Apple’s 3D Touch Feature: What Users Need to Know


Apple’s 3D Touch feature is playing an increasingly larger role in the latest mobile devices. The new iOS 10 upgrade features deeper 3D Touch integration that lets users adjust control center settings, respond to notifications and use apps. Analysts have confirmed that the iPhone 7 will feature a Home button that uses 3D Touch. It also is getting attention from Apple rival Google, which has added a similar feature to its Gboard for iPhones and has developed a touch technology for its Android Nougat upgrade.

Here’s a look at how 3D Touch works and why it’s becoming such an important part of mobile device technology.

How 3D Touch Works

3D Touch is a more sensitive version of Force Touch, which Apple introduced in March 2015 for the MacBook Pro. Since then, 3D Touch has been included on the iPhone 6. Force Touch and 3D Touch employ haptic technology, a type of input that simulates and responds to the sense of touch.

3D Touch adds a new dimension by sensing how much pressure the user is applying to the screen. This pressure sensitivity adds versatility to traditional clicking, enabling one input to be interpreted in multiple ways depending on the amount of pressure involved. This is a more natural and ergonomic method of input, and it reduces the number of buttons and steps required to perform an action. Just as the distinction between click and double-click enabled the traditional mouse to perform more functions, pressure distinction enables 3D Touch to get more functionality out of the same input method.

Basic 3D Touch Applications

One application of 3D Touch is a new type of input method called Peek and Pop. Peek and Pop uses pressure to distinguish between two different possible actions with the same pressing motion. Lighter pressure translates into a peek, while heavier pressure gets interpreted as a pop. For instance, when Peek and Pop is employed for reading email, a light press enables users to see a preview display of their email without actually opening it, while a heavier press will open an email. Applied to web browsing, peek pressure enables a user to preview a website link without opening it, while pop pressure can be used to open the link. For photo viewing, a light peek press is used to display a thumbnail preview of a photo, while a pop can be used to open the picture. For looking at maps, peeking at an address link enables a user to see a map preview of a location, while popping the link opens up a full map view.

As these examples illustrate, Peek and Pop performs a wide range of different functions depending on which software application is being used. 3D Touch also can be used to simplify input for frequently performed actions into single steps. For instance, pressing the keyboard within applications such as Mail, Messages and Notes makes the keyboard act as a trackpad. Using 3D Touch in the Notes app also lets users draw with more precision, pressing lightly for thin lines and harder for thicker ones. Pressing the left side of the Home screen opens up a multitasking view whereas swiping and tapping is used to select and open an app.

New 3D Touch Upgrades

The new iOS 10 upgrade introduces several other important applications to 3D Touch. Peek and Pop can now be used to view incoming messages, enabling users to view photos and videos without leaving the lock screen. Control Center features 3D Touch shortcuts for functions such as changing flashlight intensity, pre-setting timer intervals, copying calculator results and selecting camera picture options. 3D Touch can also be used to pause or cancel an app download or to bring up share sheets and widgets within apps.

The versatility of 3D Touch applications will undoubtedly continue to increase as the use of the technology becomes more widespread.