Apple forgot to put our iPhone event invite in the mail, which means we haven’t been able to fondle Cupertino’s latest and greatest in person. But thankfully, there’s a horde of eager tech journos who have already played with the new iPhone. Here’s what they thought.
The main problem with 3D Touch is going to be teaching it to people. Based on reader comments and Twitter questions I’ve seen, people already have trouble distinguishing a 3D Touch (pressing down harder) from a long-press (pressing down longer), and both interactions are still available in iOS 9. It was something I had trouble with while adjusting to the Apple Watch—the iPhone and iPad had trained me to use long presses in many places where WatchOS actually wanted Force Touches. You don’t need to know how to use 3D Touch to use the iPhone 6Ses, but it’s a major new feature and it’s not quite as intuitive as the original multitouch technology Apple compared it to.
In practice, 3D Touch means that you can do the equivalent of a long press on various app icons to expose options hidden behind a long press menu. However, instead of a long press, you just push slightly harder on the display to activate it so it happens as fast as you want it to be. The use of the Taptic Engine is actually quite helpful here as well, because it gives very obvious feedback as to what you can do with a force touch. If the app on a homescreen doesn’t support any options with 3D Touch, there’s a distinct double-tap to indicate this instead of a lot of pressing and wondering why nothing is happening. The speed at which you can do a force touch on the display means that 3D Touch gestures are just much faster and more user friendly than a traditional long-press.
Despite the noteworthy bits, this is the same S cycle upgrade we’re used to: You’re getting a lot more power, a few new ways to go about using your device, and a couple of small things that make the phone more fun. Oh, and that rose gold looks pretty good.
The main difference 3D Touch brings is the ability to interact with on-screen instructions in different ways. It’s too early to delve into all the ways that the new power will work, but the system (for those that haven’t seen an Apple Watch or the new Macbook) is simple: you can tap like before, but press a bit harder on an icon or message and you’ll get a new menu popping up.
Imagine it’s like right-clicking the mouse to get a secondary menu, and you’re pretty much there. It’s a cool new feature, although one that app developers will need to work with for a while to really get the best out of.
That’s what the 6s and 6s Plus really have going for them — they’re a little better atsaving your time than the iPhones that came before. There are other updates here, to be clear. The front-facing camera has an on-screen flash that did a fine job of lighting up my ugly mug even in a poorly lit corner of Apple’s demo space. Shooting “Live Photos” — sort of like those old HTC Zoes — is dead-simple and sort of fun. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera seems to take really nice photos, but it still has that distinctive hump. It’s not hard to see how early tipsters would have called the new rose gold option (pictured above) pink, but someone out there will probably dig it.
For the past few years, the idea of a “camera phone” has become redundant. Most flagship phones come with cameras that are impressive and good enough for casual users. So to call these iPhones “camera phones” seems a little silly. But make no mistake: Apple intends for the cameras in these iPhones to be transformative, and after just a few minutes with them I’m willing to believe that it’s more than just marketing.