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It's Been Three Months And Apple's 3D Touch Is Still A Drag To Use

10/06/2016 8:35 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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The '3D Touch' function on an Apple Inc. iPhone 6s smartphone is demonstrated in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The latest models, following last year's hugely popular design overhaul that added bigger screens, may not match the success of previous releases, according to analysts. Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When it comes to implementing new things or bringing in new features, there are very few OEMs that can outdo Apple. In fact, Apple has become synonymous with innovation when it comes to personal electronics. Be it revolutionizing MP3 players with iPods, or the way we use touchscreen phones without a stylus, to introducing fingerprint scanners to the mass audience, Apple has made a significant contribution to the way we use our gadgets. Therefore, it is little surprise that when Apple introduces something, there is a herd of brands trying to bring the same feature into their line-up of gadgets.

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We saw it with high pixel density displays, with voice assistants, with smartwatches too and most recently with 3D Touch. Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6s. Like every other iPhone with 's' in its name, while the device looked pretty much the same as the non 's' model from the previous generation (iPhone 6 in this case), 3D Touch was that one special feature that encouraged users to upgrade for reasons above and beyond the mandatory improvement in the internals of the device. The iPhone 6s was not the first time that we saw 3D Touch from Apple. On devices like the Apple MacBook (Retina) as well as the Apple Watch, the same technology was already present under the branding of Force Touch.

3D Touch feels like a feature that you are forced to use because it is there, but it isn't something you'd miss if it just vanished one day.

However, presenting it like only Apple can, 3D Touch was called an absolute revolution in the way you use your smartphone. As expected, several brands jumped on the bandwagon to bring 3D Touch to their devices, but failed miserably. The reason being that Apple itself has not really mastered 3D Touch yet. Having used the iPhone 6s and then moved to a 6s Plus, I have tried out3D Touch regularly for the past three months at least, and I still find it really cumbersome and awkward. Here is precisely why:

Applying a lot of pressure on glass doesn't come naturally

When they use their smartphones, people either press something for a long time or a short time. It has nothing to do with them applying a force in the z-direction. In fact, it is really awkward when you have to apply pressure on a surface like glass. Obviously, the biggest reason is that somewhere psychologically we fear that applying too much force can damage the display or the phone itself. Have we all not been programmed to use our Apple products very securely anyway? The way we have been using our iPhones over the past eight or so years has been that we only really press longer when we need to move or delete applications, everything else is a quick tap. Now to press on the same device with force feels unnatural. In fact, moving applications or even deleting them on the iPhone 6s is a pain. Simply because you are confused about the exact amount of force you need to apply. It is impossible to gauge that exact amount of force that needs to be applied when you need to move an app or to quickly preview the action.

Moving applications or even deleting them on the iPhone 6s is a pain. Simply because you are confused about the exact amount of force you need to apply.

In these three months, I must have been able to delete an application in one go maybe twice and it was an honest mistake. Maybe I am not savvy enough or just generally too rough around the edges for using this feature, but 3D Touch goes against the very human tendency of not pushing glass too hard, and it will take time for that confidence to come - especially when it comes in the way of an action that I have been so used to performing for years such as long pressing to deleting apps.

Copying and pasting on iPhones is even tougher now

Once you start tuning yourself to 3D Touch, you automatically tend to go a little tougher on your display. But if you are reading a long article and want to paste a quote out, and you tap the screen too hard, you either end up selecting a word or the entire paragraph or nothing at all -- the whole process is just too erratic. Go easy on the screen and you can easily select the whole word and drag the selection boxes as per your will.

If you are a MacBook user, like I am, you would expect to tap a word hard with Force Touch in order to have the meaning of the word before you. Now, it doesn't work like that on the iPhone. When you tap on a word gently, you get a popup of the options of Copying and Pasting as well as defining the word right there and there's no 3D Touch implementation for this action. For the first time in the ecosystem, there is a lack of consistency. This just tends to confuse you that little bit more, making for a slightly unpleasant experience.

I can totally see the utility of it on an Apple Watch or even on the Retina MacBook, but on the iPhone so far, it is more of a gimmick than anything else.

It forces you to learn how to play the same game differently on a new iPhone -- and I cannot go back

When Apple announced 3D Touch, plenty of developers, unsurprisingly, decided to use it in their apps and games. Now, several action games use 3D Touch where you can tap the screen that bit harder to maybe deploy a better weapon or use a boost and all the useful stuff. This is great, but when I move to a different iPhone, an iPhone SE in this case, it feels like I have to start all over again as the phone does not support 3D Touch. I need to go back to selecting the boost mode manually before I can use it, whereas I was used to just tapping my screen a little harder. In fact, iPhone SE does support Live Photos. It is clear that using some software trick, Live Photos could be made to work all across the line-up of iPhones. Maybe Apple will introduce that some time down the line, but for now, playing games that have used 3D Touch implementation are a drag, simply because you get so used to playing them in a certain way that you just have to reset your moves from your memory in case you want to continue on an Android device or an older iPhone.

I love Peek & Pop as features... But the problem here is consistency.

Peek & Pop are great but not consistent

I love Peek & Pop as features -- the ability to quickly scan an article before opening it in your primary tab, or even within an application to quickly see a profile, like on Instagram, is brilliant. But the problem here is consistency.

Take Instagram, for example. In the app layout, if you long press on the name of a user you are given a peek of their profile. You can also long press the three dots that appear right next to the user name when they push a picture to see a peek of their profile. The action is same on the usernames in the comments section. However, long press an image and nothing happens, and oh, try it twice and you actually end up accidentally "liking" a picture. Anyway, since you are used to peeking at the profiles now, when you long tap on a username, try the same on the Twitter and Facebook app. Guess what, the behaviour is just as inconsistent. There are places where tapping on the name brings up the profile while it does not happen on Twitter. This inconsistency is mainly because it is so heavily dependent upon the app developers to integrate the feature. As a complete experience, you are always left wondering whether this particular app would support 3D Touch or not. More often than not, you end up learning something new!

Maybe Apple will refine it, maybe not, but upgrading your iPhone 6 to 6s just to get 3D Touch is probably not worth it.

It is fair to say that since the very first iPhone came out, 3D Touch is the only implementation from Apple that feels unnatural. It feels like a feature that you are forced to use because it is there, but it isn't something you'd miss if it just vanished one day. I can totally see the utility of it on an Apple Watch or even on the Retina MacBook, but on the iPhone so far, it is more of a gimmick than anything else. Maybe Apple will refine it, maybe not, but let's just put it out there that upgrading your iPhone 6 to 6s just to get 3D Touch is probably not worth it.

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