The newest generation of Apple’s iPhones is coming in the fall, and a number of rumors and reports have already laid out the upgrades and updates that the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus are expected to bring. We don’t recommend believing everything you read, especially when it comes to wild speculation about Apple’s plans. But it looks pretty likely that Apple’s newest iPhones will add Force Touch, a feature that senses how hard the user is pressing on the screen. Tim Culpan reports for Bloomberg that Apple’s suppliers have already begun the production of new iPhone models equipped with Force Touch.
As the Cheat Sheet reported last September, when Apple revealed the Apple Watch to the public, the potential of the device’s display and the technology it contained was widely overlooked. The biggest advance introduced with the Apple Watch’s tiny screen was a feature called Force Touch, which enables it to distinguish between various types of presses. Force Touch enables the user interface to become much more complex and capable than the size of the screen would otherwise allow, and users can call up functions and options via context-aware menus and commands, instead of relying on buttons and menus that are always visible, taking up valuable space in the user interface.
Implemented on the iPhones that Apple intends to release in the fall, Force Touch would join the chronology of user interface mechanisms — from the “hamburger button” to gestures like the swipe, pull to refresh, and edge gesture — as the latest advance that enables developers and designers to make apps and mobile operating systems simultaneously easier to use and more feature-rich.
Force Touch was first introduced with the Apple Watch, and since then also made a debut on the newest 12-inch MacBook models. Culpan reports that sources familiar with the status of Apple’s production said that Apple’s newest iPhones will feature the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch forms as the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and will have a similar exterior design. Volume manufacturing is expected to ramp up as soon as July. Culpan says that Force Touch is coming to the iPhone at least two years after Apple began working with suppliers to perfect a pressure-sensitive display.
In Culpan’s assessment, the expected addition of Force Touch to the newest version of the iPhone is Apple’s latest move to stay ahead of rivals like Samsung, which just released the Galaxy S6 Edge, a flagship phone with a screen that wraps around the edge of the phone’s body to make some information visible from the side.
The release of the large-screened iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last year brought Apple’s iPhone in line with the large screens of flagship phones from Samsung and HTC, and the new, larger phones helped the company meet demand, especially in Asia, for a bigger-screen iPhone. The new iPhone models helped bring Samsung’s three-year reign at the top of the global smartphone market to a close. In the first three months of 2015, iPhone sales in China also outpaced those in the United States for the first time in Apple’s history.
The final assembly of the latest generation of the iPhone is expected to go smoothly because the new iPhones are similar to the current models, as is customary with the iPhones in “S” model generations. However, Bloomberg notes that the timing and production volume of Force Touch-enabled iPhones could be impacted by the supply and yield of the new displays. Supply chain problems could occur if a significant number of the new displays don’t pass quality assurance testing.
As Jackie Dove noted at The Next Web, an earlier report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the new iPhone will be 0.15mm longer and 0.2mm thicker because of Force Touch. Kuo also reported that the new model will lose the camera “bump,” referring to the much-maligned protruding camera housing on the back of the iPhone 6. The new iPhone is rumored to be available in a new Rose Gold color, to feature a 12MP camera, and perhaps to introduce an upgraded front-facing camera, as well.
Earlier this year, Kuo said that Force Touch will represent the most significant change to the iPhone’s interface to date — so significant that some speculated that Apple might not introduce an iPhone 6s at all, but could, instead, jump straight to calling the next generation the iPhone 7.