When you are using an app, developers can choose how to use 3D Touch, if at all. Apple has provided the tools for developers to support a convention that it’s using in most of its own apps, which it calls “peek and pop.” When you provide a little bit of pressure on an on-screen item that’s concealing more information—this could be an icon representing a friend, a message in a Mail or Messages list, or a webpage link—the Taptic Engine provides a small vibration as a floating window pops up with a preview of the underlying information. If the item doesn’t interest you, you can remove your finger from the glass and the window goes away. If you want to know more, you can press a little bit harder and you’ll get a stronger vibration as the window “pops” open, just as if you had tapped on it to begin with.
It’s a nice feature, a little bit like Quick Look on the Mac. What makes it a bit more intriguing is that you can perform actions right from within the “peek” itself. For example, in Mail I can drag a “peek” to the right to mark a message as unread, or drag it left to archive it. If I drag the “peek” up, I get a menu that lets me choose to reply, forward, move, mark, or set a notification on that message. In Messages, dragging up on a “peek” brings up a list of auto-reply messages, so I can quickly answer a text.
App developers can decide if they want to implement “peek and pop” or build their own ways of reacting to 3D Touch. In Apple’s own Notes app, for example, when you’re in drawing mode the app detects the pressure of your finger on the screen and uses it to determine the intensity of the pencil marks. And game developers will undoubtedly find numerous ways to use pressure sensitivity to their advantage.
I’m a believer in 3D Touch—it provides a fantastic collection of power-user features, but feels natural enough that I think it’ll be adopted by more than just the nerdiest among us. My only real complaint is that some of the gestures while in “peek” mode are hard to do with my usual hand grip. A few times I found myself wanting to swipe on an email to archive it, only to realize my finger just couldn’t move any farther in that direction. And while I could use the nifty new 3D Touch shortcut to switch to the previous app by 3D Touching the left edge of the screen and swiping all the way to the right, on the iPhone 6s Plus my little thumb couldn’t complete the gesture because it couldn’t reach the other side of the screen. Maybe this is a sign to stick with the iPhone 6s and not move to the larger iPhone 6s Plus.
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