3D Touch vs. Long Press

Apple announced the new iPhone 6S line at their September event. One of the tent poles of their new iPhones is 3D Touch, a hardware feature that provides “depth” to touch interactions. An argument can be made that this feature can be replicated by a Long Press (a gesture that is already available).

Interestingly enough, almost all the interactions demoed during the event could be built today, using a UILongPressGestureRecognizer. Even the taptic feedback could be faked with a vibration.

Here are some of the differences between the two gestures that I can think of.

  1. Resting a finger on the screen could mis-fire a Long Press, but not a 3D Touch
  2. 3D Touch can provide instant gratification. Long Press gestures are defined by a minimum touch delay, therefore they would be laggy in comparison
  3. It would be very difficult to implement an app with multiple Long Press gestures, but it would be straight forward to mix a Long Press gesture and 3D Touch
  4. Long Press does not provide depth. Games can benefit from using this feature

Neither 3D Touch, nor Long Press gestures are discoverable. That is potentially why we have not seen many Long Press implementations this far. Looking at the Apple Music app, the Long Press gesture (on a For You playlist for example) opens the overflow action menu. It will be interesting to see if 3D Touch replaces that, or augments it in some way. Even the Instagram implementation doesn’t really “need” 3D Touch to offer a preview of the selected photo. A one second tap could provide the same functionality, albeit with a bit of a delay.

I’m thinking of an analogy with the home button. Pushing it down twice takes the user to multi-tasking. Tapping it twice invokes the “reachability” which makes the screen slide down. I often forget that the latter feature even exists… Long pressing an app’s icon will compete with the gesture that invokes “wiggle” mode. It will be interesting to see if users will be confused by the two gestures.

I have a feeling that many developers will start implementing Long Press gesture fallbacks for 3D Touch and that more and more apps will start providing Peek + Pop behaviours in their applications. This alone can be a huge win for many users out there, as long as the developers don’t start hiding essential functionality behind a gesture that I believe is not very discoverable. (Did you know that a Long Press on the back button of OmniFocus takes you to the app’s home screen?)

I have not used an iPhone with 3D Touch yet (pre-ordered mine yesterday) so many of the things above are just guesses.

The one fear I have is that the 3D Touch edge-screen-swipe multi tasking gesture will interfere with the back navigation gesture. I sure hope I’m wrong…

Deciding on which iPhone to Buy

I bought a new iPhone today. My current one is damaged, but to be honest with you, I probably would have upgraded anyway. Here’s how I decided which iPhone to buy.

iPhone 6S

The choice was between the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus. I have never owned a phone as large as the iPhone 6S Plus and I sometimes find even the screen size of the iPhone 6 to be too large for me.

I considered the 6S Plus because of these factors:

  • Optical Image Stabilisation for both Photos and Videos
  • Longer battery life
  • With a screen that large, it could replace my Kindle

In the end I bought an iPhone 6S because of these reasons:

  • Easier to handle single-handedly
  • More comfortable in my front pocket

The two things above I will be doing a lot of and I just don’t want to have to pay attention to how I handle the phone. The size of iPhone 6S Plus would make me be too aware of how I handle the device.

I have no doubt that the iPhone 6S Plus is a superior phone. Sometimes though, the more pragmatic choice prevails, even when it’s not a matter of cost. There are people who have to have the best, and to them I say: enjoy your iPhone 6S Plus.

Android Fragmentation – Just the way I like it

The 6th instalment of the Wellington Android Meetup took place today. I decided not to write about the content (I wouldn’t do justice to the presenters, and the audience contributed so much content, that I’d surely forget to mention something important), instead I wish to write about just how “fragmented” Android is … in Wellington, New Zealand.

Four talks

We had four speakers. Two men: Matt and Lucas; and two women: Jayna and Leonie. That was not planned, it just happened.

Matt talks about I/O

We had two fairly technical presentations that encouraged us to improve our technical chops and solve problems in more beautiful ways, and two that challenged us to think about what we like, what brings us joy, and what we are prepared to do from the goodness of our hearts.

People in the room

I glanced around the room and I was so happy to see how diverse it was. So many skin colours, genders, ethnicities, and ages!

Jayna impresses everyone with her knowledge and passion

In the room we had students, unemployed folks, business owners, developers, designers, testers, and even Windows Phone developers! There were people working for startups and people working for organisations with 500+ employees!

There were women. Not just sitting on chairs but engaging in the discussions. Driving them and asking the tough questions. Challenging the speakers and the audience. Recommending better ways to do things. As it should be!

I bring this up because I think back of where we started. I looked at some old photos I took and I struggle to find the women. I looked at the GDG Wellington reports I sent, and I blush seeing a mere two women attending one of the early sessions! Today, almost 20% of the audience were women!

Lucas in full swing

But we are not stopping here. Tonight Lucas announced that we are planning a GDG Dev Fest W.   The plan is to create a safe place for an evening, a day, or a weekend, where women can come and learn about technology without fearing that they may get laughed at, looked at in a condescending way, interrupted or ignored. Get in touch with Lucas or with myself if you want to help.


The Android community in Wellington is fragmented in the best possible way. This diversity makes the meetings more interesting, the points of view more diverse and more relevant.

I was the proud host of tonight’s gathering. It this kind of fragmentation that keeps me going, that motivates me to try harder, that makes me proud to be a small part of this incredible community. Our group now has more than 200 members, so I am hopeful that we have not seen the best of what this incredible bunch of people have to offer!

Thanks to everyone who attended.

Google I/O 2015 Extended Wellington

I am so proud to have helped organise what is likely to be an amazing Google I/O Extended event!

If you appreciate Google technologies, are keen to view a bunch of very interesting five minute talks, and stay up to date with Google’s announcements at I/O, and meet more like-minded people, then you should register here! Make sure you fill in the RSVP and you may take home some very attractive swag, too.

I am especially proud of my friends and colleagues Kate, Konnie, Gili, and Matt for helping coordinate this event.

Many thanks go out to the sponsors who’ve been providing support to our group: Trade Me, Powershop, Uber, and Victoria University. 

Testing is organised skepticism

You can let all the different types of software testing scare you out of your pants or you can look at the funny side of testing.

These quotes could be a starting point… I shared them with the amazing Android folks here in Wellington as part of the fourth edition of our Android Meetup.

Thanks to the lovely people at Powershop for hosting the evening, for the food, and for making this happen.


Thoughts on Notifications

Last Friday I was invited by the friendly people at Springload to give a talk on Push / Interactive Notifications.

The slides are targeted at Product people who are responsible with making the decision of including Push Notifications in the roadmap of their apps.

The gist of that talk is that just because you can send Push Notifications or display alerts to the user, it doesn’t mean you should. Notifications are the number one reason why people delete apps and you should keep this in mind when building your apps.

Here’s my (current) Top 10 Notification best practices:

  1. Guided “Opt In” rather than “Opt Out”
  2. Allow user to specify the types of messages they wish to receive. Support DND. Think Time Zone
  3. High volume of Notifications? Consider providing a “Snooze” custom action
  4. Only send relevant messages. This is NOT a direct marketing channel
  5. Don’t send confidential or sensitive data through push notifications
  6. Consider promoting custom actions that do not require the app to start up
  7. Use clear language and keep the message short
  8. Choose the lowest frequency of notifications that still delivers a great user experience
  9. Be aware of context. Is the user in your app right now?
  10. Consider aggregating multiple messages into a more generic “group”

Quick thoughts on the  Watch

Apple will announce in just a couple of days more details about the  Watch. I decided I’d join the bandwagon and comment on it. 

Why not just use the iPhone?

In order to answer this question, I will first look at our use of the iPhone. During WWDC 2014, Apple introduced iOS 8 and its interactive notifications. These notifications are supposed to let you “stay focused while you stay in touch”. The problem is, in order to actually get anything done, the number of actions required of the user is surprisingly high. 

  • Get the phone out from the pocket
  • Swipe the notification down
  • Tap the action 
  • Authenticate yourself (Touch ID helps but requires a recent iPhone)

Let’s now speculate about the steps required to perform the action using the  Watch. 

  • Flick the wrist
  • Tap the action

The benefits are clear: this is not just more subtle but it also comes with less friction. For as long as the watch is on the wrist you are always authenticated. A simple flick of the wrist can show you a glance of the event and seamlessly transitions into an actionable notification.

What does Apple mean by personal?

Let’s look at some potential use cases if you become an  Watch owner. You’ll soon be able to:

  • Pay for things
  • Unlock doors
  • Bypass authentication to interact with your apps
  • Identify yourself when you jump in your car (and let it update its setting to match your preferences)
  • Quickly communicate with your friends
  • Do all the above in a subtle and painless manner
  • Get access to parts of your health information 

All of the above can be done easily and with litte to no friction. Arguably, your iPhone can perform all of the above, but the way it does it requires a significant amount of steps and planning. 

Having a device that is always on, always there, always ready to be my valet, is why I think this will be the most personal gadget Apple has ever built. 

Will I buy one?

If it will be as easy as it sounds to interact with, then I might find myself interacting more  often and more promptly. This is the kind of value that will make me want to own one. 

Cocoaheads Wellington – Kick Off

I’m proud to announce the formation of Cocoaheads Wellington. For those who are not aware, Cocoaheads is an international Club for Cocoa (iOS & Mac) developers and designers.

The gatherings happen every 2nd Thursday of the month, from 7pm to 9pm. They are usually followed by a trip to a nearby restaurant or pub.

The first meeting will take place on the 12th of February at the Trade Me offices in Wellington. If you’re a Cocoa Dev / Designer then you should confirm your attendance here.

I intend to outsource the location. I’m currently hoping to convince one of the local Universities to host, but maybe another Wellington based organisation would be keen to put their hand up? If you know of any potential venues then please reach me via Twitter.

In terms of structure, I will propose when we gather that we break up the agenda in 3 parts:

  1. Follow up on the previous session
  2. Presentations (five to ten minutes each) on pre-agreed topics
  3. Q&A, tips or tricks, current issues or problems to ask the audience about

If you’re passionate about iOS or the Mac, you are keen to share your knowledge or learn from others, you live and breathe development or design, then I hope to see you there!