What is 3D Touch and Why it Will Change How you Use Mobile Devices

The new iPhone 6S is out and with it all the hub-bub that usually accompanies a new iPhone release, but there is one standout feature that we want to talk about today that is well worth the hype: 3D Touch.

It’s probably safe to say that 3D Touch is one of the most innovative features to appear on a mobile phone touchscreen since pinch-to-zoom, swiping, and other actions we all now take for granted.

3D Touch isn’t just a new feature that Apple has tacked onto its phone, it’s a fundamental change to the way we will physically interact with it.

Peek, Pop, and Quick Actions

3D Touch adds what Apple calls Peek and Pop, as well as Quick Actions.

When you apply pressure to the screen, it will sense it and allow you to access further options. For example, in the screenshot below, when we apply pressure to the Clock icon on the home screen, new options appear including the ability to create alarms, and start timers and stopwatches.

This essentially saves you two steps, but it’s also a more focused way of interacting with your apps by immediately taking you to the functions you want to access.

3D Touch has already found its way into many third-party apps. The Instagram app for example, finds itself with four quick actions that pop out from its home screen icon.

3D Touch also introduces the “peek” concept as well. In the screenshot below, we’ve pressed on an unopened email to peek at its contents without actually opening it. Take you finger off the screen and you’re returned to your inbox.

While peeking, you can also swipe upward and access more options. Here, with the Mail app, we can do things like reply, forward the message, and more.

Peek extends to many other apps (at least native iOS apps, for now), so you can 3D Touch links sent in messages and preview the website without opening it in a web browser.

You can also peek at photos you’ve taken by pressing on the thumbnail in the camera app.

This then won’t interrupt your photo taking, instead allowing you to see if you got the shot you want before proceeding.

If you’re composing a message, you can hard press on the keyboard and move the cursor to easily select portions of text.

The list goes on. Here are a few more things then that you can do with 3D Touch:

  • preview a location by pressing on an address in a message
  • press on a picture in the Photos app to quickly share it
  • quickly save photos in Safari by pressing and dragging up
  • press on the left screen edge to quickly switch between apps without opening the app switcher
  • use the Notes app to create pressure-sensitive drawings
  • use Live Photos as animated lock screens

So, there’s quite a bit that 3D Touch already offers in the immediate wake of the 6S series introduction but we anticipate that it will lead to so much more. Imagine being able to access different weapons functions in games or quickly change settings. As we think about it, the possibility and potential of 3D Touch really begins to unfold.

Adjusting or Disabling 3D Touch

3D Touch may not be for everyone however, so you can disable it or at least adjust the sensitivity to better suit you.

Tap open the General settings and select “Accessibility”.

In the Accessibility settings, select “3D Touch” and from here you can either disable it completely, or adjust the sensitivity.

We’re sure other phone makers will very quickly begin to implement a similar feature in their devices but for now, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are the only way to take advantage of this exciting new feature.

If you have anything you would like to add to this article, such as a question or a comment, please leave your feedback in our discussion forum.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.