When you go through the physical education of life, you generally have two to three graduations to attend. One, of course, is in high school. Although some institutions do opt to give you a ceremony in middle or “primary” school, this generally is only done for encouragement. The other degrees come at the completion of various college diplomas.
Wait why are we talking about school? Who misses that anyway. Adults had their fair share of education, and those in school… Keep on learning. For some of us in the school of life, though, there might be another set of degrees we have to get used to. That is, if you are the lucky owner of Apple’s newest flagship device.
Enter 3D touch: 3D in depth
Apple marketed their new 3D touch feature so well that their motto for the iPhone is “The only thing that has changed is everything.” While this is a super drastic statement to make, there is but a slight truth to it. Fact is, 3D touch can be turned off on any iPhone 6S, and by doing so, you can go back to the “old” way of living at any time. This is located within Accessibility settings, nestled between keyboard and touch accomodations. This place also gives you a good opportunity for practicing the various gestures you will need to learn. After adjusting the slider of the pressure from “light” to “firm,” you need to either peak or pop at the “sensitivity evaluation” button to test out the firmness of your touch. If you “peak” at it, a flower will display. If you “pop” on it, you will get a pop-up box congratulating you. Find out what all of this lingo means by reading the rest of this article!
This feature: What does it change?
Throughout this article, the analogy of “degrees,” though not of the educational form will be used frequently. 3D touch is an evolution of the Force Touch technology Apple introduced in the Apple Watch and later enhanced on the Macbook’s trackpad. People are no doubt going to through both words around, and essentially you’re right when doing so. Even the iPhone keynote made the mistake of once refering to 3D touch as Force Touch. For marketing and to avoid the lack of confusion on the quality of degrees each provides, it’s important to honor the distinction made among both.
3D touch provides three degrees of pressing. If you swipe or explore to an item with VoiceOver (or visually tap the screen), you’re going to activate that item when you lift up your finger. However, if you touch the item and then slowly exert pressure, you will begin to graduate through the various degrees of 3d touch layers. Only two of these are used right now: Pop and peak.
On devices such as the Apple Watch, Force Touch only allows you to press with one firm degree of touching. This still gives the device an element of contextual menus, but 3D touch goes beyond this with the “peak” and “pop” degrees.
VoiceOver makes a series of rising pitched pops with each level of this 3D touch technology. You can easily and intuitively tell which one you are about to invoke by listening for how “high” the pitch of this tone is — the deeper layer of your touch, the higher the tone.
Peaking inside apps
Peaking is the first level of 3D touch. If you find an item with VoiceOver, you do not have to double tap to perform a 3D touch action. Some people naturally tap harder on their touch screens, but I personally do lighter taps when I interact with my phone normally. You should begin to pay attention to how firmly you press on your screen to make this differentiation. You simply place your finger on it and begin to place pressure on your touch. The way you have found the item matters. If you swipe to it, you must begin to build this pressure immediately. If you have explored to it (by sliding one finger to the item you want to 3D touch), you can take as much or little of a time as you want on activating it. In this sense, this technology might force people to not swipe as much on their screen but build a relational understanding of what it contains.
The confusion lies with what you can peak into. For example, if you performed a pressure touch on an item of the home screen, you can’t “peak” because there’s nothing to peak into. However, in the mail app or on Safari, you can do a peak to see a preview of your message. Let’s do a quick rundown of apps and features that offer a “peak” degree. Ready to graduate from peaking school? No peaking at other people! Oh wait, it’s a phone.
This is the first obvious place where the peak gesture is the most useful. You can place a slight pressure on your screen and after you hear the first tone made by VoiceOver (or visually see the content change,) you have performed a peak. In the main list of messages, this will pop up the contents of whatever message you were focused on. Visually, the concept remains: If you lift up your finger after having scrolled or swiped around on it, the content will disappear. If you swipe up in this preview state, you will get so called “preview actions.” To access these with VoiceOver, simply press on the screen and lift your finger right away. The content of your peak will remain on screen, and if you swipe to the right (to the very bottom,) you’ll hear something called “preview.” Use the rotor actions to choose “preview actions” to bring up a list of possibilities. To exit a preview, scrub in an up and down motion on your screen with two fingers.
To recap: If you peak and start to slide your finger in the preview, lifting it up will make the previewed content disappear. If you lift it right away, it’ll stay on screen so you can further interact with it. This philosophy applies to all apps.
A peak touch works inside the news app to preview articles as well. Focus on an article and do a first degree pressure touch to see the contents of that article. After lifting your finger, use the preview actions by touching “preview” at the bottom of your phone and flicking up on the rotor. (if you have vision, swipe up to access them.) Preview actions here include save, like, share, and mute channel.
Inside the notes app, you can easily preview a sketch or note to see it quickly. This could be very useful if you have multiple shopping lists with the same title, or perhaps if you forgot what a note is about. Preview actions here include a share option.
If you peak at any point of your calendar, you will get an overview-glance of all of your upcoming events on one screen. While the calendar allows you to change the view of events that you wish to see, this is a more efficient, quicker way of sorting through your daily clutter (if you have one.)
Peaking inside a playlist will allow you to access a preview of what it contains. Preview actions will allow you to shuffle it.
Popping the pops
Pops are much simpler than peaks. Using 3D touch on the home screen will allow you to access previews of various quick actions associated with that app. In the phone app, you can “create new contact” when you press on it from the home screen. Messaging will show a list of people who you have had recent conversation threads with, along with a new message button. (This makes it quick and easy to jump directly to a specific conversation, useful if you want to quickly reply to someone.) To exit these menus, simply scrub the screen with two fingers, which is the “back” gesture of VoiceOver.
For the apps we listed above that have peak, performing a “pop” will usually just bring the item into full focus. This is similar to just activating it, but some places do allow for individual peaks and pops. Ready for the confusion?
Peak and pop the keyboard
If you are in an edit field with text you have typed, you can do either a peak or pop at the keyboard keys to get different actions. Doing a peak will allow you to move the cursor around, while a pop will give you the option of selecting text. This all depends on firmness of your touch, so it might take you a bit of practice of getting used to manipulating text this way. In my experience, moving the cursor around this way can sometimes be easier, though the length of how far you’ll navigate the text depends on your force of swipe.
Selecting text, as a user of Apple’s screen reader, might not be ideal this way. With the numerous other ways in which text selection works, it might be more of a hinderance.
You now have my 2000 word paper on Apple’s 3D touch technology, and the ways in which it can be used. I feel as though the deeper you delve into this article, the more complex it gets. 3D touch is no way “simple” in technology. It Deviates from the notion that whatever Apple releases will be “simple,” as there are so many degrees of touch which people can now perform, and not everyone will be aware of what a peak or pop can do. For previous users of iPhones that are sticking with their devices, you do miss out on a new level of interaction. Is it revolutionary or life-changing? Definitely not, but it might help speed up efficiency especially for power users, and we recommend that you practice it with the sensitivity evaluation button in settings by performing both types of commands. Some of this for those who use VoiceOver has existed ever since iOS 7: The rotor actions which many app elements have had gives us a slight advantage of having quick actions at our fingertips. The rest of the world has not had that advantage.
3D Touch does level some of the playing field, blurring the line between the way visually impaired and sighted individuals interact with their iPhones. A need for a direct level of finding items makes it a very spacial experience which I quite like. Over time, it might enhance my experience, especially if apps provide unique actions which might not be easily accessible from the main interface. While previous iPhones might not have this new technology, one certainty remains: 3D touch is here to stay, and improve over the coming years.