The phone is significantly faster than its predecessor and better at just about anything. That was evident from the moment I restored my iOS 9 backup from the 64GB iPhone 6 I used before. Everything was right there, and it all seemed so familiar.
But on top of everything, the iPhone 6s has a signature feature that offers users a new way of interacting with the operating system: 3D Touch. The new interaction model might be the best feature of the new iPhones, yet there’s one huge problems with it: Me.
I’ve been using iPhones ever since the iPhone 3G and writing iOS since Apple first unveiled it, which means I’m more than familiar with how the operating system works and how it evolved. I’m the hardcore iOS user who should best appreciate 3D Touch, yet because I’m so familiar with how iOS works, I’m also having 3D Touch problems.
No, there aren’t any issues with the hardware or software side of 3D Touch. Everything performs admirably. The screen immediately gets the touch pressure differences and delivers almost instant responses.
I know how 3D Touch works, I know where it’s available, yet it’s not something that comes natural to me. I have to specifically think about and force myself to use 3D Touch instead of the alternative. And the alternative is deeply cemented into my brain. I have built up iOS reflexes over the years that sometimes prevent me from making the most of 3D Touch. It’s the way iOS 9 works on all other devices that don’t have 3D Touch support.
That’s true even though I’ve been using Force Touch on the Apple Watch for months now. After all, these are entirely different experiences, as the iPhone 6s’ 3D Touch feature is slightly more complicated than what the Watch has to offer.
If my iPhone 6s were my first iPhone ever, I’d have to learn iOS directly from iOS 9 with no knowledge and experience of the past. That means there’s a chance I’d better integrate 3D Touch in my daily smartphone interactions.
But that’s not the case. I’m teaching my brain to Peek and Pop in the apps where it’s available – like Mail, Safari, iMessage and others – yet I don’t always remember I can preview items with Peek and go ahead and access clickable items and links the usual way.
With multitasking, I’m almost there. I’m almost always switching between apps by force pressing along the left side of the iPhone, yet if I’m in a hurry I’ll double tap the home button because that is how I’ve done it for so many years on iPhone and iPad. And because I’m trying to use 3D Touch more, I’d sometimes go into multitasking mode only to discover I still have to press the home button to go to my home screens where I wanted to be in the first place.
Then there’s the problem with remembering which apps have Quick Actions. Some of Apple’s apps have shortcuts that hit the screen the moment you press slightly stronger on the icon, but some don’t. I figure not even Apple has been able to settle on what apps deserve Quick Action shortcuts and what features should be included in Quick Action menus.
As for third-party apps, some have started to incorporate the new functionality (image above). But you only get used to them the more you actually use those shortcuts.
One other drawback to using 3D Touch is that I sometimes expect 3D Touch shortcuts for apps that don’t have it. Since I’ve been teaching my brain to 3D Touch on the screen, that means I’ll forcibly press the icon of a certain app only to get the familiar Taptic Engine vibration feedback that tells me there’s no 3D Touch functionality there.
Where I’m trying to use 3D Touch more is with core apps including Safari, Mail, Music, Phone, Messages, Camera and Photos. Though I’m not always ready to do that. Not to mention that some alternatives for these apps don’t have 3D Touch functionality, yet I’m starting to expect it.
If there’s one place where it’s obvious I need 3D Touch, it’s viewing Live Photos that are activated by a strong press on the screen. However, that also means I’m pressing on regular pictures expecting 3D Touch to animate them when that can’t happen, since they’re not Live Photos.
3D Touch is a massive new iPhone feature, one that the competition might have trouble adding to their devices without full support from the folks that make the rival operating system. And Apple has just started taking advantage of 3D Touch, which is relegated to providing faster access to system or app features, rather than offering unique new app functionality. But that’s probably going to change in the future, at which point my brain will hopefully have finished training itself to use this new way of interacting with iOS.
In other words, after a month with the new iPhone, I’m still adapting to 3D Touch. The more distracted my mind is when using the iPhone, the less prepared it is to make the conscious decision of looking for 3D Touch functionality and actually using it. However, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the feature. Far from it. I just have to get better and better at using it. And if that’s the case with me, then I assume 3D Touch is posing some similar issues to other users and also to developers who are trying to figure out how to make the most of it.