Why 3D Touch isn’t touching me

April 25, 2016, India

A few months ago, my 2 year old iPhone 5 unexpectedly went into a coma. The Apple dealer said its display had failed, and the the only cure was a new iPhone 5. To cut a long story short, I went over to the Android side for a while, before unexpectedly ending up with the iPhone 6S+.

To touch or not to touch

The 6s+ is iPhone’s flagship model, with a big screen, a camera that comes with image stabilisation and optical zoom, and a fast fingerprint sensor. This last doesn’t work in India because the humidity makes my fingertip sweaty.

It also has the revolutionary 3D Touch, which I haven’t touched too much, to be honest. Somehow it adds a level of complication for me, as I can never recall if the command I want is the first, second, third or fourth in the pop up list.

Mind mapped icons

Let me illustrate. If I want to take a selfie via 3D Touch, I hard press and a menu pops up. I’ve to read through this, and then carefully choose the selfie icon.

I find it easier to tap on the camera icon, blindly go to the top right corner and tap on the camera icon there, which flips the camera into selfie mode.

Basically 3D Touch is more wordy than graphic, and that’s not working for me.

Where 3D Touch is handy

Whatsapp has a feature by which you can tell if someone has read your message or not by checking if the two ticks are blue or not. But there are times I want to read a message and not have the sender know I had read it. With 3D Touch, you can click on unread messages and it will pop open for you to read, without informing the sender that you have read it. Cool!

The Killer that wasn’t

I’m sure that wasn’t exactly how Apple envisioned people would use 3D Touch. Because this way, it’s never going to be a killer function, but just a novelty feature looking out for a killer app to come to its rescue.

Google gets it

Strangely, Apple’s biggest rival Google has figured out how to use 3D Touch, and has even cheekily pointed it out to Apple. The recent update of Google Maps has 3D Touch worked in via a single pop up command ‘Directions to home.’ One press, hit the pop up, and you are done. We are still in graphic territory, and not in ‘Read the menu and choose’ land.

Contrast this with Apple’s new weather icon. The 3D Touch pop up gives me three commands. It’s good, but I still have to read and choose.

Can 3D be salvaged?

Funnily enough, I think it can. Apple just has to make the pop up menu customisable. Let customers like me decide if we want one command or five, and in what order we want it.

Technically impossible? I don’t think so. I use the Assistive Touch icon on my iPhone, and Apple let me customise the commands that pop up, so I could add ‘Multitasking’ in it.

(Why would I want to do that when I can easily double click? Because double click is a mechanical function, and the wear and tear caused the home button on my iPhone 4 to fail. Yup, it only happens to me.)

The Ghost of Steve Jobs

I read somewhere that an Android phone is coming out with an equivalent of 3D Touch. Now Android is the king of customisation. So if Apple wants to retain its 3D edge, it needs to move fast with that customisation bit.

So Apple, can I get it tomorrow? Impossible?

Careful, Steve Jobs’ ghost may return to tell you that impossible is a non-existent word.



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