Intermittent failure of VoiceOver double-tap and triple-tap gestures

Category
Miscellaneous
Severity
Serious

Description

Some users may encounter an intermittent issue that affects the operation of the VoiceOver double-tap gesture. When attempting to double-tap an actionable interface element, the resulting behaviour experienced is as if the user touched with 1 finger the area of the screen where they performed the gesture, rather than performed a double tap on the element that VoiceOver focus was on.

For instance, with VoiceOver focus on a button within Safari's toolbar, performing a double tap might result in VoiceOver speaking the text content of the webpage that was under your finger at the time you performed the gesture, instead of activating the intended button in the toolbar.

When this behaviour occurs, VoiceOver focus typically moves to the interface element that was spoken. It's necessary to relocate focus back to the intended element before attempting the double-tap again. While this movement of focus may sound similar to the longstanding issue for many users involving VoiceOver focus, the issue described here is new and noticeably different when experienced.

This issue is not limited to specific apps; it occurs across native and third-party applications. It impacts various types of actionable interface elements, including activating items on the VoiceOver rotor's action menu.

In some cases, the double tap might function correctly on the second attempt, while in others, it might require five or more tries before registering accurately.

The underlying issue can also cause problems with the operation of the 1 finger triple-tap gesture and the 1 finger double-tap and hold.

It is important to note that this behaviour is not consistent—it doesn't happen every time. Based on our testing, there is no discernible pattern to predict when it will occur or how frequently. Nevertheless, drawing from our experience, it's reasonable to assume that individuals encountering this problem should not anticipate encountering it with high frequency.

While serious, this issue does not appear to be widespread Based on our tracking of user experiences during the beta cycle. It has been encountered by five members of our Editorial Team. Additionally, A few other users across the wider community have reported experiencing this behaviour, including Jonathon Mosen and a listener to his Living Blindfully podcast. Beyond these known cases, there has been no indication that a significant portion of users are affected. Overall, current evidence suggests this is an intermittent issue impacting a small subset of users rather than something everyone should expect to encounter.

Adjusting the Double-Tap Timeout in Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver has been suggested as a partial workaround for the issue. However, based on limited testing, changing this setting does not appear to resolve the underlying problem. While you may want to experiment with adjusting the Timeout interval, keep in mind that this could disrupt your natural double-tap muscle memory which is accustomed to the default timing. Any benefits in reliability would need to outweigh the effort required to learn the new timing. At this point, the setting change seems unlikely to provide a sufficient or permanent fix.

We chose to rate this issue as serious because of the importance of the double-tap gesture and its frequency of use. Moreover, our assessment has taken into account the potential impact of this behaviour on individuals who are new to or less familiar with iOS. These users might reasonably assume that the behaviour is due to them not correctly performing the double tap gesture, possibly leading them to conclude that using an iPhone is more difficult than it actually is.

Steps to reproduce

Unfortunately, we have not found a way to reproduce this issue consistently. However, we can provide some general observations and scenarios where it has occurred:

  1. Open Safari or any other app with actionable UI elements.
  2. Navigate to a button or interactive element in the app's interface.
  3. Ensure VoiceOver focus is correctly placed on the intended UI element.
  4. Attempt the double-tap gesture to activate the focused UI element.
  5. Observe that, on occasion, the outcome is not as expected, and VoiceOver may read out content from the area under the finger instead.

Note that this behaviour is occasional. When you do experience it you will definitely know, but it's likely to take time and patience to reproduce.

Expected Behaviour:

The double-tap gesture with VoiceOver should consistently interact with the intended UI element that has received focus, providing accurate feedback and performing the correct action.

Actual Behavior:

In some instances, the double-tap gesture misfires and behaves as if you have touched on the area under the finger, rather than double tapped the intended UI element. This results in incorrect feedback from VoiceOver and undesired actions within the app.

Note that this issue is not exclusive to Safari; it was only used as an example. We have encountered it in several other applications and contexts.

Bug First Encountered

iOS/iPadOS 17.0

Device(s) bug has been encountered on

iPhone

How often the bug occurs

Sometimes

Workaround

Adjusting the Double-Tap Timeout in Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver from the default of 0.25s to 0.5s eliminates this issue for some.. you may want to experiment with adjusting the Timeout interval to determine if there is a speed that eliminates the issue for you without disrupting your natural double-tap muscle memory which is accustomed to the default timing.

Apple feedback #

FB12777207

Status

Active

Options

Comments

By David Goldfield on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 05:10

I have done a lot of experimentation with this bug and would like to offer the following.
First, I've noticed this behavior on my iPhone 14 Pro Max as well as on an iPhone 12 that I use for testing. What it seems like is that the double-tap timeout setting has been decreased or altered in some way. While it seems to be defaulting to 0.4 it behaves as though it's actually a bit faster. If you're a user who is encountering this bug one way to work around it is to perform the two taps of the double tap gesture quicker than you normally would. If I'm right I'll bet that those who claim to hardly notice this bug probably perform the double tap gesture very quickly. For me increasing the timeout to 0.5 seconds pretty much returns the behavior to the way that it was for me with previous versions of iOS. I don't consider myself to be a slow double tapper but I think I'm performing the command just slow enough as to go against the faster setting of the timeout.
Even more problematic is the fact that this bug also manifests itself on my Apple Watch Series 7, 45 mm model. I found myself both panicked and extremely despondent when I couldn't even enter my passcode. Unlike the iPhone the watch doesn't seem to offer a command to adjust the double tap timeout setting. Once I realized what was happening with the iPhone I was able to use the watch by performing the double tap gesture quicker than I normally did with previous versions of Watch OS and I am now able to use it. This is a problem, however, as many users who are plagued by this issue won't necessarily realize what to do in order for their double tap to be recognized and people with limited hand dexterity may find performing the double tap in rapid succession to be challenging. I reached out to Apple Accessibility support about this issue. The representative that I spoke to was extremely thorough and with Apple's screen sharing software was able to observe the behavior both on my iPhone as well as on the watch. She definitely understood the problem and why I considered it to be so severe and I can only hope that Apple will take this seriously and investigate it.

By Brian on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 05:10

Disclaimer: Please disregard if this has already been suggested elsewhere...

So, my question in regards to the double tap issue currently plaguing iOS 17.x is, would Assistive Touch be helpful here? I personally have never used the feature, but it may be useful in giving an alternate solution to adjusting the timeout speed.

Thoughts?

By Morgan Watkins on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 05:10

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I have experienced the double tap issue rather severely on my iPhone 13 mini and I adjusted the tap value to 0.45 to get it working most of the time. I still have difficulties with it. Sadly, the problem is much worse on my new Series 9 Apple Watch. And, as noted above, there is no double-tap timing value to experiment with. I went to our local Apple Store and the genius bar couldn't help and they suggexted I swap out the watch with another Series 9. We did that, and it still is nearly impossible to double-tap on a desired button or other screen element. The work around I had adopted, hopefully only for a short time, is to use the gestures available in VoiceOver. That is, when I clench my fist, it taps the highlighted element. Not at all ideal, but it is what I have to work with right now. I've also attached a Bluetooth keyboard to my watch and it works pretty darn well, but one should not need a keyboard to interact with their watch.

By Kroni on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 05:10

Hello everyone, I had the same problem on my Apple Watch. But I found a solution. Open the Watch app and go to the accessibility features. Quite far down you will find the point Touch adjustments. Double tap here. Then navigate to Hold Duration and activate this switch. Then increase the value below. I hope the whole thing was understandable because I translated the text with Google. Many greetings from Markus from Germany

By JDubz on Tuesday, October 10, 2023 - 05:10

Like David Goldfield, I have also experimented extensively and it is indeed the case that the double tap timeout setting has been altered. In iOS 16, the maximum value allowed was 0.5 seconds, and in iOS 17 the maximum value is now 2 seconds. If you actually Clock what is happening, in iOS 16 the settings match the behavior. In iOS 17, the actual double timeout behavior is much shorter than the number it is set to. For example, when I set my double tap timeout to the extreme of two seconds, I clocked the time out at only 0.58 seconds.
The odd thing is that when I called Apple Accessibility they said they were not aware of this double tap issue. i'm running iOS 17.0.3 on an iPhone 11.
As for Apple Watch series 9, I'm using the same frustrating workarounds as Morgan Watkins mentioned, in addition to split taps.

The touch accommodation setting mentioned above didn't seem to play nice with voiceover in my experience in iOS, though I did not test extensively or try on the watch yet.

By Brad on Tuesday, October 10, 2023 - 05:10

Would it be a good idea for those of you that are to send recordings to apple to prove it to them?

I understand it feels like going round in circles but it might be worth it?

By Ash Rein on Tuesday, October 10, 2023 - 05:10

You are absolutely going through this issue. You’re either not paying enough attention or you’re somehow associating it as usual behavior. This is a software bug. It is literally reproducible on literally every single iPhone running iOS 17. To say that you’re not going through it is irresponsible. It takes away from the people that are reporting it. It’s shameful to come on this website and say that you’re not going through it. Just like it’s shameful that others come on this website and say the same for this and other issues. “I’m not going through It” is despicable because people are suffering and its literally not helping at all. Maybe it could be easier to say nothing so that the people that are talking about it can have a simpler time processing their grief and work together to conceptualize a possible plan. There are many times where I am surprised to find out about a specific issue. And even if I’m not “going through it, “I wouldn’t belittle anyone by writing a comment so useless as that. I would literally work my butt off to reproduce the issue and even adjust how I use my phone so that I can figure out how it’s happening. 99.99999% of the time, I am literally able to reproduce them. and I don’t comment until I have something solid to say. I absolutely despise how this website is run. And I am absolutely embarrassed by how this “community “behaves most of the time.

By Marsha on Sunday, December 3, 2023 - 05:10

I do encounter issues when double tapping, and it seems to happen every single time

By Bruce Harrell on Sunday, December 3, 2023 - 05:10

In accessibility commands, I define a different touch gesture to replace double tap. I chose a 2 finger swipe right. It works every time! smile

By Samuel J on Sunday, December 10, 2023 - 05:10

Has there been any improvement or fix in iOS 17.2 for this particular bug? This is clearly the one that has been holding me back from updating, so would really appreciate some feedback on users experiences.

By David Goodwin on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

We believe that this behaviour still persists if you have the VoiceOver double tap timeout set at the default of 0.25s. However, I and some others find that increasing the timeout to 0.5s eliminates the behaviour without noticeably changing the operation and experience of performing the double tap. For anybody experiencing the double tap “misfires”, I would recommend experimenting with the timeout setting to determine if you can find a speed that eliminates the issue for you without degrading the double tap operation.

By Samuel J on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

Thanks for sharing your feedback. Can you also comment on what sort of an impact (if any) is observed on the one finger triple tap and the one finger double tap and hold gestures, if you change the double-tap timeout setting to 0.5s instead of the default 0.25s?

By David Goodwin on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I don't typically utilise the one-finger triple tap gesture, so I cannot speak to any issues with that specific action. However, in my experience, the one-finger double tap and hold gesture works reliably when the double tap timeout is set to 0.5s.

It would be helpful to hear if others have had success or not using the double tap and other gestures with a higher timeout setting.

By SSWFTW on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

I’ll start with, I feel slightly crazy two fingers swipes left and right are only working intermittently I have this set to home and escape
Most of the time it does not register them and registers it as a one finger swipe left or right. I am so used to these gestures that it is a major disruption.
Once in a while, when I do a two finger swipe right to escape, it will go home.
So frustrating I have double and triple gestures are set properly under touch commands and they are help, any suggestions checked

By Bruce Harrell on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

Do your two finger swipes more slowly, and be sure you are swiping horizontally. I get sloppy and don't succeed sometimes, too. Smile

By SSWFTW on Sunday, December 17, 2023 - 05:10

I will do so, be more careful and deliberate with them. So strange, though that these gestures are the main ones effected. I had no problem whatsoever until updating to iOS 17.2. I have been a double tap time out user since Apple added that setting. So I’m very familiar with the touchscreen and the time it takes me to complete certain gestures.
iOS 17 in general has seemed to bring a lot of changes to the gestures and sensitivity of the screen
Thanks again for the reply