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Apple 3D Touch on iPhone 6S – Hands on review

'Next generation of multi-touch' adds pressure sensitivity to new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus

As expected Apple has added a new way to interact with the iPhone with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. An obvious cousin of Force Touch on the new MacBook, 3D Touch brings pressure sensitive controls to Apple’s smartphone. The company claims that this is ‘the next generation of multi-touch’ with Peek and Pop.

The pressure sensitive screen works by measuring the varying capacitance between the glass and the panel beneath, which changes fractionally as you push down on the surface. This is combined with data from the touch layer and the accelerometer to produce accurate feedback. There’s also a new haptic engine for more precise and instantaneous feedback, so you get clear feedback to your actions.

Apple iPhone 6S 3D Touch 6

Of course all the technology in the world isn’t of any use if you don’t have software support for it. Thankfully Apple has deeply integrated 3D Touch into iOS 9. You can push down on apps on the home screen and a small menu pops up giving you access to commonly used options without having to enter and navigate in the app – for example in Facebook you can make a quick status update from here or check in at a location, or the camera app lets you jump straight to the option you want.

It’s been likened to the right-click action in Windows, and the comparison is apt in some respects, though the ability to then push further on to get a ‘left click’ equivalent tap, without having to release first makes it even more fluid. It took about 30 seconds to get the hang of the new input, and a few minutes more to get our heads around the various opportunities it provided, but after that it became second nature and we wouldn’t want to go back to an iPhone without it – which is pretty much the definition of progress for us.

It works in apps too, rather than tapping in and out of an email to see if you need to deal with its content (and then marking it as unread after), simply apply a little pressure and you can ‘Peek’ into a preview. Release the pressure to come out again (leaving the messsage unread), or press harder, or ‘Pop’ as Apple calls it, to fully open the message to reply and edit as usual. You can also Peek into locations on maps to get quick info, or Pop to open them up fully; and Peek into webpages that appear in messages without leaving the message, and much more.

3D Touch also combines with gestures for easier access to multitasking. By pushing at the edge of the screen and then swiping sideways you can immediately swipe through all your recent apps and open the one you want by releasing your finger once it’s selected. We expect a lot more integrated gesture and pressure shortcuts like these in the future.

Use of Vine courtesy of Alphr

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