Apple 3D Touch

What is Apple 3D Touch?

Apple 3D Touch was a hardware-based feature Apple introduced in iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices running iOS 9 that perceives the amount of force a user puts on the touchscreen to activate different functions. With Apple 3D Touch, users can take actions without navigating away from the original screen they were on.

Apple introduced 3D Touch in September 2015 when it launched iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The company touted 3D Touch as a profound experience that represented the "next generation of Multi-Touch." Over the next several years, Apple continued to incorporate 3D Touch into most of its phones, including it with iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max.

With the release of iPhone XR, however, Apple stopped incorporating 3D Touch and has made no attempt to revive it. The last devices to support 3D Touch were the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which were released in 2018.

Apple replaced 3D Touch with Haptic Touch in iPhone XR and has been including Haptic Touch with iPhones ever since. Haptic Touch is not considered as effective as 3D Touch, but it is implemented in software, rather than hardware like 3D Touch. That makes it easier to implement during manufacture, while reducing overall complexity. Apple has also been making minor improvements to the Haptic Touch features. In the current iOS 17, for example, Haptic Plus can be activated more quickly, providing users with an experience closer to 3D Touch.

Since the release of iPhone XR, there have been mixed reviews about the demise of 3D Touch. Some users were barely aware of its existence, while others continue to mourn its loss, although at this point, most users have accepted the presence of Haptic Touch and moved on. In fact, many of today's users have never been on an iPhone with 3D Touch.

Infographic showing the evolution of the Apple iPhone.
Apple 3D Touch, introduced with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models, perceived the force of a user's finger on the display to activate various functions. It was replaced with Haptic Touch technology a few years later.

3D Touch capabilities

On iPhones that still support 3D Touch, users can access its features by applying pressure to the screen in different ways. For example, they can use 3D Touch to preview email or other content or access specific application functions from the home screen. They can also press on the left side of the screen to enable the multitasking view, which lets them swipe between open apps to find the one they need.

One of the main features in 3D Touch is Peek and Pop. When a user applies a certain amount of pressure to a message, link or similar item, the phone displays a brief preview of the item's content (the "peek"). If the user applies a little more force, the item will open in the respective app (the "pop"). For example, if a user applies pressure to a link in a text message, a preview of the webpage will be displayed. If the user then applies additional pressure, the webpage will open in Safari.

3D Touch also extends to apps that incorporate the 3D Touch capabilities, making it possible for users to access specific functions without needing to launch the app. At one time, all Apple apps were Touch-enabled, as were many third-party apps, such as Netflix and Facebook.

To access the app-specific capabilities in a Touch-enabled app, the user applies a certain amount of force to an app's icon, causing a submenu to appear. The submenu provides quick access to specific functions within the app.

The app developer determines what functions to expose through the Touch submenu, which means that each submenu is specific to the app. For example, if a user applies pressure to the Phone icon, the submenu will display several of the user's favorite contacts, but if the user applies pressure to the Camera icon, the submenu will provide options such as taking a photo or recording a video.

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This was last updated in January 2024

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