The best feature of 3D Touch? Trackpad text selection with the iPhone 6s keyboard

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The reviews for the iPhone 6s came out yesterday and it was generally agreed that 3D Touch is a substantial advancement in the iPhone’s UI and interaction experience. However, most reviewers focused on how you can use the pressure-sensitive display to bring up quick actions on the Home Screen or peek at content in apps without navigating all the way in. These are good examples (and certainly the ones Apple touts the most on its website) but 3D Touch has the potential for many more custom uses within apps and games.

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By far the best of these unsung features was demoed by Matthew Panzerino on Twitter last night. You can 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s keyboard to enter trackpad mode and move the cursor around indirectly. It’s like the iOS 9 two-finger gesture on iPad but its even more convenient and more powerful.

You can light press on the screen to move the cursor around (already a great improvement over the current fiddly ways to select text on iOS) but when you press harder, it actually invokes selection. This means you can quickly navigate around the paragraph and instantly start highlighting with just one finger.

It’s a great use case that shows the extra dimension of control you can get by measuring the force of a touch on a screen — the ability to start two distinct actions in one continuous gesture. Doing the same without 3D Touch might be possible but it couldn’t be anywhere near as fast or as elegant.

It’ll be interesting to see what developers do with the addition of force: imagine a note-taking app that can differentiate between highlighting and annotating based on how hard you press down. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus launch this Friday.

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  1. i’d rather force touch on the upper row to type numbers tbh…

    • Benjamin Mayo - 7 years ago

      Maybe they could add that still — perhaps on the QuickType word suggestions row?

    • Viszt Péter (@passatgt) - 7 years ago

      And hard press on the backspace should delete the whole word/text, not just one character:)

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        You can’t say that I already said that hahah

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        I also thought 3D Touch a lowercase key to type capital instead of having to hit the shift, but I admit the trackpad is more useful than that really.

  2. BaoChao (@BaoMingChao) - 7 years ago

    I was absolutely delighted to see this feature on the Apple’s home page the day the iPhone was announced. This is going to be a game changer!

  3. lincolnsills - 7 years ago

    Also know as SwipeSelection on a jailbroken device less the force touch. Ironic so many people see no benefit to jailbreak, but their mind is blown when iOS adds similar tweaks that mimic Cydia tweaks.

    • PMZanetti - 7 years ago

      SwipeSelection blows. It’s garbage code written by an amateur. Never works properly. Just like everything else you get if you jailbreak.

      • lincolnsills - 7 years ago

        No it is not… that is bull just like most of your rhetoric you post. I’m curious, you clearly don’t jailbreak your device so HOW are you an expert… an expert so versed in jailbreaking that you can blanket all tweaks as crap?

      • PMZanetti - 7 years ago

        Cearly? I’ve been jailbreaking iPhones since it became possible with 1.0.4. Its a collection of garbage, written by amateurs. That is a fact. It’s sloppy, buggy code that will make your device run like shit. Also fact.

        Swipe selection is horrible, repeat, horrible, by comparison to Apple’s native implementation. And yes, having purchased some of the “best” tweaks available from Cydia and Rock previously, they are all a joke. All of them.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      I hope all jailbreakers get malware just for their hideous themes they destroy iOS with.

      • shareef777 - 7 years ago

        Right, because it doesn’t conform to your tastes, everyone else should be damned. Also an ironic statement now that it’s confirmed that malware is now more prevalent in the official iOS store then Cydia.

      • rahhbriley - 7 years ago

        F off. Swipe Selection and themes my blow, but anyone that makes such sweeping negative statements about Jbing are ignorant-spouting fallacy-mongers.

    • Cory Imdieke - 7 years ago

      I think the issue isn’t that they see no benefit, it’s that for them the risk of issues or annoyance of less stability doesn’t counteract the benefit.

  4. This was on my regular 6 Plus in the early betas – drag wth two fingers to scroll, long-press and drag to select. I was rather upset when it disappeared again in Beta 3 or so – I’d gotten used to it!

    • vandiced - 7 years ago

      They could offer it for all devices (albeit not as efficient as 3D Touch). But Apple wants use to pay another $650-$750 for their latest offering.

    • Benjamin Mayo - 7 years ago

      Yeah, but it wasn’t great. It sucks that it was teased in the betas for a period but I really don’t think it was a great experience. It ‘worked’. And it was pretty bad on the 6 where screen space is smaller.

  5. SwipeSelection !!!

  6. Joe Streno (@JoeStreno) - 7 years ago

    Just got my new iPhone 6s yesterday. Started using the new native 3D touch to try to select text. Here is the first problem, you can only select one word/chunk at a time, rather than, one letter or character at a time. The only way, that I can see so far to get that micro-level of selection is the previous non 3D Touch way, select text with finger & magnifier and select words & partial words/characters. I looked for a preference to change this, even looked in Accessibility — but still none. Sorry, that’s not progress.

    It seems that I have to press way too hard for the keyboard to turn to the trackpad, then I have to lighten up my touch, then press down again to get selection to work. I can see many people having pressure related stress injuries from using 3D Touch … but that’s another issue.

    Hate to say, the way SwipeSelection did this was far more accurate, elegant and intuitive than the current 3D Touch method Apple has implemented. I’ve also jailbroken since the iPhone 1 & SwipeSelection has always worked flawlessly for me. It’s one of the first tweaks I’d load on my iPhone. Not being a programmer, I don’t really care how the sausage is made — I just want it to work & be tasty! ;)

    I’m so to use to the SwipeSelection gesture to move my cursor and select text, I still find myself still swiping across the keyboard waiting for the cursor to move. Hard to break an ingrained gesture. Push. Hold. Swipe. Push HARDER! Swipe some more. And god forbid you lift your finger! Bedlam!

    One can only hope for an iOS 9.x Jailbreak and the opportunity to use SwipeSelection again, as well as other tweaks. But until then I will hope Apple fixes this selection “flaw” with the ability to select one letter/character at a time using 3D Touch.

    That’s my 2¢ U.S.


Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.