Last night at its massive event in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Apple finally took the wraps off the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. While the new iPhones look the same as their predecessors, there is a whole raft of changes underneath, chief among which is the 3D Touch display. Let’s take a closer look at this new display technology, and how it works.
Given how big a leap this is when it comes to iOS devices, it is not surprising that Apple spent more than 10 minutes introducing the 3D Touch display at last night’s event. In an interview with Bloomberg, Apple’s Jony Ive says how the company has been working on implementing this technology for many years.
“Ultimately, this is our focus. This is what galvanizes our efforts right across the company.” And 3D Touch, he adds with emphasis, “is something we’ve been working on for a long time—multi, multi, multi years.”
Until now iPhones only recognized taps and swipes, but the display also recognizes force. This results in implementing new kinds of gestures like ‘peep’ and ‘pop’. As the names probably suggest, press lightly on something and you will be able to get a peep at the content, while continuing to press it will pop you into the content itself.
For example, on the homepage, if you press and hold on the camera icon, it will pop up options like take a selfie, record video, record slo-mo or take a photo. This function also works inside apps, so lightly pressing on an email will give you a short glimpse at the mail, while continuing to press it will open the mail itself.
In a video posted by Apple, Ive explains the technology behind the 3D Touch display. These presses are measured by the capacitive sensors embedded into the backlight of the Retina HD display. With each press, these sensors measure microscopic changes in the distance between the glass and the backlight. These measurements are then combined with signals from the touch sensor and accelerometer to offer fast and accurate response to finger pressure.
To give you a feel of the presses, Apple says that each peep and pop are accompanied by a short haptic feedback. It’s basically the display’s way of saying that you have pressed correctly. For these short feedbacks Apple had to develop an all-new taptic engine.
Ive says that on any other smartphone the vibrating system requires more number of oscillations to give a feedback, but on iPhone 6s the engine can give a feedback in just one cycle. This allows the iPhone to give feedback for events like a mini tap that lasts only 10 milliseconds, or a full tap that would last 15 milliseconds.
The video posted by Apple explaining this new feature, follows.