It’s been long speculated that one way or another, Android phones would gain support for one of the most-hyped features of Apple’s iPhone 6s: the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen. As recently as April, reports indicated that Android N would make it easier for smartphone manufacturers to create their own versions of 3D Touch screens on their own devices. Dieter Bohn reported for The Verge that a beta of the Android N operating system included support for launcher shortcuts, “which is a fairly technical way of describing what people can do now with an iPhone 6S in its launcher: get a pop-up menu that lets you jump directly into a more specific part of your app.”
Bohn reported that while Android isn’t “super-specific” about how such shortcuts are activated, many conjectured that the method that makes the most sense is a pressure-sensitive screen. The Verge reached out to Google, and the company said that the manufacturers who build Android devices wanted the operating system itself to address the use of pressure-sensitive screens so that they wouldn’t each have to develop their own methods. Many people think it’s likely that Android will gain support for pressure-sensitive screens, and while building the support directly into the operating system won’t mean that most or even many upcoming Android phones will get the feature, it could head off future fragmentation.
But Ina Fried reports for Recode that Google is delaying support for an Android rival to Apple’s 3D Touch. While documentation for Android N raised expectations that this year’s update of the Android operating system will enable developers to take advantage of pressure-sensitive screens. Fried reports that her sources have confirmed that the feature won’t be a pair of the initial Android N release, and will be deferred until a later release of the operating system, “most likely as part of a maintenance update to the software.” A Google representative reportedly declined to comment on the matter.
A handful of Android phones, including Huawei’s Mate S and ZTE’s Axon Mini, have already implemented pressure-sensitive screens. But Fried notes that without operating system-level support, those phone makers would have the “unenviable task of getting developers to write support for each of the phones individually.” If support for pressure-sensitive screens is built in at the operating system level, the manufacturers who choose to create phones with pressure-sensitive screens are more likely to get third-party developers to create apps that take advantage of the feature. App developers will be able to create apps that will work on all Android developers, instead of creating separate apps for each smartphone manufacturer.
Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, but decided not to include it in the more budget-friendly iPhone SE that made its debut earlier this year. The feature was intended to enhance users’ interactions with the apps on their iPhones, though app developers have been slow to get on board with the new feature. In fact, not all of the apps that come preloaded on an iPhone even feature full support for 3D Touch. Many app developers have only implemented support for Quick Actions, which are the home screen shortcuts that pop up when you press an app icon.
Few developers have integrated 3D Touch support into their apps in any meaningful way. If you’re waiting for pressure-sensitive screens to revolutionize the way you interact with your smartphone and the apps on it, then you likely have a long wait ahead of you, whether Google integrates support for the feature into Android N or not.