Rumors are again surfacing about the possibility that Apple is abandoning 3D Touch in its 2019 iPhone. If this is the case, I would be very sorry for this loss. But let’s go back a few years ago.
A new way to interact
3D Touch was introduced as part of the iPhone 6S. It was a way to provide a new axis of interaction within iOS. I’m myself a big user of 3D Touch. Something that I think is really cool. I particularly love the Peek & Poke feature. But the problem is that I’m not a typical user. Most of the people don’t know about 3D touch. Why? Because there is no easy way to know that it even exists within an application. There is no visual cue about its existence. 3D Touch agony is Apple’s own making. This is half baked user experience in my opinion.
Compare this to the visible “handle” at the bottom of the iPhone X or the 2018 iPad Pro. The visual handle is easy to see and act on. People can remember to pick it up and do something with it like swipe it up to dismiss the currently facing app. The user can even swipe from left to right to switch applications without invoking the dock or the application switcher. This is really cool and a well thought out user experience on Apple’s part.
Now, back to 3D touch dismissal. The iPhone XR is already lacking the technology. The iPad never implemented it. On the iPhone XR, 3D Touch is replaced by something called Haptic Touch. As you probably know, the user invoke Haptic Touch by long pressing on a user interface object. Long pressing the camera icon on the iPhone lock screen will invoke the camera app. Haptic touch is very limited in its use on the iPhone XR, much more than 3D touch is on currently shipping iPhone X series. It feels like Apple is transitioning to Haptic touch. I can see Haptic Touch being more pervasive across iOS as the feature doesn’t require specific hardware besides the Haptic Engine. On the iPad it could be made available albeit with the Haptic feedback.
I do have a few questions regarding the lost of 3D touch and the apparent rise of Haptic Touch. If 3D Touch was suffering a discoverability problem, in what ways does Haptic Touch is not suffering the same discoverability problem? Is it because we don’t need to hard press the screen to invoke it? Is it easier to remember the long press interaction? As of this writing, iOS 12 didn’t bring any visual cues for Haptic Touch. And I suspect that Apple won’t fix this in iOS 13 either. So I go back to my question: how will Haptic Touch have more change to succeed if implemented more widely on iOS compared to 3D Touch? Could this be related somehow with Marzipan has ported apps on macOS couldn’t support it anyway?
In conclusion, I do think that Apple is about to make a big mistake. Again.
[Update]: Take a moment to read comments from John Gruber on this matter. Spot on.