Rumors are flying. Leaks are leaking. It seems imminent that, among other upgrades, the iPhone 6S will include Force Touch. Force Touch was introduced on the Apple Watch and is now included in the new line of Macbooks. So it no surprise Apple has decided to carry the feature onto their upcoming smartphone.
What is Force Touch?
Force Touch is similar to the long-press seen in both iOS and Android since at least since 2008. The long-press is touching the screen for a slightly longer period in time to indicate a separate interaction than a simple tap. Force Touch is similar to long-press, however, a couple of minor yet significant differences could significantly impact the future of app development and the way Apple wants you to use your phone:
- Force Touch can recognize varying amount of pressure on the screen on the iPhone. The long-press might know how hard you are pressing based on how much of your finger is touching the screen. Force Touch will know how hard you are pressing on the screen. Force Touch will also know which finger you are using. Force Touch will also be able to know how hard you are pressing based on which finger you are using.
- Force Touch will have better haptic feedback on the iPhone. Currently all smartphones include a basic vibration motor to respond to your touch. You might feel a short vibration when pressing a key, a short buzz for text, and an extended vibration for a phone call. Force Touch will improve upon haptic feedback through the use of Taptic Engine. Taptic Engine is a small motor, which in short, can better mimic the feeling of a “click.” It feels much more like clicking a trackpad or a mouse even though the object your touching (the screen in this case) does not move.
So why should you care about Force Touch and what might it hold for the future of the iPhone and iOS?
Force Touching Games
Games. The main feature is Force Touch would allow game developers to include the amount of pressure on the screen as another form of interaction. Some examples include:
- Powering up your attack with a sword by pressing the screen a little harder, but not too hard
- Shooting an arrow further based on how hard you press on the screen
- Swinging a golf club by pressing the “right” amount
- Jumping over a hurdle lower or higher based on the pressure on the screen
These are just a few of the possibilities for creating method of interacting with the screen. Many games currently use the length of time you hold the screen to determine how hard, far, long, or high something is thrown. Force Touch could allow you to mimic these interactions in a fraction of a second making it possibly harder, faster, more fun, and more realistic.
Lastly, the Taptic Engine included in Force Touch will add another dimension in feeling like your more in the game. The trackpad on the new Macbook does a very good job of mimicking a real click. Shooting a gun will provide a better “click” feel under your finger. A golf swing will provide a better “clack.” A hard fall will be more than just an imitation of the N64 rumble pack.
Force Touching Productivity Apps & Day-to-Day
We have already seen limited use cases of the Force Touch in the new Macbook. You can fast forward or rewind at varying speeds depending on the pressure applied to the trackpad. Press harder and you zoom further into a map. The applications are fairly limited for now and mostly mimic a right-click on the trackpad or mouse. Let’s take a second and see what the future could be like for productivity apps on the iPhone 6S and future generations.
The first use cases of Force Touch will probable cater to Apple’s creative community. The additional pressure sensitivity of Force Touch will allow for better control when painting, drawing, editing on an iPhone. Brush stroke sizes can be controlled by pressing a stylus softer or harder on the device. The Taptic Engine will provide better feedback when a line is straight or two lines parallel to each other. You will get better feedback from the software when designing on the next iPhone 6S or the next generation of iPads. There might be hope still for handwriting and note-taking applications.
Zooming also holds many possibilities. Currently, there is pinch to zoom. There is the double-tap and slide your finger in and out for one-handed use. The Force Touch on the iPhone 6S could allow for a much easier, one-handed zoom. Instead of pinch and zoom on the camera you can press the screen harder to zoom in further or faster. To zoom in on a web page or a picture in the gallery you could press varying amounts. If implemented correctly, which is Apple’s speciality, it could be the easiest way to zoom on any device.
Finally, Force Touch also opens up the possibility to get better notifications via the Taptic Engine. Currently a vibrations can give you some idea of a notification. Like the Apple Watch, Force Touch could give you an idea of who is messaging, calling, or emailing you. Three taps is your mom, a tap/pause/tap-tap is your friend Tom etc. Vibration can somewhat handle this now but there is major room for the Force Touch to improve upon it. Last, by far from least, we will have something that feels more natural than the slightly annoying vibration of the phone.
Summing it Up
Take what is said here with a grain of salt. Many of the things will likely not be released on Day 1 of the iPhone 6S. Some may never be released. Force Touch could be a great feature. It could also be a fancier vibration and that’s it. Much of the innovation and useful of the Force Touch will be dependent on Apple letting developers have access to use Force Touch and the Taptic Engine. Unfortunately letting developers have free reign on the iPhone 6S’ hardware is questionable at best.
Can you see other uses for Force Touch that weren’t mentioned?