A friend recently gave me his iPhone to review some pictures, and I pushed in to pop an open with 3D Touch. What I had done surprised them – not because of the photo setting, but because they had never seen this feature before they had used for several months.
This seems to be the story of 3D Touch: it's a fascinating idea with the potential to completely reform the basic user interface of a smartphone that has gone quite unnoticed. And now, three years after it was introduced, Apple seems to be on its way to phase it out.
While both the new iPhone XS and XS Max include 3D Touch, Apple has Opted not to include the feature on iPhone XR. Yes, the phone is cheaper and Apple had to remove some features, but 3D Touch has been included on iPhones in the price range since it was introduced a long time, so this feels less like necessary cost savings and more like scheduled omission.
There have always been some core problems with 3D Touch. For one, it used to be the right mouse click, which is fun to come from the company who famously refused to put a dedicated right button on the mouse or the tracks. And it was rarely quicker to choose from these options with right click or a significantly more useful way to get something done than just pressing the button and manually navigating to where you have to go.
People did not know that the feature was there. The iPhone did little to train users on the 3D Touch. And even the people who knew it were, had no way of telling which icons supported it without just 3D pressing everything to see what was happening. Apple Pundit John Gruber commented earlier this year that it was "confusing that there is no visual indication of what could be 3D-touched" while connecting a single design suggestion that suggested a way for Apple to move forward if it really wanted the 3D Touch to take off.
This created a failing feedback loop. The users did not know 3D Touch was there or which buttons supported 3D Touch, so developers had little reason to add support. More importantly, not all iPhones included 3D Touch, so the feature, as needed, could never be used to anything more critical than a right-click or as a secondary way of performing another action.
It alone may have set 3D Touch up to fail, but apple did not help much either. The company could have implemented the feature in more central ways, made its presence more obvious, or created apps that utilized the feature's nuanced touch sensitivity. Instead, 3D Touch has remained the same since it was launched. And the fact that Apple does not include it on iPhone, most likely to buy this year, gives developers even less reason to support it.
Apple does not completely remove the 3D Touch concept from iPhone XR. Instead, the phone will include something that Apple calls Haptic Touch, which will make a click when you enable a secondary function of a button by pressing and holding it.
But that replacement emphasizes how useless 3D Touch really has become: it's nothing more than a very, very fancy long press. There are some phones have always been able to. And despite the name, I've found long press features to be faster and easier to use than their 3D Touch equivalent. Instagram, for example, allows you to preview images with a 3D Touch on iPhone or a long press on Android. I find the Android version to be easier and faster.
Although Apple seems to have moved quickly from 3D Touch, the feature's move towards such a hasty deterioration is a big mistake for the company. Like Siri on iPhone 4S and Touch ID on the iPhone 5S, 3D Touch was the most important differentiation feature introduced on the iPhone 6S. Apple spent 10 minutes discussing the feature on the stage. Phil Schiller, Apple's marketer, called it a "huge breakthrough" that would be "as deep" as multitouch, and the company put together one of its classic Jony Ive design videos to explain how it worked. Aubrey Plaza was starred in ads that showed the new technology.
Apple also gave Bloomberg access to his design studio and let the publication talk to some senior executives to profile all the work they & # 39; d is added to the new function. The chip contained a selection from Schiller, which at that time made it seem as if Apple had jumped years ahead of the competition. But in retrospect it shows how much the 3D Touch error was:
"Engineering-wise, the hardware to build a screen that does what [3D Touch] does is incredibly difficult," said Schiller. "And we're going to waste an entire year with engineering – really two – with a huge amount of costs and investment in production if it does not do anything that [people] should use. If it's just a demo feature, and a month later, nobody really uses it, this is a huge waste of engineering. "
It's two years of work Apple could have put something else that instead put on a screen technology that, in Schiller's word, turned out to be" just a demo feature. " And three years later, nobody really uses it – Apple is included.