In spite of my recent enthusiasm for 3D Touch, since late last year there have been murmurs that it is on its way out. With the release of iOS 13, I think they might be right.

WWDC 2019

In the iOS release notes from this year’s WWDC there are two features that jump out:

  1. Peek
  2. Quick actions

Peek

Preview email messages, web links, and more simply by pressing and holding to see a hint of the content.

This is one of the things I like about 3D Touch, but if I can do it with a long press too, that’s fine.

Quick actions

Press and hold an app icon to quickly perform actions specific to the app.

Along with the keyboard cursor, this is the thing I like best about 3D Touch.

Doubling up

Daring Fireball says this about 3D Touch going away:

it should have always been a shortcut for a long-press, pure and simple. Just a faster way to long-press

If a 3D Touch activates a peek, but so does a long press, I get those things quicker on my 3D Touch enabled device. But people still have access to them on an iPad, iPhone XR and future devices that won’t have 3D Touch. Feature parity across all Apple’s iOS (and iPadOS) devices makes a lot of sense.

The exception may be Apple Watch, where 3D Touch is more ubiquitous, rather than a gateway to a handful of features that could be accessed some other way. A long press could still do the job here and maybe the lack of a 3D Touch sensor layer could even allow the Apple Watch to get thinner, but it’s pretty useful and, importantly, it’s not iOS.

Some things will have to change

There’s one area where 3D Touch and a long press do very distinct things: the home screen. If long press on an app icon will bring up a Quick Actions menu, how will we invoke jiggle mode to move and delete apps? That has been a feature in iOS since iOS 4, so people are very used to it. But it’s not something we do very often so—I’ll be honest—I don’t really care how I access it!

What I do care about is the new keyboard cursor mode – a 3D Touch anywhere on the keyboard and I can use the keyboard space as a trackpad. Before I bought my iPhone XS I was using my iPhone 6 with iOS 12 and was quite happy with the long press on the space bar to activate the track pad, so going back to that would be fine. Though I wonder if this might cause problems with QuickPath swipe typing.

There are some extra things you can do when in trackpad mode to select blocks of text with a further force touch, but I’d be willing to lose that on non 3D Touch devices as I’ve never quite gotten used to it.

No more wondering what it’s called

On a more trivial note, when Apple first introduced the ability to press hard on the screen to trigger various features, they called it Force Touch. Then they changed it to 3D Touch a year or so later. I constantly find myself wanting to call it Force Touch and having to check myself. Happily, this might soon be a non-issue for me!

It’s about features

So now that I’ve had another think about it all, it’s not 3D Touch itself that I love – it’s the features it facilitates. How I get to them doesn’t really matter. And it’s nice that everyone will be able to access those features, should this all pan out as expected.