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The iPhone’s next big thing

The Apple rumor mill was set abuzz this week by the latest iPhone note from KGI Security's Ming-Chi Kuo -- a Taiwanese supply-chain analyst whose reports about future Apple products have proved so prescient in the past that they bordered on industrial espionage.

This week's note lists 11 features of the next iPhone, from a stronger case to prevent bending to a new color -- rose gold -- that had AppleInsider wondering if Jony Ive was going upmarket with a solid gold iPhone.

But the most important change, the "biggest selling point," according to Kuo, will be the addition of Force Touch, Apple's patented technology for creating the tactile illusion of a pressure-sensitive screen.

It's a powerful illusion, as anyone who has played with the Apple Watch or the new MacBooks can attest. Press hard on the MacBook's trackpad and you get what feels and sounds like a "click." The trackpad isn't actually moving; the sensation of movement is created by vibrating motors (Apple's "Taptic Engine") pushing back on your fingers.

It's a cool feature. It adds another dimension -- literally -- to the user interface. You can scroll. You can tap. You can press.

Whether Force Touch on an iPhone is enough to make current owners want to trade up remains to be seen. If it's just a fancy right-button-click (to use an analogy Steve Jobs would have hated), it doesn't have the value proposition of, say Apple Pay.

But who knows where Apple is headed with this? Remember, when the iPhone 5S got fingerprint recognition, it wasn't terribly useful. It was only when the iPhone 6 added Apple Pay that Touch ID came into its own.

What's Force Touch for? Your guess is as good as mine.

Credit where credit is due: AppleInsider's Neil Hughes had the Force Touch scoop three months ago.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (aapl) coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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