While Force Touch on the Apple Watch allowed Apple to add an additional layer of buttons to a small display, the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus screens don’t lack for either real estate or buttons. So why would Force Touch be desirable on larger displays? Following up on our May report that Force Touch is coming to Apple’s next iPhones, sources who have used the iPhone 6S have provided new details on how Force Touch works and feels under iOS.

iPad Air 2

According to sources, the iOS version of Force Touch is known internally as “Orb.” Instead of opening up a large window of extra controls that did not fit on the screen, as is done on the Apple Watch, Force Touch on the iPhone is designed to skip existing lists of options or button presses. “There is consistent usage of Force Touch across the operating system to ‘shortcut’ actions,” rather than present new options like with the Apple Watch, according to a source. The source provided a few examples:

  • New to the Force Touch experience, a user can look up a point of interest in the Maps application, and then Force Touch on the destination to immediately begin turn-by-turn directions. Currently, if a user wants to start navigating to a destination, she must search for the point of interest, click the navigation logo on the map view, then click another button to actually start navigating. In this case, the Force Touch gesture will skip two steps.
  • In the Music application, a user can Force Touch on a listed track to be presented with some of the most commonly-used actions. For instance, if a user deep presses on the listing for a song, a menu will appear to quickly add the song to a playlist or save it for offline listening. This Force Touch gesture would act as a substitute for clicking the actions button on the right side of each track listing in the Music app.
  • Another feature in testing, according to one source, are shortcuts that appear after Force Touching an app icon on the Home screen. For example, if a user deep presses on the Phone app icon, he could choose to shortcut directly to the Voicemail tab. This could also apply to deep pressing the News app icon and being taken directly to either the Favorites or For You tabs.
  • Some of the Force Touch gestures will come from Apple’s latest MacBooks. For instance, a user can Force Touch a link in Safari to see a preview of that webpage. The gesture also works for deep pressing on an address or contact name to see a preview of a map view or contact card, respectively. Similarly, a user can Force Touch a word to look up its definition.

Because of its small display, the Apple Watch’s Force Touch feature is consistently represented by a grid of options that cover the entirety of the current view on the screen. On the new iPhones, Force Touch will be represented in three ways: no additional user interface as with the subtle integration on the new MacBooks, a user interface that appears surrounding the finger where the Force Touch gesture is conducted, or a shortcut list toward the bottom of the display akin to a typical options list across iOS.

Sources explained that the physical feedback given to the user with each Force Touch press has been tuned to be “nice” and “consistent” across the system. Besides a Force Touch display, sources say that 4K video recording for the iPhone 6S was in the cards earlier this year, but it is unconfirmed whether that feature will be ready to go for September. Of course, the new devices will also sport a faster A9 chip in addition to 2GB of RAM, faster LTE speeds for web browsing, and more efficient chips for better battery life.

Apple has also been planning to open up Force Touch beyond its core apps and operating system so that developers could ship iOS 9 App Store apps that leverage the new interaction paradigm. Beyond this fall’s new iPhones, sources say that the upcoming larger, 12.9-inch iPads, codenamed J98 and J99, will feature a Force Touch display that interacts with the long-in-the-works iPad stylus. An uncorroborated tip indicates that the larger-sized device could debut alongside an iOS 9.1 update.

Apple is expected to show off the new iPhones alongside the new iOS-based Apple TV, and potentially new iPads, on September 9th.

About the Author

Mark Gurman's favorite gear