Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Trouble With 3D Touch

Jason Snell:

Unfortunately, after six months of using an iPhone 6s, I’m afraid that I’ve completely stopped using 3D Touch, to the point where I forget it’s there. My opinion about how brilliantly implemented this feature is hasn’t changed a bit, but I feel like Apple needs to rethink the meaning of the 3D Touch in iOS 10 for it to be a more useful feature.

John Gruber:

The gimmicky nature of peek/pop is alarming. I never got into “peeking” while using my 6S — like Jason argues, it solves a problem we didn’t have. It’s not any faster than just tapping whatever it is you want to see, and worse, it’s harder to read because your thumb is still there covering the display. It’s a demo feature, not a real feature, and I find that deeply worrisome.


A force touch should just be a shortcut to a long press. In fact, a few weeks ago, I got confused while using the system’s Weather app. I wanted to reorder my list of saved cities. It took me around 45 seconds to figure out how to do it. My first few attempts were by force tapping the city I wanted to move. But this just opened a peek. Then I tried looking around for an “Edit” button, but there isn’t one. I started to wonder whether the list was not re-orderable. Then it finally occurred to me to long-press on a city. My natural instinct was to do that by force tapping.

Joe Cieplinski:

Long press is a purposefully slow gesture. It makes you stop, literally, and wait a second or so before you can move on with other things. Therefore, it’s suited best for tasks that you want to do very deliberately and only very occasionally, like rearranging the icons on your home screen. The nature of the long press makes it very unlikely you’ll do it accidentally, and so it’s perfect for these sorts of tasks. You have to think about a long press, and that’s a good thing.

3D Touch, on the other hand, is meant to speed you up. Application launching shortcuts take you directly to a spot within the app in one gesture. Pressing hard from the left of the screen helps you invoke the app switcher faster. It’s all about the speed.

Nick Heer:

The peek gesture works surprisingly well in a lot of cases: peeking on an unfamiliar Instagram profile or a Twitter account from within Tweetbot has become second-nature for me. Instead of loading an entire timeline or photo stream, I see only very recent stuff, but I get to see their bio and full name, which is what I often care about. Similarly, peeking on a Mail message is great for previewing it but not marking it as read.

Where the peek gesture does get frustrating is when it needs to transfer significant data over an average internet connection. Peeking on a web page is almost always pointless because most pages are far too large and take a long time to load.


As I’ve written previously, I think we’ve entered a new age of experimental and “fuzzy” interfaces. The limitations of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, and new interface paradigms like 3D Touch are only discoverable if they behave consistently. All of these commenters are right: 3D Touch lacks that consistency, so it becomes a game of trying its functionality blindly and hoping for the best.

Peeking seems like a demo feature because loading the content is so much slower than going back from a normal tap. I love the idea of shortcuts—using 3D Touch as a tap modifier, like Option-clicking on the Mac—but in practice I have not found myself ever using them. I do use the multitasking gesture most of the time, and I miss it on my iPad mini. 3D Touch is very useful for cursor movement, but after about six months I still can’t invoke it reliably. It works perhaps 80% of the time, but when it doesn’t work it’s worse than the old press-and-wait.

Update (2016-04-14): Ben Brooks (via Nick Heer):

3D Touch is too new to judge and this sentiment [for consolidation] (shared by many) seems more like a lack of being open minded to the new technology, than it does a problem with the technology.

Update (2016-04-15): Nick Heer:

In some ways, I wish Apple shipped a lesser amount of 3D Touch functionality and simply waited to see how developers would interpret it. What they have shipped ultimately feels right, more or less, though.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

It's a total "because we can" feature. It's not there to solve any kind of actual problem that people have, it's there because it's cool. It should never have shipped in its current state (or, perhaps, at all). I'm just glad it doesn't get in anyone's way.

I largely agree but the one place 3D touch is a lifesaver is cursor movement on the iPhone. (You can do two finger on the iPad but the iPhone screen is too small for that)

[…] Add iOS 9’s Quick Actions shortcut support in 15 minutes right now!; Lessons learned with 3D Touch; Developing With 3D Touch; Your 3D Touch Spirit Guide; Adding 3D Touch Quick Actions; Peek & Pop; 3D Touch Peek and Pop; Exploring Apple’s 3D Touch; 3D Force Touch: beyond peek & pop; 3D Touch in Swift: A Retrospective; Turning the iPhone 6s Into a Digital Scale; 3D Touch Introduction: Building a Digital Scale App and Quick Actions; The Next Step for 3D Touch; The Trouble With 3D Touch […]

Leave a Comment