Why Force Touch makes sense for iOS platform

Force Touch iPhone concept Maximilian Kiener 001

Yesterday’s report by a credible outlet provided an interesting outline of how Force Touch works and feels under iOS and on Apple’s upcoming ‘iPhone 6s’ and ‘iPhone 6s Plus’ smartphones. The basic premise behind outfitting an iPhone with a force-sensing screen is making user interface interactions faster with focus on shortcuts.

But there are still plenty of doubters out there who don’t think Force Touch iPhones make much sense, arguing the technology is but a marketing gimmick which doesn’t provide any benefit versus long-tapping items on the screen.

While there’s some merits to those voices, I’m inclined to think they’re missing the big picture and here’s why.

It’s about force sensing, not long-tapping

Many watchers are wondering about the benefits of Force Touch when tapping and holding could provide literally similar functionality. This is true to some extent, but don’t forget that longtapping on the Home screen is already used to enter the icon management mode.

Besides, the buttons in iOS perform actions upon releasing them, allowing you to abort an action by moving your finger away from the button and release it there, which is useful for people with disabilities.

But that’s beyond the point.

Apple Watch Force Touch

Force Touch, which debuted on the Apple Watch, is here to stay.

Apple quickly deployed it on MacBooks and it certainly is not marketing gimmick or some fancy new name for long-tapping objects on the screen. At the core of Force Touch are sensors capable of detecting varying degrees of pressure whereas long taps are just that, taps.

By sensing not just the difference between a light tap and a deep press, but the actually level of force being applied, software like painting and image editing apps could simulate various brushes and strokes depending on how firmly you press your finger against an iPhone’s screen.

Another example: on new Mac notebooks outfitted with Force Touch-enabled trackpads, you can vary the pressure you use on the fast-forward and rewind buttons in QuickTime and iMovie applications in order to accelerate the speed at which you fast forward or rewind just by varying the degree of pressure.

OS X Yosemite System Preferences Force Touch 001

The effect simply cannot be achieved without ability to measure the levels of force so you can easily imagine Force Touch lending itself perfectly to, say, quickly scrubbing through video in iOS’s media player.

Last but not least, Force Touch should show its full potential if Apple couples it with its rumored stylus accessory for a (rumored) ‘iPad Pro’. Apple’s support document lists other uses of pressure sensing on Force Touch MacBooks that could translate to certain aspects of iOS nicely.

Apple Watch Force Touch 002

Force Touch concept

Maximilian Kiener created this mockup video that gives us a good idea how pressing Control Center items firmly could quickly take you to any Settings menu without needing to launch the Settings app and navigate to the right section.

“Historically, settings has been one of the domains where Android had a UX lead over iOS,” Kiener said. “To introduce a universal interaction for improving it at this maturity-stage of the OS would be a big deal.”

The video is just one guy’s conceptual idea of Force Touch may function on iPhones, though it does a nice job illustrating how Force Touch would serve as a valuable user interface shortcut on the iOS platform.

Are you a believer?

I’m totally sold on Force Touch iPhones—there, I said it!

Even more so, I think Force Touch makes lots of sense on iOS and am convinced that it will advance the platform after it’s full potential is unleashed even if the initial implementation will leave a lot to be desired.

And your thoughts on Force Touch on upcoming iPhones?

Will this technology increase the productivity of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus users and reduce the number of taps and on-screen menus? Or do force-sensing smartphone screens make absolutely no sense to your from a user experience standpoint?