3 Ways Apple's 3D Touch Shakes Up Mobile Development

October 13, 2015
Ashley Rondeau
By now, you might already be enamored with Apple’s new 3D Touch technology that comes with the iPhone 6s. In short, the new smartphones can detect three levels of pressure, which has transformed the simple act of touching the screen into one of “depth” which allows for different actions for basically the same gesture.
iphone-410311_640Source: Apple
As app developers, we’re half “yay!” for new, innovative technology that keeps things interesting and offers fantastic new ways of interacting with a rectangular slate; and half “sigh” for all the changes we’ll see that shakes up the status quo. Of course, if we didn’t expect constant change, we wouldn’t be in the business of making awesome apps, so it’s more yay than sigh. But, just how will Apple’s new tech shake up our industry? Here are three ways we think 3D Touch will change our landscape.

1. Clicks just got more precious.

Arguably, the main feature of 3D Touch is “Peek and Pop,” with heavy emphasis on the Peek. Now, apps or links won’t launch on just any press. Rather, a light press will give users a preview (a peek) of the images or addresses, and deep pressing on a link will actually provide a preview image of the ensuing website.
So all of a sudden, users won’t actually need to click-and-go to get their content. After all, we can easily imagine many instances where all a user might need is a preview of a site to get everything he or she needs to know. Oh an Amazon link to a dress? *press* Nah, don’t like the color.
Is mobile about to see a drop in clicks? This could spell trouble for businesses that rely on steady traffic, not to mention the absolute headache this might cause for the desperate online marketers trying to track “peeks” instead of clicks. If URLs no longer need to be launched for consumers to get information, we expect to see click-through-rates take a tumble on mobile. Deep-linking might be more important than ever before.

2. Google’s got some search competition.

As soon as we heard about Peek and Pop, we thought Apple would be pushing their own services to the forefront. Sure enough, when you peek an address, it uses Apple Maps (even if you have Google Maps installed); and when you peek a link you peek it in Safari.
It makes sense, sure. Apple wants to make sure its new technology works and utilizing its own app ecosystem is the smart way to go. And we fully expect to be able to eventually Peek and Pop into more and more 3rd party apps, even from native Apple apps. But we’re not paranoid. Even readwrite.com picked up on this and mentioned what we’re thinking:
“The limitation here is people’s attention spans. As users gravitate towards a few familiar apps, and download fewer and fewer new ones over time, Pops and Peeks augur a future where they spend more time in their favored apps and only take the briefest of glances at other ones.”
Apple’s no dummy. And you can bet Google is very wary of native app to native app peeking and popping, and how that will affect traffic to its own apps and sites.

3. Navigation has just been solved… Sorry app home screens.

One of the toughest parts of app design is managing navigation. From long presses to hamburger menus to even creating separate stand-alone apps, developers have had to get creative to make app navigation easy and intuitive.
And then this comes along:
Facebook 3D Touch
Source: Engadget
Yes, simply using 3D Touch on the app icon itself on your home screen can now bring up a menu to jump you to exactly where you want to go. Sure, it’s limited, but it’s a pretty big game changer for us app developers. To put it another way, Apple just deemphasized the importance of your app’s home screen in one fell swoop.
Launching Facebook doesn’t necessarily have to take you to the feed anymore, as in the example above. As more and more apps follow suit, we’re going to see more fragmentation of how users enter the same app. This is fairly unprecedented in the mobile world and we think will be one of the bigger stories to follow in the coming months.
As always, Apple says “touch” and we say “how deep?”
What do you think about Apple’s new 3D touch technology? Sound off in the comments below!

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