June 14, 2018

iPhone 3D Touch – an extra touch of functionality

If you have an iPhone from 2015 or later (iPhone 6s and later), chances are it is capable of what Apple calls 3D touch, meaning the screen is not only touch sensitive, but pressure sensitive as well. The extra functionality this enables might have passed many people by. Shame, because it offers some useful shortcuts and handy extras.

Here’s my list of the best uses of iPhone 3D touch, and make sure to check the end of the article for a bonus tip on extras offered if you have a MacBook with a Force Touch trackpad!

1 Move keyboard cursor quickly

You know that when you type a text on an iPhone, you can touch and hold your finger over a section of text where you want to move the cursor to. But it can be hard to pinpoint the exact location. Better is to just press hard on the keyboard. It will grey out and while pressing, you can now move your finger around the keyboard and the cursor will move around the text with your finger movement, easily allowing you to let go exactly where you want the cursor to be.

2 Quickly message a recent contact

Who do you usually send a message to? Well, the person you sent the last message to, probably! Just 3D-press on the Messages icon, and you can quickly shoot off a new message to the last few people you messaged.

The same functionality is also found by 3D-pressing on the FB Messenger app and WhatsApp.

3 Jot down a new note

This might not be a huge timesaver, but when you wanna jot it down, you wanna jot it down right now. So the less steps  it requires to get started the better and more immediate it will feel.

Just 3D-press on the Notes app, and you get the screen to the right. Last note you edited on top, shortcut to new note next. Quick and easy.

4 Drop a pin at your current location

Want to remember where you parked your car? Or simply mark the current location for later reference? All you have to do is 3D-touch on the Maps app and then press Mark My Location. Couldn’t be simpler.

PS. do you have Car Play or a stereo in your car that you connect your iPhone to over Bluetooth when you’re out driving, so you can blast some Whitesnake or Slap-D over the loudspeakers to show’em who’s boss? If the iPhone recognises it as a car stereo, it will automatically mark the location of your parked car, based on when the connection to the stereo was lost, like in the image to the right.

PPS. The iPhone function Do Not Disturb also has a car mode, found the same place you find Do Not Disturb in Settings. Use it for safer, more distraction-free driving!

5 When updating apps, prioritize downloads

If you are like me, you let the App Store new-update badge tick upwards quite a bit before you hit Update All. What happens then is that each app that needs an update is placed in an update queue and cannot be used until it has been fully updated.

If you have a lot of apps in the queue at the same time updating can take a while. If you want to make sure one of them finishes as quickly as possible, for instance if you, like in the image to the right, just need to use AfriDelivery right now to order home delivery of that lunch sushi from Chang Mai, 3D-press on the app in the queue and select Prioritise Download.

Bonus MacBook 3D Touch…. Force Touch tip

On new MacBook, you do not click trackpad, trackpad clicks you!

If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro (sorry, MacBook Air users) from 2015 or later, it will be equipped with a solid state trackpad with no moving parts. Instead of a physical hinge enabling you to press the trackpad down for a click, these trackpads are also pressure sensitive, and a press down will activate a haptic feedback mechanism giving the trackpad a little tap from underneath. It feels like you have clicked it, but in reality, well, the trackpad clicked you. Really.

This pressure sensitivity enables what Apple for some weird reason does not call 3D touch, but Force Touch. You engage the force touch by pressing extra hard on the trackpad. First you will get a normal click, then if you continue increasing the pressure, you will leet a second click, letting you know you have just engaged force touch.

Force touch has various functionality in various parts of MacOS and apps. In practice however, I have not actually found that many really useful applications for it – except one: force-touching a link in Safari to quickly open the page the link leads to in a floating window.

It is probably easiest to illustrate it:

Here I have opened the main Stoneman Consultancy web page, scrolled a bit down and force-clicked the “iPhone 7 screen replacement…” link. When I do that, the link highlights in yellow, and the window in the front pops up and loads with the contents of the page linked to, enabling me to have a real good look at the what the link actually leads to without having to do a full page load, and without loosing the page I was on. I can move the mouse over the floating window to scroll (and even click in it, in which case it will replace the main window), but as soon as I scroll or click elsewhere in the main window, the pop-up window disappears.

I  use this all the time when reading online newspapers or articles that have references or “further reading/explore topic” links or similar. It’s like taking a short, non-disruptive “side mission” while being able to get back to the main contents in a snap. And the only way you can do this, as far as I know, is by using force touch.

If you have other useful tips or tricks about 3D Touch or Force Touch, sound off in the comments or let us know on our Facebook page.

Attribution: Tips for Using 3D touch

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