Force Touch on iPhone 6S revealed: expect shortcuts, faster actions across iOS


While Force Touch on the Apple Watch allowed Apple to add an additional layer of buttons to a small display, the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus screens don’t lack for either real estate or buttons. So why would Force Touch be desirable on larger displays? Following up on our May report that Force Touch is coming to Apple’s next iPhones, sources who have used the iPhone 6S have provided new details on how Force Touch works and feels under iOS.

According to sources, the iOS version of Force Touch is known internally as “Orb.” Instead of opening up a large window of extra controls that did not fit on the screen, as is done on the Apple Watch, Force Touch on the iPhone is designed to skip existing lists of options or button presses. “There is consistent usage of Force Touch across the operating system to ‘shortcut’ actions,” rather than present new options like with the Apple Watch, according to a source. The source provided a few examples:

  • New to the Force Touch experience, a user can look up a point of interest in the Maps application, and then Force Touch on the destination to immediately begin turn-by-turn directions. Currently, if a user wants to start navigating to a destination, she must search for the point of interest, click the navigation logo on the map view, then click another button to actually start navigating. In this case, the Force Touch gesture will skip two steps.
  • In the Music application, a user can Force Touch on a listed track to be presented with some of the most commonly-used actions. For instance, if a user deep presses on the listing for a song, a menu will appear to quickly add the song to a playlist or save it for offline listening. This Force Touch gesture would act as a substitute for clicking the actions button on the right side of each track listing in the Music app.
  • Another feature in testing, according to one source, are shortcuts that appear after Force Touching an app icon on the Home screen. For example, if a user deep presses on the Phone app icon, he could choose to shortcut directly to the Voicemail tab. This could also apply to deep pressing the News app icon and being taken directly to either the Favorites or For You tabs.
  • Some of the Force Touch gestures will come from Apple’s latest MacBooks. For instance, a user can Force Touch a link in Safari to see a preview of that webpage. The gesture also works for deep pressing on an address or contact name to see a preview of a map view or contact card, respectively. Similarly, a user can Force Touch a word to look up its definition.

Because of its small display, the Apple Watch’s Force Touch feature is consistently represented by a grid of options that cover the entirety of the current view on the screen. On the new iPhones, Force Touch will be represented in three ways: no additional user interface as with the subtle integration on the new MacBooks, a user interface that appears surrounding the finger where the Force Touch gesture is conducted, or a shortcut list toward the bottom of the display akin to a typical options list across iOS.

Sources explained that the physical feedback given to the user with each Force Touch press has been tuned to be “nice” and “consistent” across the system. Besides a Force Touch display, sources say that 4K video recording for the iPhone 6S was in the cards earlier this year, but it is unconfirmed whether that feature will be ready to go for September. Of course, the new devices will also sport a faster A9 chip in addition to 2GB of RAM, faster LTE speeds for web browsing, and more efficient chips for better battery life.

Apple has also been planning to open up Force Touch beyond its core apps and operating system so that developers could ship iOS 9 App Store apps that leverage the new interaction paradigm. Beyond this fall’s new iPhones, sources say that the upcoming larger, 12.9-inch iPads, codenamed J98 and J99, will feature a Force Touch display that interacts with the long-in-the-works iPad stylus. An uncorroborated tip indicates that the larger-sized device could debut alongside an iOS 9.1 update.

Apple is expected to show off the new iPhones alongside the new iOS-based Apple TV, and potentially new iPads, on September 9th.

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  1. Perhaps Force Touch is needed to clear all iOS notifications at once.

  2. Tom Ricket - 7 years ago

    I’ve been an iOS developer for 6 years, and generally love the devices … but I still don’t really understand the benefit of “force touch” versus “long press” on the phones. Even on my Apple Watch, in my mind they’re pretty much the same, as any “force” touch I make ends up being longer by default.

    • Fred Cintra - 7 years ago

      Force Touch is a little bit faster than long press, With FT you don’t need to wait the whole 2 seconds to se the interaction and with FT you have a third variable, force. On macbook, for exemple, you can set 2x to 10x fast forward speed on a video depending on the pressure, something you can’t do with long press

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Oh dear. This is exactly why Steve said people don’t know what they want until you tell them. People don’t understand or see the full picture, and have little imagination. Turns out Apple has had people thinking about thousands of ways Force Touch can be beneficial now and into the future.

      I am perplexed how people think Force Touch = Long Press. I’ll break it down for you guys. Force Touch = Pressure. Long Press = Time. You can Force Touch and immediately remove your finger, I’m not sure how everyone thinks you have to hold your finger down for a period? One of the main reasons for the haptic feedback tied in is so you have that immediate recognition that you’ve successfully completed the action. It’s like if you had a physical button in front of you, you press it down and feel instantly that you’ve pushed it down and completed the task, on the other hand if you had to push it down for 2 seconds, you’d be lagging behind in actions completed. Think of playing a video game with a controller… how slow would it be if each time you had to press a button instead it was waiting 2 seconds?

      Why do you guys think they just put sketching with your finger in notes??? Guess what, it’s real purpose and why it’s just being added now, is for the pen and paper experience you’ll get on the iPad Pro, and iPad Air 3 (other devices too), with the new smart stylus and Force Touch. You confuse Force Touch with only being able to do shortcuts, when in reality it is able to recognize pressure, so you’ll be able to experience natural handwriting on the touchscreen.

      There are many possibilities. You just have to have some imagination.. I thought that with the keyboard up, you could Force Touch a letter to capitalize it, instead of having to move your finger away, and press the shift button. You could Force Touch delete to erase the last word, instead of the last letter.

      It will also be implemented into research apps for Researchkit I’m sure.

      • captkeebz - 7 years ago

        Good info but your first paragraph makes you look silly. Don’t diminish yourself by being petty.

    • Smigit - 7 years ago

      They’re clearly different. That said, I’m curious how customers will take to it. I can see a lot of people not really being able to differentiate between the two and unlike buttons on the UI, there’s probably going to be a lot of trial and error to find the interactions that are useful for a user vs those that aren’t, and in the process many cases where a user triggers an action that they don’t actually want. For example, from that maps example, for a first time user do I really know whether a force touch will start turn by turn or bring up a context menu to add the location to a contact card? Given the functions present all throughout the OS, there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for anyone that wants to integrate the feature into their workflows (although thankfully the old methods will still be there as a fallback).

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        These ‘learning curve’ suggestions are pretty funny. Like everyone says its hard to learn and isnt simple. Hmm. Hand an iPhone to someone who’s never used an iPhone before. They’ll be able to operate it very basically, and use the device because on the most superficial level it is so simple and elegant. However, they won’t have any idea that you can swipe from the very edges to go back/forward, or swipe down from the very top/bottom to bring up notification and control centers. And those are fundamental features at this point.

        The only difficult part would be giving it too many different things that it could do. You have to keep it pretty basic so it’s not different all throughout the OS.

      • Smigit - 7 years ago

        I’m not suggesting forcetouch will necessarily detract from the overall iOS experience, as I mentioned the functions are still there if you go the long way. Just as a feature, people looking to make the most use of it will be subject to a fair bit of trial and error I assume since unlike buttons there isn’t a label to identify what the response will be. It’s a similar issue some other OS had on devices with dedicated back or menu buttons which could behave differently based in the app and context.

        I do think it’ll be a great feature and live the idea of getting feedback from display presses.

  3. Andrew Messenger - 7 years ago

    this could possibly be the most boring new feature i’ve ever seen.

  4. chrisl84 - 7 years ago

    Watch it be a RAM hog and bog the OS down

    • lowtolerance - 7 years ago

      It’s just a new type of input device. RAM consumption will be on the order of bits, not even bytes, let alone anything significant enough to impact performance.

  5. rogifan - 7 years ago

    I hope Apple incorporates it with control center. I’d love to use force touch to change Bluetooth or wifi.

  6. jamessmooth - 7 years ago

    I’m very much looking forward to this!

  7. Cory Klatik (@cklatik) - 7 years ago

    This will be cool for the braille keyboard input that is finicky at best with a straight touch display.

  8. robertsm76 - 7 years ago

    Will the new AppleTv remote have force touch? Would make perfect sense for fast forwarding and rewinding.

  9. I hope apple fixed the :add to playlist” feature first, because it damn sure doesn’t work now smh

  10. I will be happy just for a black iPhone with a gold back like in the picture

  11. it looks like force touch can do the same thing than a long press on the phone display, maybe Apple just want to launch something cool even though it’s kinda gimmick…

    • Fred Cintra - 7 years ago

      FT can do what long press can, but faster and you can do more with FT because of several levels of pressure you can apply

  12. Matt Sayward - 7 years ago

    I started writing a piece a few weeks ago proposing a developer framework called IconKit that let developers do this kind of thing with Force Touch on iOS (this just reminded me to finish it) – I would be interested to know what you thought!

  13. RP - 7 years ago

    I have big clumsy fingers, I so am just hoping it solves me accidentally highlighting text with every touch of the screen.

  14. The main selling point I see with Force Touch is pressure-sensitive drawing with out a special stylus.

    • RP - 7 years ago

      yep look forward to force touch on the larger iPad as my go-to drawing board. Let’s hope the processor allows for great design apps. Force touch will make the iPad a must-have for today’s artists and designers.

      • taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

        The processor should be plenty capable, I hope it has 4 GB of ram or at least 3 GB

  15. taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

    I see it being useful for the iPad Pro and stylus. Force Touch on the iPhone does not seem long a selling point to me.

  16. o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

    The imagination of people on here is embarrassingly sad.

    • aaah o0smoothie0o – still being an “I’m better than everyone else” bellend I see.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        No I just like stating facts. The people working at Apple have imagination, vision, and inventiveness. The people posting on this site do not. Ergo the Force Touch hate.

  17. charismatron - 7 years ago

    While on its surface, this sounds like a fairly boring feature to most casual observers, what I like about it most is it represents a step in a new direction with how we interact with our tech. It’s not monumental in and of itself, but this is a small piece which will eventually be the leverage required for a great leap sometime down the road.

    In small increments we see what appear to be tiny little changes of questionable value. But 6-10 years from now, while we may not even notice this tiny forward shift, it will represent a step in something far greater. For now, it’s simply a new way of managing/touching/holding our tech for input. 6 years from now, we’ll be wondering how we ever had screens that did anything less.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Well it will replace the home button in the iPhone 7 probably.

      • Jassi Sikand - 7 years ago

        No. It won’t. The Home button will never go away. A) it’s iconic, b) it houses TouchID which came out only 2 years ago and changing behavior that quickly is bad, c) the home button acts as a physical button that can be used to reset the phone when something with the display goes wrong.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        @Jassi Sikand Yes, the Home Button will go away, in the physical sense (although not entirely in that sense). Iconic it is, but if you’re intelligent, like Apple, you aren’t stuck in the past just due to the iconic nature of something.

        In case you weren’t aware, Apple is one of the main movers into the future, getting rid of or replacing things. They went away from floppy, they removed all DVD drives, they are removing ports in place of a single port, they changed the 30pin connector to the lightning connector, they started putting SSD in almost every Mac instead of mechanical drives. So don’t you worry, it will go away, and most likely sooner rather than later due to Force Touch. I’ll also go ahead and tell you that they’ll remove the headphone jack before too long as well (replaced by Bluetooth headphones or lightning headphones).

        Touch ID isn’t going anywhere (aside from away from the physical Home Button). Apple has patents on building Touch ID into the display, and they are and have been working on it for a long time now, I guarantee that. Touch ID will be imbedded in the display such that you’ll likely be able to put your finger anywhere on the display, but at the very least, in a specific spot on the display.

        What do you mean ‘when something with the display goes wrong’? You mean when an app freezes? Here’s the thing: the new home button being imbedded in the display with Force Touch is still physical. Force Touch will be recognized with the deformation of the display, in other words, you’re physically depressing hardware, and thus, it will be able to act just as the home button with respect to software related issues, due to the fact that it will still be a physical hardware feature.

        Force Touch is the only way they’ll get rid of the home button, and massively reduce the bezels of the device, which is desperately needed.

        I imagine an iPhone where turning it on and unlocking it is as simple as pressing anywhere on the sleeping display to wake it, and leaving it there like you do on the Home Button, now, for Touch ID to unlock it.

  18. “An uncorroborated tip indicates that the larger-sized device could debut alongside an iOS 9.1 update.”

    The million dollar question is, when do we see iOS 9.1?

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      October. With the new iPads. Just like last year with iOS 8.1… All you have to do is look at the past to presume the future moves Apple will make.

      From Wikipedia: On October 16, 2014 at their “Its Been Way Too Long” event,[5] Apple introduced the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, new Mac mini and the iMac with Retina 5K display. At the event, Apple also announced that iOS 8.1 would see a release of October 20.

  19. bradleyza - 7 years ago

    Look at the phones color closely, it looks like Rose Gold!

  20. iluvappleblog - 7 years ago

    One of the big things I hope to be simplified with FT is the web navigation. Currently most websites are riddled with ads, strategically placed so that when you scroll through the page and happen to touch the section of the screen where the ad is placed, it will open the ad link. If somehow Apple can develop Safari, to only recognize touch as a gesture to navigate and FT to act as ‘right click’ to select or open links, it will greatly improve user experience.

  21. Tine Ravnikar - 7 years ago

    Force touch should replace Home button. Mechanical-Button-less iPhone …

  22. Rob Tucker - 7 years ago

    Force touch essentially enables two different input options via the same physical interface. With each input method displaying different options. Sound familiar? I’m struggling to see how this is any different to a right-click on a mouse. Given Steve Jobs was vocally keen on removing right-clicks, I can’t see how he would think this was a good idea. And as an Apple watch owner, I have to say I find it to be a gimmick. The Apple Watch is best used for tracking & quick display, using any of the input mechanisms – touch screen, digital crown, is frankly absurd. Squinting at a tiny display, holding it up in front of your face, instantly gavin you “Gorilla Arm” that again, Steve Jobs wanted to avoid. A real hardware advance would be a battery with double the charge, or seamless cell tower switching. I still find it rather amazing that making a simple phonemail in central London frequently drops out & has poor quality.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      No imagination. Force Touch can’t be compared to a right click. I’ll give you just one example since you have no imagination and don’t read any other comments: Force Touch is pressure sensitive input method for touch screens, and one huge feature will be natural handwriting, drawing, and painting. Apple will introduce a smart stylus for the iPads (specifically the iPad Pro), and with Force Touch displays, users will, for the first time, be able to naturally affect the stroke of the digital mark they will be making on the touch screens. It will be fantastic for painting, and drawing, but also for taking notes (hence why Apple just introduced the scribbling feature in Notes in iOS 9).

      • Rob Tucker - 7 years ago

        Dear sir! Thanks for your heartfelt feedback. Firstly, simply having an opinion on a matter is the basis of a conversation. I certainly wouldn’t make presumptions about you from a post publish on technical specification!

        I’m open to other comments & ideas, however, we are talking about Force Touch in relation to the Apple Watch. And if I’m not mistaken, this currently has 2 States – Tap, Press. The long press is just state 2 for an extended period. So, currently, Apple’s deployment has 2 states, exactly as a left and right click on a mouse. Will this have advanced materially before the 6s is released? Nobody knows. If it is in this current state when it launches, will that be particularly useful, or indeed, much different to a left & right click? I doubt it. I’m sure, this pressure sensitivity will develop into a beautifully subversive & infinitely contextual input method in the future, but if they take the current Apple Watch deployment and put it on the phone, it’s hard to argue how that would be substantially different to the 2 options on a mouse currently.

        I believe, The Apple Watch in itself shows a stunning lack of imagination. Whilst it’s beautifully engineered, and the UI is wonderfully crafted and incredible in it’s simplicity, the device as a whole is without real defining purpose. My opinion, and I acknowledge everyone has their own, is that Steve Jobs would have put this on his wrist, squinted at the tiny screen whilst turning a tiny dial, whilst holding both arms in from of his face, before throwing it out of the window.

        Traditionally, looking at your watch during a conversation was and is rightly considered rude. You are prioritising your knowledge of the time, over your need to listen to the other party. To use this as the embarkation point for a new product is simply insane. In my humble opinion.

  23. Forcetouch will have to go down in history as one of Apple’s biggest wastes of time ever. RIP innovation.

    • tigerpork - 7 years ago

      Add siri to this list too.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Hahaha such a lack of imagination and vision. I feel bad for you. Good thing intelligent visionaries work at Apple, and not you.

      • OMG, you are among the most disrespectfull and irritating fanboys I’ve ever seen. Your arguments are nonsense, basically, force touch is long press. In fact, a force touch will ALWAYS take longer than a simple touch, just like a long press. the difference wouldn’t even be recognisable to an average user.
        Your argument about drawing is just not right, I do rarely see people drawing on iphones and ipads. A phone shouldn’t be 2mm thicker just because taking notes and drawing will be more natural.
        Samsung’s s-note app does recognise the surface of your finger on the screen (which will increase if you press harder) for more than 2 years.
        Stop calling others stupid, go judge yourself and your fanboytism. I bet you don’t work at Apple, so why are you judging others for not working there ?
        I’ll say it one last time FORCE TOUCH = LONG PRESS, just to make you even more furious as you already are.
        Give me one thing FT improves over the long press that every single user uses on a daily basis, and that does justify the +2mm thickness.

  24. Liam Morgan - 7 years ago

    I would like it if Force Touch could close all apps in the app switcher for instance.

  25. scottwilkins - 7 years ago

    The simple explanation of Force Touch I’ve used is the concept of “touch and press”, similar to what you do with the single hardware button on the iPhone. Now you can touch to do one thing, then press to do another thing on that same item on the screen.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Exactly. Touch a lowercase letter to enter it. Press a lowercase letter to enter it as a capital letter without having to move and touch the shift key.

  26. xprmntr - 7 years ago

    64, 128, and 256 GB variants would be nice

  27. David Pulliam - 7 years ago

    So, in other words, on my 6+, I can just install an app from Cydia that when I “Long Press” the screen, I’ll get all the same features as if I “Force Touch” on the 6s+. This still doesn’t seem as revolutionary as all the sheeple are saying. I get that people are saying it can actually detect how much force I’m applying to the screen, but so what. If they end result of “long pressing” or “force touching” is that I get some kind of menu, or list or cloud of context-aware options, then they are essentially the same thing.