3D Touch is dead. Long live Haptic Touch


Au revoir 3D Touch.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

3D Touch, the pressure-sensitive screen tech ushered in by Apple, has officially met its end.

Introduced as one of the major new features on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple said 3D Touch was going to take multi-touch into a whole new dimension. Jony Ive waxed poetic about the new peek and pop gestures 3D Touch would enable in an Apple video explaining the feature. With the unveiling of the iPhone SE this morning, 3D Touch is as good as dead and we can’t say we’re really going to miss it.

The iPhone SE is the latest device to ditch 3D Touch in favor of Haptic Touch. Apple last included 3D Touch on the iPhone XS and XS Max, but started moving away from it with the iPhone XR. With today’s introduction of the iPhone SE and the discontinuation of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple no longer sells iPhones with the force-sensitive screen.

Goodbye 3D Touch

Instead of pushing forward with 3D Touch, Apple is reverting back to the old Haptic Touch screens that have been around since the first iPhone. Haptic Touch screens are cheaper and you mimic all the same features 3D Touch brought to the table.

When 3D Touch was introduced it seemed like it was going to create an all-new input method for iPhone and iPad. It turns out that long presses are just as effective. Apple never even bothered bringing 3D Touch to iPads. Removing 3D Touch also eliminates a costly screen component from iPhones that added some unnecessary complexities to the devices.

For a lot of iPhone users, the only time they really used 3D Touch was on accident. It’s certainly nifty to be able to semi-hard press on a screen to preview a link and then hard press it to open it. Many people found it hard to get the pressure just right though which added a bit of confusion to the UI. Hiding menu options behind long-presses also seemed like a great way to confuse simpletons like me.

3D Touch also got Apple into some legal trouble. Immersion Corporation sued Apple for patent infringement related to 3D Touch in 2016. The two sides settled on a licensing agreement two years later.

The good news is if you like 3D Touch you probably won’t miss it. Sure, you won’t be able to weigh small objects on your screen anymore, but all of the menu options and features it brought will live on, thanks to its low-tech sibling, Haptic Touch.


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