What Force Touch-enabled iPhones mean for users

Image: AppleInsider

Last week Bloomberg reported Apple (AAPL) had begun ramping up production on the company’s next-generation iPhone, which includes a new feature called Force Touch.

The pressure-sensitive technology allows users to trigger a range of controls through varying levels of force. Originally announced as a key feature for the Apple Watch, Force Touch can now also be found in the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

Apple Watch users can use the technology by pressing firmly on the device’s screen to bring up contextual menus, such as the option to flag or delete a message in the Mail app. Meanwhile, Mac users can simply tap on a trackpad to fast-forward or rewind videos, with the speed determined by the amount of pressure applied to the trackpad.


This relatively new software could turn the iPhone’s entire screen into a giant pressure-sensitive button, adding another dimension to the seemingly mundane glass screen.

Fortune talked to Greg Pierce, an iOS developer and President of Agile Tortoise, about what this new feature could mean for Apple users.

Despite potential gains, the technology faces problems with discoverability, which refers to how easy it is for consumers to discover and use a new feature, he says. He later explained that, “… because Force Touch gestures are invisible to users, it will be difficult to make use of the feature in a way that is not also available via a button, menu, or other on screen element.”

The situation parallels what happened when iOS first launched in 2007, and users had to learn how to interact with an all-touch interface. Years later as Apple prepared to launch iOS 7, which featured a flatter design and lacked key indicators, the company arguably justified the shift by pointing out that since users had previously been taught how to interact with the touch interface.

With Force Touch technology already present in other Mac products, are users now being taught how to intuitively use Force Touch-like interaction? It certainly appears so.

“If the implementation of Force Touch on newer Macs provides more detailed feedback and greater possibilities I would expect, and hope, implementation on iOS will more closely match that on the Mac [rather] than the Apple Watch,” says Pierce. “If developers on iOS are able to get information about how hard a person is pressing on the screen, in addition to the information we can already get about the number and location of finger touches, it opens all manner of new possibilities.”

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