iPhone 6s to have ‘3D Touch’ three-level, next-gen Force Touch interface

One of the cornerstone features of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, to be announced next Wednesday, is a screen based on the Force Touch technology from the latest MacBook trackpads and the Apple Watch. However, as we noted in previous articles such as our event expectations roundup from yesterday, the Force Touch feature in the new iPhones will actually be a next-generation version of the technology. According to sources familiar with the new iPhones, the new pressure-sensitive screen will likely be called the “3D Touch Display”…

While the MacBook trackpads and Apple Watch act on two levels of pressure, the differentiation between a tap and a press, the new iPhones will actually differentiate and unique act upon three levels of pressure: a tap, a press, and a deeper press, according to sources. The 3D Touch name is therefore derived from the new Force Touch sensor’s ability to sense three dimensions of pressure, rather than just two. This opens up the door to new user-interface tricks, such as shortcut gestures across the iPhone 6s version of iOS 9.

In an article profiling the new Force Touch feature earlier this year, we shared a few additional examples of how the new iPhone will take advantage of the new screen technology:

  • 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.

With three dimensions, developers will likely be able to create new types of games that take advantage of the new technology. The updated Force Touch screen is also set to make its way to the iPad Pro, where it will be leveraged by a non-traditional-looking stylus accessory. The iPad Pro will be announced on Wednesday as well, according to sources.

The new 3D Touch screen is likely to work in tandem with a new Taptic Engine to provide physical feedback to the user. Check out our full roundup of what else to expect from the new iPhones, including support for a new 12 megapixel camera with 4K video recording capabilities, an upgraded FaceTime camera, faster chips, animated wallpapers, and a new Rose Gold color option.

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  1. mime454 - 7 years ago

    The Mac can still how deep you are pressing too. Like with the QuickTime fast forward button and even the force touch lookup. How is this different?

  2. my God the hype is through the roof to me at this point, i cant wait till wednesday

  3. Rupert Applin - 7 years ago

    Does anyone know if the haptic feedback will be provided when typing? So you’d get to feel each key press?

  4. I believe the two-finger selection (that is not present in the beta at the moment) will make use of the force touch.
    Two fingers move the “cursor” around, and the deep press enables the selection.

  5. usmansaghir - 7 years ago

    I can already see Samsung coming up with its own force touch! Maybe call it qalaxy touch! Haha iPhone 6s coming in full force! Looking forward to Wednesday more and more!

    • Lucian Mjob - 7 years ago

      I’m sure it would be called S-touch.

    • mytawalbeh - 7 years ago

      LOL! copycatKing will be there for taking the notes but they should be careful in not to insert the pen inversely.
      Can’t wait till Wednesday.

    • cdm283813 - 7 years ago

      I know it’s popular to make fun of Samsung around here but a Chinese OEM has already beat Samsung and Apple to the punch. Huawei just demoed their force touch phone last week by weighing a orange on the display.
      Huawei is the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
      Huawei is one of these companies that will copy Apple and Android phones taking the good parts of both. Some are calling Huawei the next Samsung. Do your research guys! Apple may be in third place shortly because of them.

      • Jim Phong - 7 years ago

        Apple Force Touch technology was patented in 2008. Apple has been working on it for a decade at least. Huawei, Samsung and all Android competitors will just keep copying Apple in the worst possible way and then claim to be better while being a bad copy.

    • robahoy - 7 years ago

      Do you mean like on my note 4.. if I tap my menu buttons it turns them on and off or long press brings up the relevant menu?

      • Jerry Cox (@jcox_bitwiz) - 7 years ago

        Sort of, but you’ll get to see with the rest of us what it looks like when it’s “done right” come 9/9. The Samsung feature is sure to look rushed and under thought if history holds true. IMO

    • Midhun Jayanandan - 7 years ago

      iphone 6s processor is made by samsung period hahaha….

  6. How is this different to the MacBook Force Touch trackpads? They detect varying levels of pressure, not just “Tap”, “Press”, “Deep Press”.

  7. I’m confused as to how this is different from the MacBook trackpads? I know the article says you can do a tap and a “deep press” but the trackpad can distinguish between multiple levels of force (rewinding/fast forwarding in Quicktime being one example). What would force touch on iPhone allow you to do that the existing technology couldn’t?

  8. plooms - 7 years ago

    My watch seems like it can tell multiple levels of how hard I’m pressing. For instance the watch face, I can have it bounce back-n-forth between the customization screen and face, depending on how hard I press. Not just 2 levels

  9. rogifan - 7 years ago

    Now that Huawei stole Apple’s Force Touch marketing name I hope Apple renames it to something else. Ha!

    • GMac (@AAPLintheTree23) - 7 years ago

      Officially, it’s not “Force Touch,” or at least not on their official website for the device. They are referring to it as “smart pressure sensitive display,” which is pretty smart of them because Apple would likely sue the crap out of them. They are, however, tweeting about the phone with the hashtag #ForceTouch, so it will be interesting to see how Apple responds once they make their announcement on Wednesday. Apple shouldn’t have to rename a technology they made mainstream and created a marketing term for…

      • rogifan - 7 years ago

        But they do mention “Force Touch Technology” on their website.

  10. macnificentseven48 - 7 years ago

    Pretty soon all high-end Android smartphones will have their version of Force Touch. Google will claim to have been working on it for years. Whatever Apple gets, Android will also get it. Apple needs to learn how to patent stuff so it can’t be readily copied.

    • GMac (@AAPLintheTree23) - 7 years ago

      There already is a “Force Touch” Android phone on the market. Huawei just announced it a few days ago with the Mate S.

      • mytawalbeh - 7 years ago

        LMAO, abviously they are a big fan of 9to5mac, copying the rumors even before come to reality.

      • John Molloy (@jgpmolloy) - 7 years ago

        From the article you linked to:

        “the Force Touch version will only be available in “select markets,” according to a press release. Preorders in Western Europe begin on September 15th. The standard, 32GB model will be priced at €649, with the 64GB version at €699. Pricing for the Force Touch version was not disclosed, though the Chinese manufacturer says it will provide more information on it next month.”

        So if they’re providing more information “next month” and Apple releases the new iPhone as it has every year before the end of the month, then how come your argument “There already is a “Force Touch” Android phone on the market.” holds any water. From the article it’s pretty clear that the phone is not yet on the market and that Huawei will provide more information next month.

        This sounds remarkably like the sort of spoilers we’re used to from Android and it’s many fans.

    • djjoury - 7 years ago

      Wow i mean i like apple and this force touch sounds cool. But i prefer android but to be more precise i prefer the note line from samsung. Maily cause of the multi window and the stylus. But all you guys saying that samsung and android just copy apple really need to do your research and not just write dumb comments like that. Having said that i can’t wait till sep 9th to see what apple unveil.

      • jpatel330 - 7 years ago

        of course you can’t wait for sep 9th because chances are your next samsung upgrade will have the features that apple will unveil on the 9th

      • srgmac - 7 years ago

        Samsung has Samsung Pay also, which is a 1000x better system than Apple Pay since it doesn’t need NFC to function and is just as secure, and works any place where a store has a swipe CC reader. Not to mention they had 4K cameras in their phones since the beginning of the year; Apple isn’t even putting 4K on the Apple TV (lol…).

  11. GMac (@AAPLintheTree23) - 7 years ago

    Technically, the Force Touch Trackpads offer 3 levels as well… The single tap, the single click (which just accomplishes the same thing as the tap), and the deep press. I don’t think Apple would add confusion to the lineup by using a different name with the iPhones. Apple generally likes to keep marketing terms consistent across their product lines.

  12. Taste_of_Apple - 7 years ago

    Calling it ‘3D Touch Display’ is definitely a less geeky name for this technology. It also doesn’t have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, I’m curious to see how (if at all) this will alter the iPhone and iOS experience. Especially, if it is brought to the iPad. Not too much longer until we find out.

  13. yojimbo007 - 7 years ago

    If it can detect varying levels of force… Why not make it proportional to input force and higher resolution for sensing more than just 3 levels .
    Or maybe it can and we just dont know it yet ?:)

    • chrish1961 - 7 years ago

      It already is proportional on the trackpads and Apple Watch. It’s the software that sets the thresholds of detection.

      • yojimbo007 - 7 years ago

        Great… I hope they allow full access to its range …. It Will allow for much more creative functionality ….

  14. taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

    Is this the name you hinted at 2-3 weeks ago Mark? Or is the name Apple will use still in flux?

  15. scumbolt2014 - 7 years ago

    Nice. The company that made touch interface mainstream is going to advance the way we interface with them. This and 2gb ram are enough for me to upgrade from 6 to 6s. 12mp camera is just a bonus.

  16. tush4r - 7 years ago

    Force Touch on MacBook is useless. Things you do with new trackpad can easily be achieved with a double tap and click and hold – not a strong reason to give up my existing mid-2014 MacBook Pro. Other than that, this is going to be pretty useful on iPhone.

    • hpbrocster - 7 years ago

      While it isn’t as necessary as it is on the watch, I can promise you it isn’t useless. I have the new MacBook and an iMac, and when I’m using the iMac I notice all these different times where I have started to rely on the trackpad. The dictionary feature of it particularly saves time and is a lot easier. Definitely not useless. I would agree it alone isn’t a reason to upgrade, but between all of the other features it touts, it was enough for me, and I had a mid 14 MBP before as well.

      • tush4r - 7 years ago

        When it was first introduced, I was favoring a purchase, however, with a trial in the Apple Store, that feeling went away and now I am waiting for even more internal upgrades before I can unbox another beauty.

  17. kjl3000 - 7 years ago

    Can’t wait for deep-press-braking-display-gate!

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Only the dumbest people will press excessively hard, but I highly doubt you’d break the display even if you pressed with excessive force, like a total moron.

      • kjl3000 - 7 years ago

        We thought that about bendgate, too… :)

  18. dougieswallow - 7 years ago

    I wonder which company will have a Yoda in their advertising saying “feel the force!”

    • Jesse Nichols - 7 years ago

      Since Apple has a great relationship with Disney and they own Star Wars… I would just barely be shocked to see this happen… Lol

  19. dugbug - 7 years ago

    I love the force touch to rename a file in finder and to call up word definitions in text.

    I’m sure there will be some shortcuts in iOS that make life easier. Potentially better use of options in music with the tension of apple music, iTunes music, and radio

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Force Touch a lowercase key on the keyboard to make it a capital without having to move a finger and tap the shift key. Force Touch the delete button to delete the last word, instead of the last letter. Force Touch Return to send/post instead of jumping down a line. Force Touch and drag your finger over text to highlight it instantly, without having to double tap > tap on a blue end and drag to highlight text.

      Force Touch the battery indicator to switch to Power Reserve,or vice versa. Force Touch the time at the top to show the current date.

      Numerous other uses I could come up with if I gave it more thought. What everyone needs to realize is that hundreds of people at Apple have been giving it a lot of thought for a very long time. They will have a slew of uses for it.

  20. Todd Northrop - 7 years ago

    Wait, what? The big feature of the new iPhone does the same thing as a long-press or a right-click on other OSes?

    • dugbug - 7 years ago

      Long press was introduced by iOS in 2.0 I think. 2.1? It’s not going away.

      There will be shortcuts to get rid of damn long presses but that won’t be the main feature.

      Force touch gives apps a range of pressure as you drag around. Think paint programs and games.

      Also if there is haptic feedback like on the macs then buttons can feel like buttons (not cheap phone vibrate but really feel like you depressed a button)

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      No imagination, sorry to say. Look at my post above yours. By the way, let me know how long press or right click can get an artist to finely tune their digital brushstroke on a touchscreen glass. Also, a right click doesn’t happen on a touchscreen, also, a long press takes time, whereas a deeper press is as instantaneous as a touch.

  21. Lukas David Cutforth - 7 years ago

    This isn’t new functionality as the watch and macs both sense many more than 3 layers of force. When you force press, the animations develop with the strength of your press. (try *slowly* force pressing a word on mac and watch the definition slowly transition in the harder you press. Macs even have an option to choose the strength at which force press actions are initialised so are clearly detecting many different strengths rather than just two/three. If Apple does a third strength option it’ll be nothing more than assigning a different action to different forces in software, rather than new hardware.

  22. srgmac - 7 years ago

    I’m not sure I understand the point of this…being able to distinguish between a “deep press” and a “deeper press” seems pointless to me…

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Well, that’s kind of sad. One can do one thing, the other could do a different thing, or to a varying degree of the first thing… For example, you could press on fast forward or rewind arrows and the harder you press, the faster it rewinds…. It’s so simple to understand. If you are drawing on the new iPad with the stylus and you want a finer line, or a thicker line, you vary the degree of pressure you apply to the screen with the stylus (just as you naturally would with a pencil or the like, on paper)…

  23. Stephanie Chedíd - 7 years ago

    The 3D touch and Force-Touch are extremely similar, if not indiscernible from a consumer’s point of view. Check out the Sensel Morph http://kck.st/1JktNd4. They also have coined their technology as the next generation of touch, but it seems a bit ahead of force-touch/3D touch.