The iPhone 6S Needs a Better Killer Feature Than Force Touch to Excite

By Gerald Lynch on at

A funny thing is happening. Despite numerous iPhone 6S feature and rumour leaks, we've really not yet heard anything substantial on what Apple's next iPhone will be like. Or, more to the point, we've heard it all before.

Apple's detractors will claim that this is nothing new. Each year a new iPhone comes out, only marginally improved over what was offered a year earlier. A little spec bump here, a little camera improvement there. This is largely true, and in evidence for much of the smartphone cycle across the industry. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S made for a significant leap in terms of design for Apple, smoothing the sharp edges of the iPhone since its iPhone 4 redesign, and introducing two larger 4.7 and 5.5-inch screen sizes.

The "S" series models, traditionally falling every other year between the core numbered models, tend not to have quite as far reaching design overhauls as the numbered editions. So with the iPhone 6S expected to be on the way, rather than an iPhone 7, a modest upgrade is likely in order.

But that's not to say the "S" models of yesteryear have been without notable additions. The "S" in iPhone 4S was said to stand for "Siri", the voice-activated assistant that was introduced with the 2011 iPhone. While Siri has always been a little hamstrung here in the UK, it was actually rather exciting when it was first revealed, and proved far more useful in the US where it was integrated with useful databases of local amenities and services. Stateside, it proved itself to be more than just a reminder-setting gimmick.

Jump forward two years to the launch of the iPhone 5S and you have the introduction of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. It's a worthy added security measure, significant alone simply for bringing biometric scanning to the iPhone's hardware for the first time. Again, without the proper launch of Apple Pay in the UK, it's still a little underwhelming here in the UK. But as a two-step authentication measure for making payments elsewhere around the globe, it's making the iPhone a valid contactless credit card replacement.

iphone 6s force touch

iPhone 6S Force Touch Features

So what of the iPhone 6S? What can we expect it to bring to the table to entice Apple fanboys to delve into the pockets for, coughing up for the annual Cupertino tax?

Well, so far, very little. Though we're a few months out from the launch, it's been comparatively quiet in terms of both iPhone 6S leaks and speculation. As suggested earlier, the iPhone 6S is unlikely to drastically change its exterior hardware design, likely mimicking last years model. You'll likely get a spec bump to the new A9 processor and, if you're lucky, the RAM doubled to 2GB. The Beats Music streaming service may sit alongside a revised font from a thoroughly unexciting raft of iOS 9 rumours. And you'll likely get a USB-C reversible charging port bunged onto the underside of the handset too.

And that's basically it, aside from one "killer" feature that's about as deadly as the common cold. Force Touch.

Force Touch is an additional screen layer which allows for pressure sensitivity in touch input. In other words, giving a prod with a bit more force behind it will result in different actions taking place on the phone. According to 9to5Mac, this may replace current functions for highlighting text, or dropping pins in Apple Maps.

While there's possible gimmicky application for iPhone games, it is otherwise the most boring lead feature I think there's been so far in an iPhone. Both Siri and Touch ID at least had an element of sci-fi futurism to help them float over their lack of comprehensive support. Force Touch might help you to copy and paste text a little easier. Whoop-de-doo.

It's worth noting that Force Touch is nothing new, too. Not only has it debuted before, but is present in two of the most underwhelming products in recent Apple memory -- the Apple Watch and the New Macbook -- so it can't even bring with it that smug sense of early-adopter superiority.

Perhaps even more problematic is if Force Touch does bring comprehensive control changes. What is certain apps become so reliant on Force Touch features that the hardware causes fragmentation in user abilities in terms of software? You've then got app developers stretched over twice as many iterations of their wares, potentially leading to quality control slips. Apple used to champion the fact that it had far less fragmentation than its army of Android rivals, but Force Touch could introduce a homemade schism.

Of course, Apple doesn't do things by halves. It waits, it assesses the competition, and strikes only when it's convinced a feature has proved worthy of inclusion. You need look only at it's apparently scrapped decade's worth of research into TV for that. It's ruthless, so if Force Touch wasn't ready to make the cut, it won't be present. And yes, there's time yet for a more significant feature to make its way off the supply chain and into our rumour-filled inboxes. And we'd hope so too -- given the lukewarm reception given the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S will really have to pull its weight this year.