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I have used an Android as my primary smartphone for 5 years now. I also own an iPhone 5, given the nature of my job, but that’s not my daily driver. The iPhone has never tempted me in all these years—until I tried the iPhone 6s complete with 3D Touch. Android fans: we can no longer claim we have the best smartphone.

Android still has plenty of things going for it. Apple’s closed ecosystem annoys me, and Android’s customisability (especially when rooted Take Control: Android Rooting Guide Take Control: Android Rooting Guide As of the writing of this guide, approximately 80% of the world's population owns their own cellphone. Out of those, 1.08 billion are smartphones. Read More ) is an absolute delight. There were always tradeoffs in the Android vs. iOS argument when it comes to app availability, openness, hardware limitations, and so on. But 3D Touch shuts down the pro-Android arguments more firmly than any other feature.

The iPhone 6s is now the best smartphone thanks to 3D Touch, and Android is nowhere close to emulating that experience yet.

What Is 3D Touch?

iphone-3d-touch-hero_large

When Apple launched the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, we noted that 3D Touch was the only real innovation A Hype-Free Guide to the Latest Apple Event... [Tech News Digest] A Hype-Free Guide to the Latest Apple Event... [Tech News Digest] It's an all-Apple edition of Tech News Digest, with a look at everything Apple revealed at its latest event. Albeit minus the hype lumped in by other publications. Read More , adding an additional layer of functionality not found on the iPhone 6. On a pure hardware level, it wasn’t a dramatic step.

3D Touch is an evolution of Force Touch on the Apple Watch and new MacBook trackpads. The iPhone screen now has a layer of circuits which can detect the pressure your finger is applying. It registers two types of pressure — light taps and hard taps — and a small current or vibration provides haptic feedback to give you a feel of the pressure you’re putting. It sounds complex, but in actual usage, it feels natural and I got used to it within minutes.

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The secret to 3D Touch isn’t the hardware alone. It’s how Apple has married its software to the hardware to make for a new way of interacting with your screen. Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering, told Bloomberg that the hardware measures the force and the software figures out the intent of the user.

What Can You Do With 3D Touch?

As you can see in the video above, a light tap can let you preview the contents of a link without opening it in a new tab or app. You could look at a photo in Instagram without actually visiting it. And if you do want to visit it, a little more pressure will do that. Apple calls this “peek and pop”, a fancier way of saying preview and launch.

On the homescreen, 3D Touch works a bit like a right-click button does on Windows or Mac, although that’s a simplistic explanation. When you hard-tap an app, you’ll get shortcut actions. For example, hard-tapping the Phone icon will show your favourite contacts so you can quick-dial. Hard-tap Apple Maps and you’ll get a shortcut to find directions to your home.

To put it simply, 3D Touch refines your workflow. It saves you taps, and it saves you from going away from a screen you’re looking at. Smartphones show one app/window at a time, and 3D Touch actually is an ingenious way of fully using your app without leaving it.

For more, check out the full list of 3D Touch features by Apple.

It’s Not Right-Click, It’s Middle-Click

iphone-3d-touch-quick_actions_hero_large

The simplistic explanation goes: “3D Touch is right-click for your iPhone” — but the better explanation is that it’s a new way of interacting with your phone. Remember when the computer mouse had only left-click and right-click? And then middle-click came along to open up several shortcuts, let you scroll faster, and generally saved you clicks. That’s what 3D Touch is — it’s a new button. In fact, it’s two new buttons.

Here’s a quick comparison to show the difference between Android smartphones and iPhone 6s or 6s Plus now:

iphone-6s-3d-touch-android-comparison

The iPhone 6s and the bigger iPhone 6s Plus Should You Buy The Bigger iPhone 6 Plus? Should You Buy The Bigger iPhone 6 Plus? The term "phablet" very much applies to Apple's recently announced iPhone 6 Plus, but there's more to it than just a bigger screen. Read More , in essence, adds three new modifiers to how you can interact with what’s on your screen. As iOS architect Kevin Harwood explains, developers can add four new types of interactions with 3D Touch:

  • Quick action support: More options when 3D tapping icons on your homescreen.
  • Peek and Pop: Previews and app launching when you are already inside an app.
  • Custom gestures: Swiping will have two layers, hard and light, to enable multiple gestures.
  • Enhanced web viewing: Web developers can customise how their website behaves when viewed from a device that supports 3D Touch.

Apple itself uses 3D Touch in limited apps right now, but third-party developers have shown great enthusiasm in supporting the feature in their apps. “I feel like it’s just getting started,” writes veteran journalist Walt Mossberg. “I believe that 3D Touch is a big deal and can be a bigger advance once developers, and Apple itself, starts expanding its uses.”

Tech Reviewers Love 3D Touch

iphone-6s-3d-touch-peek-and-pop

Most reviewers are in agreement: 3D Touch is one of the best new features in the iPhone 6s Here Comes the iPhone 6S: What’s New & Should You Upgrade? Here Comes the iPhone 6S: What’s New & Should You Upgrade? The good news: the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus has just been announced. The bad news: your iPhone is now out of date, and you'll need to sell a kidney for the latest model. Read More .

Mossberg dedicated a significant portion of his iPhone 6s review to 3D Touch and its many uses, and noted that while the technology was already tried on the Apple Watch and Macs, it does much more on the iPhone.

John Paczkowski has been writing about technology longer than I have been able to construct coherent sentences, and he feels 3D Touch justifies an iPhone upgrade or purchase.

Personally, I only got to spend a couple of hours playing with a friend’s iPhone 6s (it hasn’t yet launched in India), but I’m thoroughly impressed. It’s exciting technology, and as Apple’s VP of User Interface Design put it to Bloomberg, it feels inevitable. This feels like how we would all be using smartphones five years down the line, irrespective of platform or brand.

3D Touch Beats Huawei’s ‘Force Touch’

Huawei-mate-s-force-touch-picture-magnification

Speaking of platforms and brands, it should be noted that Apple wasn’t the first to come up with pressure-sensing screens. Huawei actually beat Apple to the punch with the Mate S, an Android smartphone that has “Force Touch” pressure-sensing screens.

However, Huawei was unable to cohesively tie the feature to the software and make it a seamless, intuitive experience. The only really useful aspect was magnifying a part of the screen with a hard tap, as pictured above. Android Authority called it a “limited implementation” and that’s how it will continue to be till Google officially rolls out a standardised way for developers to make apps for phones that have Force Touch, whether made by Huawei or someone else.

Given Android’s current fragmentation, the near future is unlikely to see a standard feature set that offers the same experience across different types of hardware.

iphone-3d-touch-drawing-maps-context

As it stands, Apple has a big lead on Android when it comes to pressure-sensing touch interfaces. Since the iPhone’s 3D Touch is limited to just two phones, it’s easier for a developer to predict how his or her app will perform on any user’s phone because it’s a standardised hardware and software experience. That’s not the case with Android.

Eventually, some pressure-sensing screen technologies will come out at the top of the Android hardware world, and over time, become inexpensive enough to be used across phones of all budgets. Meanwhile, Google will need to figure out how to standardize the technology in a way that developers can make apps using such technologies.

Until that happens though, app and game developers will largely support 3D Touch on iOS, and if you want the best possible user interface experience on smartphones, you’ll need an iPhone.

Are You Ready to Switch for 3D Touch?

So Android user, are you ready to make the switch to the new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus to get your hands on 3D Touch? Just remember, don’t buy the 16GB model! Live Photos & 4K: Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 16GB iPhone 6s Live Photos & 4K: Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 16GB iPhone 6s If you want to take advantage of the new iPhone 6s camera, you'll probably want to avoid picking the 16GB storage option. Read More

Are you this impressed by 3D Touch? Let us know in the comments!

  1. David Schwartz
    October 13, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I just upgrade from iphone5s to iphone6s. Been playing the 3d Touch for a few days. The technology is great but...

    I havent found it saves me any time. I have about 4 pages of apps. I use spotlight to launch apps. To make use of the 3d Touch shortcuts, I have to scroll to the page with the app, find it hard press it to pick a shortcut. Depending on which page i was on, this could take 4 swipes, and hard press and a click. I just haven't found it to save me time...

    Any thoughts?

  2. Sony Lindberg
    October 13, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    You are forgetting about the air-touch feature that comes with the Samsung Galaxy phones. You dont even have to touch the screen to get a preview of items, galleries or options. You just hover your finger above the item you want to investigate and if possible, a menu opens up, or a preview window pops up.

    But otherwise, +1

  3. Kevin Liske
    October 13, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Not going to happen.

    For me, it's not about how good the phone is or whether it's the current best phone, it's about not getting back into a closed ecosystem that I hated being in. Technically, the iphones are good, but I can't tolerate the Apple way of doing things.

    • Christopher HasARightToPrivacy
      October 13, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Same here.. I'll not buy any device that's locked down by a company that thinks it knows what's best for me.

  4. Ben Bezuidenhout
    October 13, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Sorry, But I do not see the relevancy of me switching to a closed, outdated system.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 7:23 am

      "Closed", I won't argue. "Outdated"? What makes iOS outdated?

      • Ben Bezuidenhout
        October 13, 2015 at 7:31 am

        Easy, every year, Apple adds more features to IOS, features that Android already have or is already able to do = outdated = they play the catchup game to Android.

        • Chinmay Sarupria
          October 13, 2015 at 1:32 pm

          That's the problem of you fandroids - people like you always say this is wrong, that is wrong but never specifically point out what exactly is wrong. The latest proof is your above comment - you said already have or is already able to do but you didn't told what exactly is that.

  5. Chester
    October 13, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Not interested in switching. Nifty feature though it may be, it is still a nifty feature on an iPhone and I will continue to refuse that closed ecosystem. I am pleased to hear they have a back button now though. Kudos.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 5:27 am

      Sorry, I missed what you're trying to get at, what back button?

    • Chinmay Sarupria
      October 13, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      What do I say about buttons on android? They are so funny, you have to locate those invisible buttons by tapping here and there. A Formula 1 race finishes in that time.

      • Chester
        October 13, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        Never heard that before, an amusing observation. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thomas Sheeley II
    October 13, 2015 at 1:35 am

    Side note... my coworker tried the Note 5 and Note Edge and instantly loved them over the iPhone 6S. Unfortunately, she still got the iPhone cause all her friends had them. Very sad.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 5:29 am

      Peer pressure or were there apps (like say, FaceTime or Apple Music) that all her friends used on iPhone and she wanted in on that?

  7. Thomas Sheeley II
    October 13, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Android user since 2009... not switching. Don't care. I can swipe up and down on all my home screen icons... so that's 3 motions compared to Apples 2. (Also don't care if I'm wrong about only 2 types of touch on the Apple, still not switching.) Not a fanboy, just like Android better.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 5:28 am

      That's a perfectly sound reason, Thomas, glad that you know what you like and stick with it, rather than just blindly going for brand loyalty :)

  8. Erlis Dhima
    October 13, 2015 at 12:04 am

    It's not 3D, it's 2D with some blurring.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 5:30 am

      It's Apple, Erlis. The marketing force is strong in this one :D Remember "Retina Display"?

      • Erlis Dhima
        October 13, 2015 at 6:36 am

        Yep! But it's a bit much to only add some small features, and increase the price with $100 (if I'm not wrong).

        • Mihir Patkar
          October 13, 2015 at 7:06 am

          That's kind of my argument here. That 3D Touch isn't a "small feature". It's actually a significant leap, imo.

  9. Rolf Hu
    October 12, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Why anyone should buy a phone from a company that makes so much profit, but not even pays the taxes at home. People that don't care about fairness!

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 13, 2015 at 5:31 am

      I mean, if we really get down to it, all of these companies are exploiting cheap labor and unsupervised workers in China, many of whom are underage. Morality has little role to play in our consumer decisions.

    • Chinmay Sarupria
      October 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      That's the most insanely stupid reason I have ever heard! If you care so much about the taxes, then open a company yourself and start production in the country where labor is most expensive. You will enjoy it.

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