Apple’s Force Touch – the future of mobile interfaces

Apple's next big thing competitors will want to imitate

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPhone 6S, Force Touch, smartphone, Apple Watch, mobile, user interface


Originally introduced with the Apple Watch, Apple competitors will really want to emulate Force Touch – just as they did the GUI, Multitouch and Home button. This is because its future inclusion on iPhones promises much deeper app functionality than you get in mobile devices today – and this is essential as mobile devices replace the PC.

Apple is opening new frontiers for its user interfaces on both Mac and mobile devices with Force Touch. Its introduction will enable developers to create near-identical user interfaces across mobile and computer platforms.

Perfecto on touch

You won’t get this right from the start. Apple’s approach is to start small and focus on the details. “It could be argued that the move toward simplicity triggered by iOS products inspired the user experiences we see on today’s smartphones,” observes Eran Kinsbruner, Mobile Technical Evangelist at Perfecto Mobile.

"By adding a new level of precision for input into the device, Apple can be expected to offer a more fluid and intuitive user interface for many apps, and it would not be unexpected to see the company continue their exploration into the gaming industry,” he says.

The introduction of near identical UIs across Apple’s platforms will sharply reduce the friction users encounter when swapping between devices.

“The challenge for IT is to take off its features hat, and think about the end user, which, if done correctly, can make or break the design of an enterprise solution,” explains Accellion’s Director of Product experience, Michael Ashley.


How might Apple apply Force Touch to its mobile interfaces? Imagine how Apple Watch enables you to access application features and think about how this might be extended. “Force Touch on the iPhone will be used to clear up some control space across the system, and potentially replace some long press-and-hold button interactions,” 9to5 Mac reported in May.

I imagine conveniences such as:

  • Access to additional menus/options and settings from within apps
  • Click to view the full message,
  • Press to open the application,
  • Force swipe to clear the full notification shade at once.
  • Hold down to respond
  • Double-tap to flag for later.
  • Tablet-like precision in drawing and rending applications – even on an iPhone – digital signatures become a cinch
  • iMovie and image editing become more closely aligned with Macs
  • Pressure-sensitive media playback and scrolling
  • Interactive controls (such as word definitions, Address look-up or Calendar event entry).

Take a look at this video by Stefan Svartling for some more ideas on how it may be implemented.

Managing expectations

Apple traditionally likes to evolve its new user interface ideas slowly, seeking simplicity above feature creep (though that’s not so clear in Apple Music). “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” said Steve Jobs once. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

For best results app developers will need to work with Force Touch in order to build effective experiences – they must avoid introducing unnecessary complexity. Achieving this will require clever management of expectations – iPhone users will want Force Touch support in their apps, but developers must ensure it is logical. Apple is already working with developers to add Force Touch support to some apps, which is why developers aren’t talking about their work.

Uniquely Apple

This means that when Force Touch iPhones do appear we should not judge the new UI by its first implementations, but by watching it develop in the coming months (think about Touch ID). Eventually Force Touch will become essential to the way we use mobile devices, and competitors will want a piece of the heavily patented technology. It’s all about creating unique experiences, after all. Et tu, Samsung?

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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