Those Apple Force Touch iPhone rumors look credible

Steve Jobs' wish for a button-free iPhone appears to be coming true.

This season’s iPhone rumors are stronger than ever and we’re beginning to gain some insight into the way forward for Apple’s desktop-class smartphones.

Calling time

Apple has already begun building Force Touch iPhones, destined to be called the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, following previous reports iOS 9 has support for the technology.

Also read: 5 reasons you’re going to want Apple’s next iPhone

These claims follow months of rumors to this effect, beginning with February claims in Apple Insider and a subsequent May comment from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who called this “the most significant change to the iPhone’s interface to date.”

The analyst speculated Apple may even call these models iPhone 7, rather than iPhone 6S devices to reflect the depth of the change, but this seems less likely at present. Note that Steve Jobs always wanted a button-free device.

"We believe that iPhone's Force Touch sensor doesn't directly detect the pressure applied by fingers," the analyst said. "Instead, it monitors the contact area on which the finger touches the screen to decide how big the pressure is."

Earlier this month we also learned that Apple is increasing its orders for high-end FPCBs it requires in order to incorporate Force Touch Technology into future iPhones.

A published Apple patent in early 2014 also revealed the company was experimenting with pressure sensitive screens at that time.

Introducing Force Touch within its iPhones (and presumably also within iPads) will enable Apple to enhance its user interface, deliver more complex apps and make some physical changes to the device:

‘Nested’ user interface as seem in Apple Watch:

This could (for example) enable faster and easier access to application relevant settings and could enable app developers to build increasingly sophisticated tools within nested user interfaces.

“Force Touch will be integrated into Maps to drop new pins, into media players for pressure-sensitive scrolling, into the Calendar for adding new events, and across the system for quickly looking up word definitions,” 9to5Mac claimed in May, citing “sources”.

The report did describe Force Touch as a power feature that won’t be necessary when using most apps, but I parse this to mean there won’t be enough apps supporting the feature to make it mandatory in the first wave. I expect Force Touch usage will widen once developers get hold of new tools with which to implement it, so it’s only a question of time before it does become central to the UI.

Replacement of the Home Button:

This could see Apple devote a section of the display to act as a virtual Home Button, or could see the company enable this use across the entire display. The key impact of this will be to free up more on-screen real estate without increasing the size of the device. This isn’t a new rumor, of course – it first emerged way back in 2011, when a breathless BGR report told us:

“Our source said Apple employees are already testing iPads and iPhones with no home buttons on the Apple campus, and it’s possible we will see this new change materialize with the next-generation iPad and iPhone devices set to launch this year.”

Introduction of an “invisible” TouchID button:

In which fingerprint sensors are embedded in the display -- this speculation got a boost this weekend when it was revealed Apple has acquired over two dozen biometric security patents from Privaris.

One more thing: There are also some strong rumors suggesting Apple has a Bluetooth accessory in the works for Macs, which will bring Force Touch to your iMac. We’ll keep you posted on this.

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