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New speedy swipe gesture may be on the way to iOS

Can't get through those pictures on your iPhone fast enough and tired of swiping repeatedly? There may be a solution for that on the way, as detailed in a new patent application.

New gesture?
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Apple's iOS 5 added a handful of multi-finger gestures for iPad users, and a new patent filing suggests more could be on the way to it and other iOS devices as part of a future software update.

A newly published patent application from Apple, pulled up by PatentlyApple today, details just such an addition. The application cited the difficulties in seeing what's on screen with small-screened devices when moving through content using swiping finger gestures. Called "systems and methods for displaying visual information on a device," it proposes a solution in the form of two possible new gesture types.

The suggested answer is "hold then swipe" and "swipe then hold," two gestures designed to move through content without the need to repeatedly use the gesture again and again. Within the patent application, those types of content are described as "photos, maps, documents, and/or videos."

An example on what looks to be Apple's iPod nano.
An example on what looks to be Apple's iPod nano. USPTO

What makes the idea particularly interesting is the awareness of finger and device orientation to control the speed of this scrolling between types of information. For instance, the patent mentions that one use of the gesture could also detect how you're holding your device, making use of the accelerometer to figure out how fast it should move. Alternately, it can keep an eye on how far you've moved your finger once you're holding down, letting you adjust the speed by where your finger is. In the application this is detailed on devices like the iPhone and Apple's iPod nano.

Apple originally filed for the patent on May 7, 2010, and lists Michael Ignazio Ingrassia Jr. and Benjamin Andrew Rottler as the inventors.

On the gesture front, the company made waves late last month when it was granted a patent covering slide to unlock. That's a similar horizontal movement Apple began using with the first iPhone, and later transferred to the iPod Touch and iPad as a way to unlock it for use.

Gestures have become an increasingly important part of Apple's products since the introduction of the iPhone. That device has gone on to expand beyond the one- and two-finger gestures, allowing the use of three fingers to do things like adjust the zoom level on its later models. That's transferred over to Apple's Mac OS X as well, with the company's latest version adding a number of new ways to control computing functions with gestures on its trackpads.

As with any patent application, it's worth taking its contents with a grain of salt, as there is no guarantee the products or features detailed within will ever make it into a shipping product.