The Trouble With 3D Touch

Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:

Although Apple’s proud of the peek/pop interface that it unveiled with the iPhone 6s, I’m skeptical of its utility. Most of the time, when I accidentally initiate a “peek” of the content behind whatever I’m pressing on, it’s content I was already trying to see by tapping. Loading a “peek” doesn’t really take any more time than actually tapping on an item and loading the result, and returning back to the previous screen seems a lot less work than holding your finger on the glass while you peruse a “peek” to see if it’s worth opening the rest of the way.

In other words, most of the time I don’t see any benefit to using 3D Touch to reveal content in apps over just tapping to reveal that content the usual way. It’s a solution to a problem we didn’t have. And this says a lot about the problem with the way Apple has deployed 3D Touch in iOS.

The gimmicky nature of peek/pop is alarming. I never got into “peeking” while using my 6S — like Jason argues, it solves a problem we didn’t have. It’s not any faster than just tapping whatever it is you want to see, and worse, it’s harder to read because your thumb is still there covering the display. It’s a demo feature, not a real feature, and I find that deeply worrisome.


That’s why the right thing for Apple to do is to change the behavior of 3D Touch in a future version of iOS so that it has a non–3D-Touch equivalent. In other words, 3D Touch should just be a faster, more efficient version of a gesture that every iOS user can perform. That way, users of devices with 3D Touch will get a benefit, but app developers don’t have to think about implementing a feature that won’t work with most devices.

The logical gesture to use is the long press, a gesture that’s common on Android but used a lot less frequently on iOS.

I couldn’t agree more. A force touch should just be a shortcut to a long press. In fact, a few weeks ago, I got confused while using the system’s Weather app. I wanted to reorder my list of saved cities. It took me around 45 seconds to figure out how to do it. My first few attempts were by force tapping the city I wanted to move. But this just opened a peek. Then I tried looking around for an “Edit” button, but there isn’t one. I started to wonder whether the list was not re-orderable. Then it finally occurred to me to long-press on a city. My natural instinct was to do that by force tapping.

Also worth noting: after two and a half weeks using an iPhone SE, I don’t miss 3D Touch at all. (Update: I do miss forcing tapping the keyboard to move the insertion point around. That’s a clever idea.)

Friday, 8 April 2016