Exploring the Introduction of 3D Touch for iPhone 6S

November 22nd, 2015 by Hubert Yap

The release of iOS 9 on 16th September, 2015 introduced two significant new features on iOS devices: Multitasking on iPad, and 3D Touch on iPhone. This blog post will explain what 3D Touch means for users, and how it can be incorporated into mobile apps to improve the user experience.
3D Touch for iPhones

At the time of writing, 3D Touch is only available for two device models: iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. Unfortunately the iPad Pro, which was released on November 2015, does not support this feature.

3D Touch introduces three new ways to interact with compatible iPhone apps:

  • Home Screen Quick Actions
  • Peek and Pop
  • Force Properties

Home Screen Quick Actions gives the user a kind of shortcut to up to four of the app’s key functions from the app icon on their home screen. Think of it like an additional navigation on the user’s home screen that allows them to navigate quickly to a specific screen or feature inside the app. This is a great time-saver for users, allowing them super quick access to their favourite function within your app.

The Home Screen Quick Actions can be a simple static set of shortcuts, or it can be a dynamic list of actions, or a combination of both. The static shortcut will always appear on top of the dynamically generated shortcut. They can contain up to two lines of text and an optional icon. The user can activate this feature by pressing the app’s icon on the home screen until they feel a small vibration which will then open the list of shortcuts (this is instead of the simple press to open the app, which of course is still available).

Peek and Pop allows the user to quickly preview content, such as a web page, from a link in their browser. This feature activates when pressing a user interface component (e.g. a link). If the link has any previewable content, its surrounding will be blurred to let the user know they can preview the content of that link. As the user keeps pressing with additional pressure, they will feel a small vibration, then a preview window (“Peek” window) will appear, displaying the content that will be shown if the user presses the link in the usual manner.

Whilst seeing the ‘peek’ view, the user has 3 options:

  1. Release the link. By releasing the pressed link, the “Peek” window will disappear, returning the user to the previous screen.
  2. Keep pressing. The user will feel another vibration and this is will “Pop” the window and take the user to the next screen as if they have clicked the link.
  3. Slide the screen up. This action shows additional buttons that the user can click to trigger a related action. For example, if they were pressing a website link, there will be an option to open the link, copy the link, or add it to a reading list.

The peek and pop feature is very useful when the user is not sure what will happen if they click a link, or when they are not sure if the link contains the information they require. For example, your application might present a collection of PDF files, listed by name. “Peek and Pop” allows the user to “Peek” on each file and release or “Pop” it instead of needing to click on each file and go back to the previous screen to click another file, until they find the file they are seeking. Again, it’s all about speed and convenience for the user.

Finally, Force Properties allows the app to detect the force applied to a certain UI component and triggers the app to react on the force event. For example, a piano app can now play a piano sound louder if the user presses the piano key harder; a drawing app can draw wider lines when the user strokes with greater pressure. Force Properties adds to pre-existing gestures such as tapping, tap-and-holding, swiping, and pinching, to allow intuitive behaviour upon additional pressure being applied to the screen.

3D touch opens up possibilities not previously available inside Apple apps. Whilst Force Properties usefulness depends on the interactivity of the app itself, we expect that most applications can enhance their user experience with the Home Screen Quick Actions, and Peek and Pop capability.

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