3D Touch: next level mobile user experience

3D Touch: next level mobile user experience

September 18th, 2015

Last week Apple introduced the iPhone 6s series. Arguably, the most innovative feature of the new iPhones is 3D Touch. With 3D Touch Apple brings us the next generation of the touch screen that stood at the basis of the success of the original iPhone in 2007.

What is exciting about 3D Touch is that it brings a new dimension to touch interfaces. Besides basic and well known gestures like Tap, Swipe and Pinch we can now detect the pressure from a tap and let the app respond. 3D Touch opens up new interactions that we are only just starting to figure out and we are incredibly excited to start working on it.

What can we do with 3D Touch?

Since the Apple keynote of the 9th of September, we have been thinking about the possibilities. To make things more concrete, over the last days we took some time to prototype some ideas for our Shopping app platform Highstreet. Apple offers several "out of the box" 3D Touch interactions but also provides technology to let developers invent their own. Below you find our first ideas for both categories.

1. Home quick actions

Quick actions is one of the standard interactions that Apple provides. It enables the user to perform the most common app actions right from the Home screen. With a subtle "3D" press on the app icon a list of actions appears. The actions can be a predefined- or dynamic. For example: We could show the “Sales” option instead of the “Get inspired” option when the sales season starts. When the user selects an action the app is opened and shows the selected screen or action.

2. Peek and pop

Peek and pop is another standard 3D Touch interaction. In iOS 9 Peek and Pop is integrated throughout the whole system. The idea behind Peek and pop is to preview content that is normally available on a separate follow up screen. For example: In the mail app a light press on an email will give you a preview of the email so you can “peek” at each email without having to open it. Press harder and "pop!" the email is opened.

In shopping apps customers do their orientation in the category view. There they select which product they 'might' be interested in before they go a level deeper. That's why we thought it would be nice if Highstreet would allow customers to peek at a product without having to leave the category view. Press a thumb on a product image to peek. The peek also shows all product images in thumbnails. By keeping the 'press' and moving their thumb customers can see all product images in one go. Like the product? Swipe up to reveal an action sheet to add the product the favorites. Don't like the product? Lift the thumb off the screen and the peek is immediately closed and the category is shown.

3. Custom 3D Touch interactions

Besides the Quick actions and Peek and pop functionalities Apple offers developers like us the possibility to create custom 3D Touch interactions. In iOS 9 it is possible to detect in realtime exactly how hard the user presses on the display. With this dynamic value developers can do a lot of things that were not possible before. For example: In race games the acceleration of a car can be controlled and in platform games the main character can jump higher with a harder press on the screen.

In Highstreets shopping apps we see an opportunity to make zooming on product images (an important feature for shoppers) much nicer with 3D Touch. Of course our apps already use "pinch to zoom" but on a smartphone in your hand using two fingers just doesn’t work as nice as on a tablet on your lap. Now with 3D Touch we can simply zoom by pressing on the product image with our thumb. As the pressure rate is dynamic, we can make the zoom level fully controllable. Press lightly and the image will zoom in a bit, press harder and the image will zoom in even further so it becomes really easy to view the fabric of a fashion item. Slightly move your thumb to move the image around so that even in zoomed view one can view the whole product. Release the thumb to let the image snap back to the original view. Super easy and fun!


As is probably clear by now, we are very excited about 3D Touch. It brings a new dimension to the touch interface that will push the simplicity and depth of what we can do with native apps further. We expect 3D Touch to be adopted quickly. Apple has implemented it throughout iOS and has provided advanced ways for developers like us to invent new 3D Touch interactions. Users will get used to it soon and come to expect it from any app.

The examples in this post are only the beginning. We can’t wait to see what else we, and the rest of the mobile user experience community, will come up with.

  • The prototypes shown in this article are created with Principle for Mac.
  • Disclaimer: we have no iPhone 6s'es yet and only looked at Apples documentation but from what we read we assume the above is possible.