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Why Did Apple Remove the 3D Touch ?

by Jessica Harris

Apple recently introduced their new line of iPhones, the 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Macs. The models received some pretty significant upgrades like longer battery life, a new camera system and improved durability. But Apple actually removed a feature called 3D Touch, which debuted with the iPhone 6S back in 2015, and this has caused quite a bit of outcry from users who use the feature for things like previewing links, peeking into emails, and controlling the cursor. 

So why did Apple? Remove a feature that defined an entire generation of iPhones and provided so much functionality to users. While that’s exactly what I’m going to explain in this video, this is Greg with Apple explained and I want to thank Squarespace for sponsoring this video. If you want to help decide which topics I cover, make sure you’re subscribed and these voting polls will show up in your mobile activity feed. So let’s start off by covering the short history of 3D touch. The feature debuted in 2015 with the iPhone 6S and was considered by Apple to be just as revolutionary as multi touch. 

They said 3D touch would be a completely new way of interacting with your iPhone, and if you know how influential multi-touch ended up being after the original iPhone was introduced, you’ll understand just how significant of a claim Apple made. 

Now reception to 3D touch was overwhelmingly positive from customers and reviewers. Like we’re looking forward to the advanced functionality enabled by the new technology now, Apple showed off what 3D touch could do during the iPhone 6 keynote by demonstrating capabilities like quickly viewing emails, previewing calendar events, and even previewing flight details, all without being dragged into another app or taken into a different window. So to put it simply, the purpose of 3D touch was to quickly preview content instead of switching back and forth between apps, or tapping in and out of emails and text conversations. 

This would effectively make navigating iOS faster and more effortless. Now, in order to make the 3D touch experience possible, Apple had to make software and hardware changes to the new iPhone 6S when it came to software. iOS needed new window overlay containers in which content could be previewed. Also, Apple had to decide what that content preview would look like, requiring a unique optimization for each app. But it’s important to note that Apple only had control over its own native apps. It was up to developers to create their own 3D. Shortcuts for third-party apps and when it came to hardware, Apple’s engineers had to integrate capacitive sensors into the iPhone’s backlight.

That way the display could measure small changes in distance between the cover glass and backlight. 3D Touch also required something called the Taptic Engine, which could deliver shorter, more precise haptic vibrations and taps than a standard phone vibration motor, and all these components took up extra space inside the phone, which is the main reason why the success was thicker than the six. Now, when discussing the launch of 3D touch with the success, it’s crucial to understand a very simple fact. 3D Touch was a hidden non essential feature. Now what do I mean by that? Well, the feature was hidden since it wasn’t something users could actually see. Compare this to a new camera system, face ID or the home button. Those features are visible through hardware queues like a lens, a display notch or a button. It’s clear to users that those capabilities are available for them to use, but that’s not the case. With other features like multi touch, swipe navigation or 3D touch for example, when smartphones began transitioning to touch screens, many users had to be told or discover for themselves that they could actually touch the display. Since it didn’t look any different from non touch variants. And when the new iPhone 10 was released, some users weren’t sure how to return to the home screen or switch between apps, and that’s because the devices swipe navigation was inconspicuous, but 3D Touch had a unique disadvantage. And that it wasn’t necessary to learn in order to use the device. Users could continue using their iPhone 6S the same way they used any previous model, whereas iPhone 10 users were forced to learn swipe navigation since it was necessary in using the device. And Apple understood this problem, which is why they made a huge investment in educating customers about 3D touch when launching the iPhone 6S,

Not only did Apple run TV ads showcasing 3D touch, but they also installed giant tables with built-in screens at select Apple stores. Each table featured 2 rows of iPhones on display, which customers could press. This triggered a ripple that moved from the iPhone’s display to the tablet large screen underneath the ripple size was determined by how hard the iPhone’s display was pressed, measured by 3D Touch. Now, these tables were only installed at select Apple stores, so you may not remember seeing them in your city, but they attracted quite a bit of attention and while they may have helped customers notice the 3D touch on the iPhone 6S, it definitely wasn’t enough. Because the number one problem that plagued 3D touch year after year was the fact that most iPhone users didn’t even know the feature existed, especially when you consider that Apple only heavily promoted the feature with the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 7/8/10, and 10 S debuted with newer features that took attention away from 3D touch, and that created a problem because most people don’t buy a new iPhone every year. And if you just so happen to skip the success, it’d be very easy to overlook its flagship. Feature 3D touch.

The issue when the iPhone success was first introduced, saying engineering-wise, the hardware to build a display that does what 3D Touch does is unbelievably hard, and we’re going to waste a whole year of engineering really too, at a tremendous amount of cost and investment in manufacturing. If it doesn’t do something that people are going to use, and sadly, that pretty much turned out to be the case with 3D touch. Not only did most customers not know about its existence, but even when they discovered the feature.

Phil Schiller

They still didn’t find it compelling enough to use. Now I know this isn’t the case with everyone since tech-inclined users are more likely to utilize 3D touch, but even if you do use the feature on a daily basis, it’s important to recognize the reality that most casual iPhone users don’t. And that’s exactly the reason why Apple didn’t include 3D touch with the 10 R and the new iPhone 11 models. Its components were taking up valuable space inside the device that could be dedicated to something like a larger battery, which would benefit virtually. 

Every iPhone user but Apple only removed the 3D touch hardware from its devices. Most of the software features still exist under a new name Haptic Touch where users simply tap and hold on an app or link to trigger the same shortcuts in previews introduced by 3D Touch. But many people feel this new haptic approach is inferior to 3D touch full of compromises that make the feature less useful. Some of the changes Apple made with the transition of the haptic touch one of the obvious differences is the shortcuts on previous are no longer triggered by the pressure of your touch but rather than the length, and these actions become a little bit longer, also there is no distinction with what was called a peak since this is based from determent by change and pressure, this means that you will need to perform extra tabs to open links or open an Email.

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