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Thoughts on 3D Touch

Posted in Apple and Design

Moving from a phone without 3D Touch (iPhone 6) to one with it (iPhone XS) has been interesting. I like it a lot for a handful of reasons, but I think Apple still has some work to do.

Shortcuts and peek and pop

Using 3D Touch on an app icon on the home screen is great – I can jump straight to a new email draft, go straight to the document scanner in Notes (I use this all the time for business expenses), choose the book I want to read in Apple Books; very convenient.

It’s available in lots of apps too, for example I can even have a quick look at a text message without marking it as read, with peek and pop. I love this feature as I often want to see what a message says but to have some kind of reminder to come back to it later. I dread to think how many messages I’ve received that I’ve read, not been able to reply to at the time, then forgotten altogether because they weren’t flagged as unread anymore.

There’s also a 3D Touch option on a lot of icons in Control Centre. Again, this is very convenient for opening the scanner in Notes, checking which wi-fi network I’m connected to, enabling Personal Hotspot, scheduling a quick Do not disturb, even adjusting the brightness of the torch!

Lock screen

Using it to turn in the torch is a great feature that I use all the time. Raise to wake together with this makes it a one press process, which is super convenient.

Similarly, a hard press on the camera icon is a great way to take a quick snap. I do find it a bit odd that you can still access the camera by swiping left from the lock screen though.

It’s a very minor gripe, but a 3D Touch is a more deliberate gesture, where—together with raise or touch to wake—I often find that I’ve accidentally opened the camera with an inadvertent leftward swipe. Why not just disable the now-unnecessary swiping route into the camera for 3D Touch enabled devices?

Keyboard cursor

The thing I like most about it is that you can 3D Touch the keyboard while typing to turn it into a track pad and move the cursor around the screen. This allows fine control of the cursor that has always been clunky with directly tapping the screen.

Long pressing the space bar also triggers the trackpad/cursor functionality, which is great for non-3D Touch devices, but, again, should that still be available on devices like the iPhone XS?

I know brand-new devices like the iPhone XR (I think because the sensor layer would increase the thickness of the phone too much) and the new iPad Pros don’t have 3D Touch, so these devices need other routes into the features that 3D Touch would otherwise trigger.

It’s a good start

Even if it feels like Apple need to do some tidying up as far as ‘legacy’ gestures are concerned, I’ve really enjoyed 3D Touch, these past few months; it has added another dimension (sorry!) to my phone.

Now if only they could work out how to make it useful on the Mac…

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