Why Apple’s new 3D Touch is like McDonald’s secret menu

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3D Touch is buried treasure.
Photo: Apple

You know how McDonald’s (allegedly) has a secret menu? Plenty of people have heard about it, some use it frequently and bask in its glory, but most just stick to the regular menu.

That seems an awful lot like how 3D Touch could pan out.

The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are the first Apple devices to feature this new technology, which operates under the surface-level UI by providing shortcuts — or as Apple calls them, “peeks” and “pops” — on the Home screen and within various apps.

While those of us in the tech bubble are obviously eager to get our hands on the new phones to test 3D Touch, how will this new method of interaction play out for regular consumers casually looking to buy their next smartphone?

It seems Apple has a potential exposure problem on its hands.

The epitome of Apple’s vision

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The iPhone 6s is the first device to showcase Apple’s new 3D Touch technology.
Photo: Apple

Apple clearly thinks 3D Touch is the future. Otherwise the new technology wouldn’t be the flagship feature of this year’s iPhones.

In a rare peek behind the Cupertino curtain, Apple went into great detail about the years of work that went into developing 3D Touch, even granting Bloomberg access to the iPhone 6s to test the tech prior to Wednesday’s announcement.

There seems to be a passion for 3D Touch that Apple didn’t have for previous flagship iPhone features, or at least didn’t convey as strongly. This is because 3D Touch completely epitomizes Apple’s philosophy for tightly integrated hardware and software. The new display technology, Taptic Engine and iOS 9 work together in harmony to deliver an entirely new and improved experience.

If nothing else convinces you about Apple’s love affair with 3D Touch, consider this: No one can even see it. People who buy the iPhone 6s on a whim have absolutely no way of knowing about 3D Touch because it doesn’t interrupt the way anyone currently uses an iPhone. That might be a bad thing.

Sure, Apple could advertise the hell out of 3D Touch, but it’s far easier than other features to forget about because it’s not at all apparent. The best approach would probably be to get power users who follow Apple’s innovations to fall in love with the new feature — which probably isn’t much of a challenge — and then let the lovefest trickle down to regular users from there.

The only problem is this trickle-down effect must work in order for Apple to gain ground with 3D Touch.

Notable or novelty?

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Siri has stood the test of time, but will 3D Touch?
Photo: Apple

If you order something from that McDonald’s secret menu, more than likely you’ll probably giggle and rejoice about it once you get your food. For about seven seconds. Then you’ll move on with your life because it’s just a novelty.

3D Touch can’t be a novelty item. The future isn’t a novelty. People who hear about the new feature might try it out the first few weeks after buying an iPhone 6s, then slowly fade back into their old habits. Apple’s apps, as well as developers’ offerings, must invoke 3D Touch in near-magical ways to make the new touch technology memorable.

Past iPhone ‘s’ features

Let’s look at some past flagship iPhone features. On entirely new models like the iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, most people are attracted enough to the new design to spur sales.

It’s different with the “s” models, which look the same as their predecessors but pack new flagship features. The 5s brought Touch ID, the 4s brought Siri, and the 3GS brought video recording.

Every single one of those previous features had visual cues that led users to discovery. The 3GS’ video recording was built into the camera that everyone already uses, Siri replaced the Voice Control function, and the redesigned Home button on the 5s signified Touch ID.

3D Touch, on the other hand, lacks a visual cue.

I’m not saying that 3D Touch is doomed to fail, but it’s worth acknowledging that Apple needs its famous marketing muscle now more than ever. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus no doubt have revolutionary technology, but it can only be revolutionary if people actually use it.

For some, a tasty and familiar Big Mac is more than adequate.