Perception is Depth - The power of Apple's 3D Touch

Wired Magazine was right when it said that Apple’s 3D Touch is the start of a new interface revolution. and I consider it synonimous with when we received the ability to have a right-button on desktop PCs, only far greater in magnitude and impact.

iPhone 6s introduces an entirely new way to interact with your phone. For the first time, iPhone senses how much pressure you apply to the display. In addition to familiar Multi‑Touch gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop. This brings a new dimension of functionality to the iPhone experience. And when you use 3D Touch, your iPhone responds with subtle taps. So not only will you see what a press can do — you’ll feel it.
— Apple

I must admit, when I first heard about it I thought it was one sure gimmick to get people to buy the iPhone 6s, when everyone knows that the s-range iPhones (that appear every two years) are incremental in innovation. Well I should stand up and eat my hat, because I stand corrected.

By applying different strengths of pressure, you can access a new dimension within your content, allowing for a far greater UX, as opposed to having another menu button somewhere up the top. Instead of asking users to stretch their fingers on a massive screen (especially in my case ,with the iPhone 6s Plus), users would have more contextual control, they would pressure a specific element and subsequent actions would follow.

On the home screens, we have seen apps like Instagram use 3D touch as a shortcut to get to certain features, be it searchnew post or view activity. On Mail, we get shortcuts to search, to create a new email, or get to the inbox. Developers have the ability to create custom as well as dynamic menus, with the latter generated based on previous user interaction. Take the Phone app, that would allow users to call their recently called contacts, as opposed to a pre-defined set of users. 

It sounds mandane, but this new hardware-enabled action is the begining of a new wave of new functionalities. Apps like drawing app Paper by FiftyThreewhere pressure pressing will have the same effect as pressing down hard with your paint brush, on a canvas. And to go with 3D Touch, Apple have provided the Peek and Pop framework to their view controllers.

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Within an app, users have the ability to peek into content specific to where they pressure pressed. Take Mail for example, pressure-pressing a message wlill peek into the content of the message, and pressing even harder will pop the user (navigate) into that message. In Instagram, peeking into a user handler will show up a list of all the posts the user created, and popping would bring you to that user’s set of activities. On Safari, you can peek into a link, showing you a preview of the content of the subsequent page, and in Mail, peeking on a suggested meetup time will bring up your calendar, speific to that proposed date. 

Peeking allows users to reveal something without being committed to going into the bit of content.

According to Petshnigg of FiftyThree, in an interview with Wired, “The key change… is that pressure can help you distinguish between selecting something and doing something to it. Until now, those have been the same—as soon as you tap the screen, the thing under your thumb snaps to your control. But if you separate selection from manipulation, you get much more powerful, much more natural control.”

But once again, we are only scratching the surface of what is possible, in terms of UX. Developers and Designers will come up with new meaning to 3D touch actions, from selecting text and pressing harder bringing up a thesaurus for the text, to gaming examples. Apple have given us new toosl and a blank canvas, it’s up to the community to define, refine and develop patterns. The chance for designers to be expressive, and for users to stumble upon and discover new ways of engaging and interacting with the app.