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.
- Resting a finger on the screen could mis-fire a Long Press, but not a 3D Touch
- 3D Touch can provide instant gratification. Long Press gestures are defined by a minimum touch delay, therefore they would be laggy in comparison
- 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
- 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…