Apple is rumored to be prepping to integrate its Force Touch technology into the upcoming iOS 9 and iPhone 6S release. The Force Touch function will presumably enable users deeper control of the interface and Apple will eventually be providing developers the ability to leverage the hardware as well. It is unlikely that we will see this technology announced at WWDC as it is a hardware dependent feature and it would not follow Apple’s regular annual pattern to announce the iPhone 6S AT WWDC.
9to5Mac was one of the first to report on the matter. According to one of their inside sources, “To go with the new hardware [iPhone 6], Apple has designed iOS 9 to be Force Touch-ready and is working to let developers integrate Force Touch into App Store apps.” A few of the rumored actions that will leverage Force Touch include dropping a pin on a map, adding new events on the calendar, improved media player scrolling, and more.
Force Touch uses a pressure sensitive screen to enable users to interact with content using various levels of force on the screen. The feature requires a pressure sensitive screen and Apple’s Haptic Engine to let the user know the amount of pressure being applied to the screen. Because it will rely on new hardware, it is unlikely that Force Touch will majorly impact the overall design and functionality of Apple’s updated OS as there will be 8 previous models of the iPhone; many of which will be compatible with iOS 9.
This marks the third device type into which Apple is now incorporating its Force Touch technology. Apple began with its MacBook and Macbook Pros released early this year and later incorporated the technology in their latest wearable: the Apple Watch. As the Apple Watch sports a much smaller screen than most devices, a second way to interact with on-screen content became a crucial bedrock to the UI. Now, Apple is set to release the same technology in their upcoming iPhone 6S.
Will this really improve the user experience?
The question becomes, “if Force Touch is only available on one of Apple’s many devices, how much will it really improve the overall user experience?” This is a valid question and a bit indicative to what the hardware/software combo may be used for. Most of the actions that have been mentioned thus far are those that are currently accommodated by a press and hold gesture on the iPhones of today. This will mean a faster and more responsive experience when doing things like dropping a pin, adding a calendar appointment, opening a link in a new window, and more. While the difference is less than seconds, it’s often that we don’t notice how much we appreciate a second or two improvement until we have to use an older device and are forced into tapping and waiting.
Think about it, it’s hard not to wonder whether Apple’s operating system was partially inspired by the user interface in the movie Minority Report. This was appealing and futuristic because it was a much faster way to manipulate imagery, access files, and interact with content. Take a look at the clip below from Minority Report. Notice that there are zero gestures that involve waiting.
99% of human beings abhor the action of waiting. (I made this statistic up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.) The less time we spend waiting, the more we are likely to enjoy a device. Press and hold slows down the entire tactile experience. Force Touch could be the solution to the need for a faster form of “right-click” in the touch screen world. As Apple heralds the way, others are likely to follow. Microsoft take notes. This could also be your solution to the current mouseover challenge that those using touch-screen Windows currently face.
What are your thoughts on the Force Touch rumor for the iPhone 6? How do you think it will improve the user experience? Sound off in the comments below.