iOS 7 Motion Sickness Complaints Keep Rolling In: Time for Apple to Step In?

In the world of tech updates, change is always stressful, but it doesn’t usually make people physically ill; so, while Apple likely expected some complaints regarding the updated look and experience of its iOS 7 software, it probably assumed the naysayers would be a few fuddy-duddies resistant to learning something new, not large numbers of people complaining of motion sickness and headaches.

As someone with a vestibular disorder (Mal de Debarquement Syndrome or “MdDS”), I am always wary of things that may cause false motion sensations (the feeling that one is in motion when actually still). Since I am currently in a remission, I avoid such things at all costs. With this in mind, just moments after my fiancé downloaded and began using the new iOS 7 software on his iPhone, he burst out onto the porch where I was enjoying a cup of tea, and said, with an unusual sense of urgency, “Hun, if you haven’t downloaded iOS 7 yet, don’t! It’s even making me dizzy.”

Only hours later, I received updates from both the MdDS support group to which I belong and the Vestibular Disorders Association, informing me that iOS 7 may worsen symptoms for those prone to motion sickness and vestibular issues. It was at this point I realized Apple may have accidentally alienated people with vestibular problems, but I didn’t think it would turn into any sort of larger issue for the company — I mean, I also can’t see movies in theaters, take long trips, or play video games, so just because it’s a problem for me, doesn’t usually mean it’s a problem for most people.

But then I noticed that the story was being covered by major news organizations, like Time, Forbes, and NBC — regular people were experiencing these problems, and in large numbers.

The zoom animations that occur when users switch between applications, along with a dynamic background and 3D impression, or a parallax effect, which makes the icons look as though they are floating above the background, seem to be the culprits. While people’s eyes are telling them they’re moving, the rest of their central nervous systems know they are sitting still — it’s the same thing that causes motion sickness when reading in a car, only inverted. Here’s how Dr. Robert Glatter explained the phenomenon to Forbes: “Your brain receives messages that do not match with each other. This leads to mixed messages to the brain related to your sensation of orientation and rotational axis, and you could suffer a sense of nausea, dizziness, sense of spinning or headaches.”

Not exactly what Apple enthusiasts were hoping for while they were counting down the days to iOS 7’s release.

Complaints have been rolling in on many Apple product forums, including the company’s official support thread. “The zoom animations everywhere on the new iOS 7 are literally making me nauseous and giving me a headache. It’s exactly how I used to get car sick if I tried to read in the car,” writes one user. “I have the same problem. It hurts my eyes and makes me dizzy. So annoying that we can’t downgrade!!!! Really unhappy with Apple on this one,” says another.

Though a solution has been offered, it doesn’t seem to completely solve the problem. By going to “Settings,” then “General” and then “Accessibility” and clicking on “Reduce Motion,” users can cut back on the movements that are triggering the motion sickness, but this doesn’t, apparently, eliminate them completely. Many users say that the animations and “zooming” features left over still cause the dizziness, and are calling for a simple way to downgrade back to iOS 6.

I’m not tech-savvy enough to know what it would take for Apple to create a fix for this, but it may be time for the company to start thinking about one, or at least offer users a simple way to downgrade until a fix can be made. In the meantime, this dizziness-prone girl will be sticking with the older version, thank you very much.

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