Apple just announced the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, a brand new phone in a familiar casing with a few tricks up its sleeve. In addition to new cameras and chip, the new phone features a new Force Touch-enabled display with ‘3D Touch’. It’s a big deal as it opens a brand new set of interactions for app developers, greatly increasing the number of possibilities for user experience designers.
Jony Ive called 3D touch “the next generation of multi touch.” It’s hard to describe without seeing it in motion, but it really makes app navigation much smoother.
3D Touch lets the iPhone 6s sense how much pressure you put on the screen. A tap, a light press and a deep press are now three different interactions. Compared to the Apple Watch and MacBook trackpad, Apple makes a distinction between a normal press and a deep press — hence the new name.
On the iPhone, Force Touch is used to trigger shortcuts. For instance, you can deep press on a a destination in Apple Maps to launch turn-by-turn directions and skip a few steps.
In the Music app, if you want to add a song to your queue or save it to a playlist, you can use Force Touch instead of the tiny three-dot button. Apple will also let you preview a website with a deep press on a link in Safari or your address book. In some cases, shortcuts will surround your finger — this gesture is quite reminiscent of the very innovative shortcut menu in Path 2.0.
You can go directly to an app tab by deep pressing on the app icon on the home screen. For example, you can deep press on the Instagram app icon to go directly to your activity feed.
There are also in-app shortcuts. In the Messages app, you can deep press on a message to preview the conversation. If you continue pressing, it brings you directly to the content. Or you can deep press on a profile picture to get shortcuts and call someone.
There are some operating system gestures as well. You can deep press from the side to switch between apps without having to double press the home button.
Force Touch on the iPhone 6s triggers Taptic Engine as well. Like on the Watch, your phone slightly vibrates when you deep press, letting you know that you triggered Force Touch.
Now the only thing is that many older iPhones are still around. App developers need to keep in mind that Force Touch is an alternative to existing gestures that work on the iPhone 6 for example. It’s unclear whether iPhone users will be able to opt out of Force Touch altogether as the new gesture doesn’t make as much sense on a big iPhone display compared to the Apple Watch’s tiny display.