Apple plans to limit accelerometer and gyroscope access in Safari for iOS

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iOS 12.2 might make Safari more complicated.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple plans to limit Safari’s access to the accelerometer and gyroscope inside your iOS device in an upcoming software update.

iOS 12.2 will prevent websites from having access to motion data by default, rendering certain content unusable — even on Apple’s own website. Users will be able to change this inside Safari’s settings, however.

When you visit a website that relies on motion data inside Safari today, it will work just fine. You’ll be able to interact with content by moving your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Visit the iPhone experience site, for example, and you’ll be able to swivel the iPhone XS Max that appears on screen simply by tilting your device.

That will change when Apple rolls out iOS 12.2.

iOS 12.2 pulls motion data access for Safari

In the new update, which Apple is currently beta testing, the motion data some websites rely on is blocked. A new setting for Motion & Orientation Access inside Safari’s settings menu (Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security) can be toggled to allow access again, but it is disabled by default.

It’s not clear why Apple made this change, but MacRumors suggests that it could be in response to a Wired report published last year, which revealed that thousands of websites have unrestricted access to motion, orientation, proximity, and light sensor data on mobile devices.

In the interests of privacy, Apple may have decided to prevent that. The only problem is that it’s going to render some web-based content unusable, and Apple doesn’t make it clear to the user what’s changed — at least not yet.

iOS 12.2 could create confusion

That could change in a future iOS 12.2 release, of course. Apple could prompt users for motion data access when a website requests it — just like when an app asks for access to your photos or location. In its current implementation, the new setting will create confusion.