How Force Touch Could Work on the iPhone 6s

Greg Baker/AFP/ Getty Images

Greg Baker/AFP/ Getty Images

Force Touch is expected to be a major marketing point of the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which Apple is expected to officially unveil at its much-anticipated September 9 event. But how, exactly, will the feature, which underpins the Apple Watch’s pressure-sensitive screen and the trackpad on the latest MacBooks, work on Apple’s new iPhones? And what kinds of new gestures will you need to learn to take advantage of it?

Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that while Apple fans are just getting used to Force Touch technology on the latest MacBook trackpads as well as with the screen of the Apple Watch, the version implemented in the new iPhones will actually be a next-generation version of the tech. With that, comes a new name (thankfully), and Gurman expects that Apple will call the pressure-sensitive iPhone screen the “3D Touch Display.” Gurman reports that while the MacBook trackpads and the Apple Watch display can sense two levels of pressure and differentiate between a tap and a press, the new iPhone’s screen will be able to act on three levels of pressure: a tap, a press, and a deeper press.

The “3D Touch” name is derived from the new Force Touch sensor’s ability to sense three levels of pressure, rather than just two. As Gurman reports, that opens the door to new user interface tricks, like shortcut gestures across the iPhone 6s version of iOS 9. 9to5Mac already has an idea of how the new iPhone will take advantage of the technology, and shared a few examples.

When you look up a destination in the Maps app, you’ll be able to use Force Touch to press the destination to immediately get turn-by-turn directions. (Currently, if you want to navigate to a destination, you have to search for the point of interest, tap the navigation icon on the map view, and then tap another button to actually start navigating.) In this example, enabling a Force Touch gesture would save you two steps. That may not save more than a few seconds, but the shortcut will save you the frustration of being forced to go through those extra steps every time you need directions.

In the Apple Music app, you’ll be able to use Force Touch on a track to be presented with some common actions. If you deep press on the listing for a song, a menu will appear to offer you options, like adding the song to a playlist or saving it for offline listening. This Force Touch gesture would also act as a substitute for tapping the action buttons on the right side of each track’s listing.

A source tells Gurman that Apple is also testing shortcuts that appear after pressing an app icon on the home screen. For instance, deep pressing the Phone app icon would give the user the option of following a shortcut straight to the Voicemail menu. Or, a user could deep press the News app icon and go directly to either the Favorites or the For You tabs.

Some of the Force Touch gestures that will be integrated into the iPhone 6s’s version of iOS 9 will reportedly be the same as those used on Apple’s latest MacBooks. A user can deep press a link in Safari to see a preview of the web page, or deep press an address or a contact’s name to see a preview of the map or a contact card. Force Touch also enables users to quickly look up the definition of a word.

In addition to making it easier to navigate around your favorite apps, Gurman also reports that with three levels of pressure sensitivity, Force Touch should enable developers to create new types of games. (Afterall, as The Cheat Sheet recently reported, seven out of 10 of the most popular iOS games use the swipe gesture as their primary method of input.) The next-generation version of the technology is also expected to make an appearance on the super-sized iPad Pro, where it will be leveraged with a stylus.

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