iOS 9.1 Shows The Same ‘UIFocusEngine’ Support As Apple TV’s tvOS

Ali Salman
Posted 11 months ago

The new Apple TV 2015 is a big jump from its predecessor, bringing in powerful internals and a dedicated operating system to work with. Moreover, the release of iOS 9.1 brought a bevy of features along with bug fixes. However, developers are up to decoding the operating system in order to find some valuable information that can be put to other uses.

Likewise, developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered that iOS 9.1 has a secretly embedded ‘UIDocusEngine’ built-in, the same as that of the Apple TV. The aforesaid ‘UIFocusEngine’ is responsible for controlling and navigating apps using a game controller or a keyboard. This states that the iPhone can one day be controlled by keyboards and other things, only if Apple allows us to.

Let’s see the ”UIFocusEngine’ in a little more detail for what it is capable of and how can developers take advantage of it in the future.

The ‘UIFocusEngine’ Is Not Currently Useful

Steve showed a demo to John Gruber of Daring Fireball in which he was able to control the app on the new iPad Pro using the Smart Keyboard. The results were expected, but according to Gruber, the ‘UIFocusEngine’ is quite far astray from an equilibrium at this point. However, developers can probably take advantage of this support in the near future. Gruber explains the present usefulness of ‘UIFocusEngine’ in the following words:

To be clear, this isn’t useful today, at all. Not only are they all private APIs, but the controls are only accessible through a hardware keyboard. So if you make a regular button with UIKit, it can be tapped (with your finger), but can’t be navigated to using a keyboard; if you make a button using UIFocusEngine, you can select it and trigger it using the keyboard, but it doesn’t respond to touch.

Even though the idea of controlling your iPhone with a keyboard does not make sense, it can prove to be useful in some cases. Even if it is capable, the touch controls would remain a primary source of interaction with the iPhone.


It’s assumed that the Cupertino giant is pondering over the mechanism of controlling and navigating apps with the help of keyboards. In this regard, if you are using your iPad with the Bluetooth keyboard acting as a secondary tool, you will be able to accomplice a lot of aspects right from your keyboard controls.

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This is it for now, folks. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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