How to use the new iPad gestures in iOS 12

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Is this Apple's secret iOS gesture-making machine?
Is this Apple's secret iOS gesture-making machine?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

iOS 12 is clearly preparing the iPad for a future where Face ID replaces the Home button. Apple revamped the tablet’s gestures for the first version of the iOS 12 beta, bringing us an easy way to return to the Home screen and an iPhone X-style gesture to access the Control Center.

If you’re a long-time iPad users, these changes will seem a little jarring at first. You’ll soon get used them, though, and even learn to love them. The new Control Center gesture, in fact, is a lot better than the old one.

Which gestures have changed on iPad in iOS 12?

In iOS 11, when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you first reveal the Dock (unless it is already visible), then keep on swiping up to access the Control Center. If you’re hoping that this dual-purpose gesture has been simplified in iOS 12, you’re out of luck. It has just been repurposed.

The app-switcher gesture has kind of stayed the same, but currently, it’s harder to use.

Same iOS gestures, different outcome

In iOS 12, the short swipe up still pulls up the Dock. However, when you keep swiping up, you now get returned to the Home screen. This seems to be Apple’s plan for any future Face ID iPads that might lack a Home button.

The Control Center in iOS 12 gets a new home, and a new gesture.
The Control Center in iOS 12 gets a new home, and a new gesture.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Control Center is now accessed the same way as on the iPhone X: You must swipe down from the top right corner of the screen. Do that, and the Control Center fades in, appearing in that same corner. To me, this is a much better gesture. It’s shorter, for one, but it also leaves your finger over the Control Center’s controls, which is where you want them to be.

Also, the Control Center is now active during a swipe. That is, you can swipe it into view, keeping that finger “active,” and use another finger to quickly change the screen brightness (or tweak other things). Then you can swipe the Control Center back out of view. This is a very fast way to access controls. This also worked in some of the early betas of iOS 11, so it may disappear before final release.

ios 12 ipad gestures

The app switcher gesture in iOS 12

Where does this leave the iOS 12 app switcher? In iOS 11, Control Center and the app switcher shared the same screen. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen would bring up a sheet shared by both the Control Center, and thumbnails of recently used apps.

Now, the app switcher is accessed by stopping short of the new Home screen swipe. You go past the Dock-drag, but you don’t go as far as revealing the Home screen. You can see it in the GIF above. What the GIF doesn’t tell you is that it takes a bit of practice to get the gesture just right. I still find myself at the Home screen when I meant to invoke the app switcher.

The iPad inherits another of those much-copied new iPhone X gestures as well. You can swipe up as if you’re going to enter the full app switcher, but as soon as the current app starts to shrink onscreen, you can quickly swipe left or right to switch to the previous or next app. This is actually a fantastic gesture on the iPad.

If you are used to the four-or-five-finger swipe to move between apps, you’ll love this one. It’s exactly the same, only easier. It also works from the Home screen.

The old five-finger shuffle gets new tricks

Speaking of the five-finger gestures, these still work in iOS 12. You can use a four-or-five-finger swipe to switch apps, as mentioned above. This gesture also now works from the Home screen in iOS, letting you access your last-used app with a swipe. In iOS 11, using this gesture on the Home screen would just switch Home screen pages, or take you to the Today view — the same as using one finger. In iOS 12, it becomes a lot more useful.

The old four-or-five-fingered pinch also works to return you to the Home screen from an app, but you can now also use the same gesture to get to the app switcher. You do it like this:

First, pinch in on an app screen, but instead of pinching all the way to the Home screen, move your fingers left or right a little, and you’ll see the app switcher come into view.

That’s it — so far — for iOS 12’s new iPad gestures. I’ll update this post with anything new, and after the official iOS 12 launch.