15 Super Useful Ways To Use 3D Touch On The New iPhones

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15 Super Useful Ways To Use 3D Touch On The New iPhones

Though the new iPhones pack improved cameras and better specs overall, the flagship feature is something completely unique to the iPhone line (and, really, smartphones in general): a touch screen that reacts differently depending on how hard you press it.

Apple calls this feature “3D Touch”, and it’s damn cool — if you can figure out how and where to use it, that is.

Generally reserved for bonus features for power users, the things that you can do with 3D touch often aren’t immediately obvious. Fortunately, we’ve found a bunch for you!


The fine details…

One point before we start: there’s more to 3D Touch than just “Soft tap” vs “Hard tap”. 3D Touch is actually sensitive enough to tell how hard you’re pressing across a spectrum.

Most 3D Touch features work on three stages: a soft tap, a slightly harder touch, and a considerably harder press.


Use iPhone's Keyboard As A Trackpad For Easier Editing

With iOS 9, Apple introduced a feature that allows you to use the iPad’s keyboard as a trackpad by placing two fingers on the keyboard simultaneously.

While this feature popped up in a few iPhone iOS 9 betas, it went iPad-only when iOS 9 finally shipped.

With 3D Touch on the 6S/6S Plus, it returns.

Tap a key to type, as normal.

Hold your finger on a key and press a bit harder, and the keys will go grey; the keyboard is now a trackpad. Drag your finger to place the cursor wherever you’d like in your text.

Press even harder, and you’ll be highlighting.


Quick Preview Links Without Leaving A Message Or Email

Want to see what’s behind a link without actually opening the page? Tap and hold a bit harder than you otherwise might. A preview pane will appear. Want to open the page afterall? Continue holding, but press even harder — it’ll pop right up.

This works within Safari, of course, but it also works in places like Messages and Mail.

I like to use this on pages that have a bunch of small links next to each other (cough reddit uncough) to make sure my fat thumb is on the right thing.


Add to Reading List

Want to read a link, but don’t have time right this second?

Tap a link slightly harder to bring up the preview pane (like you did in the last tip), then drag up. You’ll be presented with options to open the link in a new tab, add it to your reading list, or copy the link — all without leaving the page you’re currently on.

You can find your reading list in the same place in Safari where you’d find your bookmarks.


Homescreen App Icon Power Shortcuts

This is the feature that made most people go “Ohhhhh, now this all makes sense” when Apple announced 3D Touch.

App icons on your homescreen can hide power user shortcuts behind 3D touch. Press the icon harder than you would to just open the app, and a dialog box will appear with quick-access shortcuts to things that people often want in a pinch.

Developers have to implement this manually, so the vast majority of third party apps don’t support them. Many of Apple’s own apps, however, already do. Such as…


Camera Quick Launch

We’ve all been there: someone is doing something amazing/adorable/once-in-a-lifetime, and you’ve only got a few seconds to get a picture. You fire up the camera, wait for it to turn on… aaaand it’s the front facing camera, because that’s what you used last. PHOTO OPP LOST. No Instagram hearts for you!

If you firmly press the camera icon, you can pick which camera mode you want to launch the app into. Insta-selfies!


There's No Place Like Get Me The Hell Home

Heading home after a long night? Don’t want to muck with the Maps interface?

Hard press the maps icon, tap “Directions Home” and you’re on your way.

Alternatively, hit “Mark my location” to drop a pin on the map — great for remembering where the hell you parked your car.

You can also send your location to a friend, or search nearby businesses.


Most Apple Apps Do Something

We won’t go through all of them, but most of Apple’s built-in apps offer up at least one 3D Touch shortcut. Things like:

– Call Someone in your “Favorites” list with the phone app icon
– Start a new sketch or note on the Notes app
– Quickly Search the App Store or iTunes
– Show your most recent photo in Photos
– Send an email with Mail
– Create a new ToDo in the Reminders app


But some third party apps can do it too!

It’ll be a while before most third party apps support the App Icon 3D Touch feature, but some have gotten in on the fun early.

Dropbox, for example, lets you instantly open your most recently viewed file, access your offline files, or upload a photo.


One-click Tweets

Got something super important to say RIGHT NOW? The official Twitter app lets you jump right into sending a tweet or DM.


And Instagram!

Same for Instagram, who was seemingky the first big company to roll out a 3D Touch update. Pressing hard on their icon lets you set up a new Insta, view recent likes, search, or jump right into your DMs.


Or Build Your Own

Want a shortcut that your favorite app doesn’t support out of the box? The $5 app Launch Center Pro lets you build your own custom shortcuts on top of its own icon — things like “Tweet GIF” or “Search Yelp” or “Create List in Clear” — and can hook into a few hundred apps at this point.


Quick Share Photos

Similar to the “Read Later” shortcut on links, you can press firmly on a picture or video in the Photos app and then drag up to access a menu that lets you copy/share/fav/delete a photo in a flash.

3D touching a video also plays it back in a preview pane, which is helpful if you’re trying to figure out which video is the right one.


Swipe To Next App and the App Switcher

This one can be a biiit finicky, but it’s a neat trick once you figure out the right pressure levels

Press hard on the left side of the device, just past the edge of the screen. Swipe right, sort of as if you’re dragging the current app away.

If you partially swipe across the screen and release, it’ll bring up the app switcher interface. If you swipe all the way to the right, it’ll switch you right to the next app in the lineup.


Pressure Sensitive Drawing

Apple’s own Notes app is one of the first apps to actually integrate 3D Touch as a function within the running app itself. It allows you to use the display to draw with some degree of pressure sensitivity.

Start a new drawing, and pick the pencil tool. Touch lightly, and you’ll draw a faint line; touch harder, and the line gets darker as you go. It’s no wacom stylus — er, Apple Pencil — but it works!


Animated lockscreen

Any “Live Photo” you take can become a semi-animated lockscreen.

Just set the lockscreen to that photo, lock the device, bring up the lockscreen, and tap your screen with varying degrees of firmness to slide back and forth through time. It’s a pretty neat effect, without the annoyance/battery drain of constant animation.


Quick Save Images In Safari

Similar to the aforementioned “Read Later” trick, you can quickly save most images in Safari by firm pressing it and then dragging up when the preview pane appears.



Do you find 3D Touch too sensitive? Not sensitive enough? You can actually adjust it, though the setting is a bit tucked away. Look for it in General > Accessibility > 3D Touch > 3D Touch Sensitivity

TC Editor Matthew Panzarino says he sets his to light. I set mine to firm. Who’s right? Who cares! Pick what works for you. The image below the slider lets you test your current settings, at which point you’ll probably end up convinced they’re all the same and it’s just a placebo effect.


Or Just Disable It

Alternatively, you can just turn 3D Touch off if you find it frustrating to use. Find the toggle in General > Accessibility > 3D Touch.

I’d recommend taking some time to try to get used to 3D Touch, though — after a few days of wrapping my head around it, I find myself using it constantly.