6 Awesome Uses for 3D Touch on Your iPhone

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on December 15, 2015, How To Guides

Got your hands on a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? Then you’ve got brand new 3D touch technology at your fingertips, quite literally. The problem is, since this is such a new kind of tech, a lot of people don’t know exactly how to use it. So we’re taking a look at this whole 3D touch thing, and what it can do for you…

Um… So What is 3D Touch?

Let’s start with the basics here. The screen on either of the 6s iPhone models is equipped with what’s called a capacitive sensor, which allows the screen to detect and measure the amount of pressure that’s being applied to it. All that’s just a very complicated way of saying that your iPhone knows how hard you’re pressing on the display. And in some cases, pressing lightly and pressing harder will give you two different functions. Think of it as kind of like the right and left click buttons on your computer mouse and you get the right idea.

Not all apps or functions support 3D touch, but many do (and many more are in development). What probably interests you though is what you can actually use this 3D touch tech to do…

The Ease of a Touchpad Keyboard

Alright, this isn’t the most exciting feature of 3D touch, but it is one of our favourites, particularly in terms of convenience. Typing on a phone is all very well, but going back and editing what you’ve written can be fiddly. Getting that cursor to move accurately around the wall of text that you’ve just written is kind of a pain. But with 3D touch, this is no longer a problem. If you hard press on any part of your keyboard, that keyboard will turn into a touchpad (like the one on your laptop). You can then use that touchpad to move your cursor around accurately. Simple. Lift up your finger and your touchpad becomes a keyboard again…

The Easy Switcheroo

Like most phones, the iPhone comes equipped with an app switcher programme that allows you to switch quickly between different apps, which is pretty convenient. But if double hitting the home button and waiting for the app switcher to open is a little too time consuming for you, then there’s another, easier way to switch apps.

Hard press on the left edge of your screen then swipe right. Swipe just a little to the right and release and your app switcher programme will open up. Swipe further to the right and release, however, and you’ll switch back automatically to whichever app you were using before your current one. This is a handy little time saver, especially for things like instant messaging whilst you’re trying to beat that Candy Crush level…

The Quick Actions

Quick Actions might be the use of 3D touch that you’re most familiar with, since these are what Apple have been heavily advertising, but they’re pretty cool. Your home screens are probably loaded down with icons, and just like with any other phone, you tap that icon and your chosen app opens. But Quick Actions gives you other possibilities.

By hard pressing on an icon for an app that supports Quick Actions you get a new shortcut menu. A good example of this is the Clock app. Tap on it and you open up your clock. Hard press on it and you get a pop up menu with options like “start timer” or “create alarm.” Different supported apps have different Quick Actions menus, so you might want to play around a little and see what you can find. Definitely a time saver there.

The Peek and Pop

Peek and pop is another more familiar use of 3D touch, but one that’s very useful. This works on most Apple native apps and a growing list of third party app as well, but how it works depends on which app you’re using. Basically, there are two different functions, called peek and pop, allowing you to preview things.

Let’s look at an email as an example. Say your friend sends you an email with a link in it. Tap that link (or “peek” it) and you get a floating preview box above your email giving you a look at the link. Hard press that link (or “pop” it) and the link will open up in Safari. This peek and pop works in other ways too, letting you preview pictures on your camera roll, for example, without having to open the picture itself. It’s just a way of saving a little time, and is handy if you’re looking for a particular picture, say, or want to know if that email link is safe to open at work.

A Couple More Cool Tricks

There are a couple more things that are worth mentioning here too. First is that 3D touch means you can use pressure sensitive drawing now (which works in the Note programme as well as third party apps like Evernote). Draw a line as you normally would, then press down harder and you’ll see that you get a thicker, heavier line, allowing you to draw more realistically.

You can also use 3D touch to bring your pictures to life. If you’ve taken a “live” picture (a new function on the 6s’s camera) then hard pressing on that picture will animate it. You can even set a live picture as your lock screen, but it won’t animate until you hard press it.

Some critics have said that Apple’s 3D touch tech is gimmicky, and at first look it’s hard to disagree with that. However, if you’re willing to experiment a little, then there are actually some clever uses for 3D touch. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve there, but some of the above tips do end up saving time, once you’re used to using 3D touch. Potentially, this is some powerful tech, giving your phone a whole new layer of functionality. So don’t be afraid of 3D touch, give it a chance and see just how convenient it is…