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3D Touch: A great feature that could be even better

Kirk McElhearn | Oct. 20, 2015
3D Touch is only at its first baby steps, but it needs improvements to really become beneficial.

3d touch gallery

One of the marquee features in the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is 3D Touch, “an entirely new way to interact with your phone.” 3D Touch includes three types of interaction: Peek, and Pop, and Quick Actions. In some ways, 3D Touch is a right click for the iPhone, offering shortcuts that would not be available otherwise, or that would require more interaction. Jason Snell explained how it works in this article, and we have an FAQ about 3D Touch here.

The biggest problem with 3D Touch is knowing when it is available. If you press links in certain apps, they’ll show you peeks; for example, a link in an email message in Apple’s Mail shows you a preview of a webpage from Safari. But pressing and holding a link in Twitteriffic, my Twitter client, brings up a share menu, without using 3D Touch (i.e., there’s no force feedback). Also, you need to figure out that pressing and holding a link in Safari provides a preview—a peek—of the webpage that link leads to, but only as long as keep your finger on the display; but if you slide your finger up, then the preview stays visible, and a menu appears below it. It’s all very secretive, and more guidance on when 3D Touch is available would be helpful.

The same is the case with 3D Touch on the home screen. There is no indication that any app offers quick actions. When the iPhone 6s was first launched, the only apps that provided this feature were Apple’s own apps, and even among those, only a handful offer quick actions. So I spent a lot of time pressing and holding different app icons, ending up feeling foolish that this gesture only gave results occasionally. Perhaps there could be a tiny overlay on an app icon that offers 3D Touch quick actions; a small dot in a corner of the icon, for example, or a colored dot next to its name (such as the one that displays when an app has been updated). Until such time as all apps offer quick actions, users will get frustrated and give up even looking for them.

And the usefulness of some of these quick actions is dubious. With an app like Camera, there are four options, all of them very practical:

camera quick actions
The Camera app’s quick actions are useful.

The App Store and iTunes Store each offer the same two quick actions: Redeem and Search. I wonder how often people actually redeem gift cards in the App Store. I think people are more likely to want to check for updates, or view the top charts.


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