Monday, May 20, 2024

Apple’s faster Haptic Touch is as close to a 3D Touch comeback as we’re gonna get

As excited as I am to pick up a new iPhone 15 Pro Max later today, every release day for Apple’s latest phones brings back a nagging feeling: I still miss 3D Touch. Introduced on the iPhone 6S and lasting through the XS and XS Max, this feature could determine how much pressure you were applying to the screen with each finger press, and software could respond differently based on the level of force.

I remember having my mind blown by the live wallpaper animations, which would play (and then rewind back in reverse) based on how hard or softly I was pressing down. 3D Touch also brought other useful tricks like “peek” and “pop,” which let you preview a link or other content with a light press and then fully open it with a firm one.

To cut costs and reduce design complexity, Apple removed 3D Touch from the iPhone XR and all future models, replacing it with a “Haptic Touch” interaction that replicated some of 3D Touch’s functionality with a long-press. But the pressure detection was gone. My main issue with Haptic Touch is that it’s always been a bit slow. You can long-press app icons on your homescreen to bring up quick shortcuts, but there’s a slight delay that never existed when 3D Touch detected you were pressing with authority.

The fast setting should be the new norm

Fast forward to this week’s release of iOS 17, and Apple has taken some steps to speed up Haptic Touch — but only if you know where to look to enable a particular setting. For some reason, the new “Haptic Touch duration” preference is buried a couple layers deep in the accessibility section. I’m thankful that Federico Viticci of MacStories put a spotlight on this feature in his very comprehensive iOS 17 review; otherwise, even I likely would’ve missed it.

You can choose between three settings: default, fast, and slow. Sticking with the default means you’ll still have to wait a beat when using Haptic Touch throughout iOS. But “fast” makes all the difference in the world, so much so that it almost feels like the glory days of 3D Touch. I haven’t noticed any downsides of switching to the faster duration, and like Viticci, I’m of the mind that Apple should just set this as the new default.

It still really bums me out that Apple abandoned 3D Touch. Even if it was underused and became something of a power user feature, it was a genuinely unique technology — a rare thing to come by. But it’s very unlikely to ever come back, so at least this new, faster Haptic Touch duration results in 3D Touch’s substitute being more useful.


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