusion.

Source: Patently Apple