Feature Friday: 3D Touch

I recently made my annual traverse from Android to iOS. One of the new things I found when I arrived on iOS is 3D Touch, which is a way to access certain features in apps without having to open the app. It’s neat, but I haven’t yet developed the muscle memory to use it frequently.

The other thing about 3D Touch is that it is not universally supported yet. I tweeted this out last week:

I suspect that number will rise over the six months that I will be on iOS before heading back to Android.

I got a bunch of replies to that tweet, but this was the best one:

When I see a really smart use of 3D Touch, I get excited by the potential of this UI feature. But the truth is most of the uses of 3D Touch are not particularly inspired. I suspect that will also change over time.

If you are on iOS, what do you think of 3D Touch?


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    using 3d touch to build an accurate scale app.clearly the developer sees a big need for people to weigh small bags of salthttp://www.theverge.com/201…

    1. fredwilson


    2. jason wright

      salt? that has to be a cover story.

    3. kenberger

      actually, that is super cool, if the technology is really that accurate.I’m going to guess the obvious that Apple’s reasoning here for banning such apps was something drug-related(?)

    4. kenberger

      but you should take this use case with a grain of salt.(buh-dum-BOOM!)

    5. JamesHRH

      that bag top left doesn’t look like salt LIAD.Innovative funding strategy?

    6. Kirsten Lambertsen


      1. LIAD


        1. David Semeria


    7. LE

      Which raises an interesting question for all of those in the drug trade on AVC. How does a drug dealers customer know that the amount the display is showing is the true weight and hasn’t been altered by the software with an artificial tare? For that matter I wonder if this issue exists even in the physical weight appliances? Or is it common when a drug buy goes down to have a known weight to check the scale?

      1. Tyler

        Thinking of dark markets here, reputation is everything. If a seller ever shorted a customer, that’d be very bad for business.

      2. TedHoward

        That’s the obvious IAP. $5 for 24 hours of +10% weight. $20 for 1 week.

      3. jason wright

        KYC and KYD

    8. Elia Freedman

      Apple rejected the app.

    9. PhilipSugar

      It really does show you how incredible the amount of sensors, communications, and computing power, these (not just Apple’s) phones have. Sometimes I really have to remind myself of that. I mean think about this: This would make the most expensive plane in the world of 20 years ago seem primitive. A decade ago to put together this much power would be inconceivable.

      1. LE

        I think at least part of the computing power and Moore’s law was almost intentional. Same way that the auto industry has planned obsolescence. Point being that just because they can build at any time a more powerful chip doesn’t mean they will do that. Why? Better to build the power in over 10 years than in 2 years. Gives you new gear to sell. Now you could say that never happened because of competition but somehow I don’t think that’s the case. Look at any consumer electronics good and how features are held back and has nothing to do with costs.Or take a look at Porsche’s new 911 S (2017 model). It has a turbocharger but the exact same engine as the actual Turbo model (911 Turbo and Turbo S). (Old model (2016) had no turbo charger). So it’s the exact same engine they just tweak it to get more horsepower (software change primarily) and add a few other things and charge roughly $50k more for the model with the “turbo” badge. Does go faster but my point is they purposely retard the product to create different price points.So perhaps Moore was not as accurate as people think he was he was roughly accurate and then the industry simply followed that as a playbook.

  2. scottythebody

    It’s only supported on the latest phones, I think. So it will be a while before everyone has experience with it. I have a 6, so no force touch for me.

    1. John Revay

      No soup for you!

  3. kenberger

    I feel the exact same away about my macbook 12″s “Force Touch”. Haven’t found a use for it yet (quite surprisingly, as it’s been out long enough).If you don’t experience the magic at least once to feel that “aha”, and if it isn’t widely used, you’ll never gain that “muscle memory”.

    1. telot

      I use it all the time on my MBPr13 kenberger. On a link site such as hacker news or reddit, try force touching an article link to “peek” and see if you want to read it. Very handy. Also, when reading an article and I’d like to lookup the meaning of a word, force touch the word and you get an instant dictionary lookup. It’s freakin’ great!

      1. kenberger

        Aha; thanks!

      2. Matt Zagaja

        Dictionary lookup is the killer app for force touch. My vocabulary is getting huge.

        1. LE

          Agree. And another thing I’d like is to have a log of all of the words that I look up so I can refer back to them at a future time.

  4. jason wright

    “…not universally supported yet”- build it and they will come?

    1. Michael Elling

      this seems to be the failure of many of the internet (and mobile) ecosystems. no incentives and price signals for universal adoption. apple should pay for or make very easy the adoption of new tech by the developers. same holds for pencil and stylus on both sides of aisle.

  5. kenberger

    “Muscle memory”: I like that.The Nexus 6P (Android) that I’m now carrying has “Google Now on Tap”. This should be a killer feature– you long-press on a web page or app, and it gives a contextually-aware search.When it works, it definitely gives that wow factor. But it just feels far too new and undeveloped for now to enter muscle memory just yet. Which means you use it less, thus snowballing the diminishing muscle memory potential.

    1. William Mougayar

      Is it true that “Samsung copies Apple more actively than other companies.”?http://bgr.com/2015/10/08/3

      1. kenberger

        yawn. we all know that it’s a fairly wide open, secretless, real-time continuous mutually-reinforcing ecosystem where all companies continually borrow from/copy each other, right? Apple has certainly grabbed plenty of ideas from Samsung, and even uses their displays…One big point with this particular topic (multi-dimensional touch) is that Android has simply not needed such UI innovation so far, not nearly as much as iOS, because Apple has kept their mobile devices design aesthetic ultimatum to the very basic– only 1 hardware interaction button, few in-screen menu options.

  6. Michael

    Roli have just launched touch sensitive app for creative music people, if you havnt got your hands on one of these they are awesome https://www.roli.com/blog/r

  7. William Mougayar

    3 of the key uses that Apple brags about are:1/ Peek at an address on a map without leaving the screen you’re on2/ Peek at an email before opening it 3/ Preview a web site before going thereIt sounds innovative on a smartphone, but not so innovative when compared to a desktop use. It’s called a pop-up, isn’t it? And it’s done with a few Java lines.It’s like smartphones are still catching-up on some UI quirks.

  8. William Mougayar

    If you push too hard, does it emit a sound “Ouch”?

    1. Michael Elling

      Firm mode requires rubber mallet and optional nail set of different sizes.

  9. JamesHRH

    Twitter fristration – I did not see this tweet and, from my experience, would guess you tweet about once a month.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      You can keep track of the USV team daily tweets herehttp:// something I tinkered

    2. Matt Zagaja

      I used to be a twitter completist and now have given up on that. I dip into the stream when I can.

  10. kirklove

    You also have to factor in the fact it’s only supported on the 6S models.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Yup, exactly. I don’t have the 6S yet, so haven’t experienced touch. I am untouched.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Yup, me too…on the iphone 6. We need a name for ourselves, no ?

        1. Steven Roussey

          1D touch users…

        2. Donna Brewington White

          The Untouchables

    2. Anne Libby

      Funny that a bunch of us presumably early adopters here haven’t adopted the 6S. (Me too.)

      1. kirklove

        I’ve never owned an S model. I think I’m doing it wrong 😉

      2. Donna Brewington White

        I am not an early adopter per se but I do love the new. But there are so many areas of change that so many of us are juggling, so many opportunities to embrace the latest and greatest. Adopting takes up time. I don’t have a lot of time. You probably don’t either.After a while newness can get a little old. And I don’t like being manipulated into thinking I have to have the latest/greatest. Sometimes I stick with my older model out of a tiny bit of defiance.

        1. Anne Libby

          Yup. My phone still works.

    3. fredwilson

      great point

  11. Kurt Stangl

    I don’t like the feature at all. It’s more of a nuisance than a help, especially in the browser.

  12. John Frankel

    Big user of iOS, but really not found 3D touch to be part of my daily experience. Given its insistent deployment across apps I just forget it is there.

  13. jason wright

    this tech is coming to Android phones next year. i’m waiting.http://www.engadget.com/201…and i want it cyanogen, usb c, and dual sim flavoured.

    1. Michael Elling

      Hurray!. Watched this youtube on Touch (make sure 4K is turned on) http://bit.ly/1Y2lblq and was amazed by some of the features to facilitate multi-tasking, but it also puts in question some of the stuff iOS lacks that we have in Android (like back buttons and easily getting to apps that are open in the background; and these are down by the home button reducing thumb movement). In particular the highlighting feature would be a huge improvement. Not sold on the last 30 seconds about drawing.But I’d really like to see a step up in stylus/pencil use at the system level on both sides of the aisle so that it becomes useful across a broad array of apps (to Fred’s point about touch), particularly for notations, cut and paste within and between apps, writing messages etc… My Note4 stylus is crying out to be used but sits docked 99% of time. Just this morning was trying to edit google sheet prezi on my phone and it was impossible to highlight stuff, so had to do it when I got back to PC.

  14. Matt Zagaja

    It’s fantastic. I mostly use it to quickly create new items in OmniFocus instead of going direct to its home screen when I start it up. It is fantastic for navigating twitter using the third party “Tweetbot” app where you can force touch to see details and replies, and then swipe up your force touch to initiate an action the way you do the same in the e-mail app. I also force touch to preview in Safari a lot. The whole experience makes the act of processing items feel faster.

  15. Yalim K. Gerger

    It’s the mobile equivalent of the right click menu.

  16. Curtis Howell

    The only 3D Touch feature I use regularly is a firm press on the keyboard to move the cursor. I find that faster than using a long press in the text area.

  17. Bruce Warila

    This blurry photo is a LIVE photo of my son Joseph. It’s also the lockscreen wallpaper on my 6S. When I press into this photo using 3D touch, I can see Joe dance a little with his New England Revolution gear on, at a Revs game, and he is SO happy. Whenever I want to smile, I press into this photo. It makes me happier than any mobile feature I ever used. I wish I could share it as a live photo.

    1. fredwilson


  18. Robert Heiblim

    Like you, I have so far found limited application use even though the feature seems promising.

  19. Semil Shah

    I believe the advances happening on iOS/iPhones down to the chip level are happening so fast, few can keep up — even the most elite mobile app teams. So, I suspect we’ll see more 3D Touch adopted as time goes on. Right now, so many devs I talk to are figuring out performance and screen size fragmentation/design. Eventually, 3D Touch is exciting because it provides a native (and I’d argue much better) alternative to deep linking.

  20. conorop

    There definitely some fun/helpful use cases, but it will be a power user feature for some time to come. I can’t imagine my relatively tech savvy father using it or at least using it on purpose.

  21. Elia Freedman

    Personally, I hate the feature. When I need to tap and hold for certain features, like to copy a link in the browser, damned 3D Touch gets in the way and think I want to show the page. I have to guess at how much pressure to apply to get the thing to work the way I want. It’s too fiddley. (Live Photos is one place it cool, I will admit.)Given that I’m concerned about the lack of support for new iOS features at all. I worry that the lack of money developers are making is acting like an anchor for new features. We want them, yes, but developers have no incentive to add them. Split screen is barely supported as well, for instance, and major developers aren’t updating their apps for Pencil either. These are the three tent pole features for Apple in 2015.

  22. John Revay

    Fred just purchased my first unlocked phone – iPhone 6s ( apple store)It feels great to be able to tell my carrier to go scratch

  23. pduan

    Cannot live without it for 2 things: 1. Pressing down on the keyboard and moving the text cursor around.2. Pressing down on the left side of the screen to switch apps.Live photos are also pretty neat.

  24. LE

    I think people often forget how shitty cell phones were before 2007 (first iphone). Remember speed dial? Remember what a CF it was to set an alarm? Remember how bad the cameras were and the touch screens? Remember the caller id? Remember pots lines?The advance that I would like to see now is the ability to have multiple lines on one cell phone. I am guessing there must be some regulatory reason why nobody (to my knowledge) has implemented that baked into the phone (not some third party solution like google voice which sucks and isn’t reliable).

  25. Sriram Yadavalli

    I doubt the feature will take off with users. The problem is that the user has to know which app supports 3d touch and which doesnt. There is no central way to launch it (like notifications)

  26. Phillip Turner

    It can be perfect for apps and the action users most want to do. The best example is Shazam with the 3D touch to start Shazaming a song. Much faster and great user experience.

  27. Sean Saulsbury

    I’ve had my 6S for a few months now and have pretty much forgotten about 3D touch. I just don’t use it; part of the problem is that there’s no indication that it’s there, so it’s easy to forget about. Also, features like app preview are not universally supported, so some apps you click on and nothing happens (they should just pop up a menu that says ‘Open App’ so at least the UI is consistent and “working” for all apps).

  28. george

    Just another case of Apple running ahead of the marketplace. It’s a valuable feature, I’m sure Android will follow suit and so will app support. The value builds when there’s more standardized use but overall, 3D touch is here to stay, and if you noticed, Apple is universally applying it across main product lines. – I’m sure that signals something…

  29. Ryan Peña

    I use 3D touch mainly for the courser placement when I need to go back and edit something in the beginning of a post (tweet)…it’s super slick! For accessing shortcuts within apps, not so much because it’s tough to remember which apps offer what options. -_-

  30. Carlos Nunez

    I thought Live Photos would be gimmicky but now i can’t have a phone without this. It really has added a lot of depth to my photos in a very smooth and nuanced way.