It’s only natural that different Apple devices with different shapes and roles should introduce some UI fragmentation. But it’s getting worse, not better.

A woman using Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

Touch me this way here. That way there.  Will it all change again?


There was a time when Apple had one primary OS in the market: [Mac OS X, macOS]. Now, with the proliferation of OSes [macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS] across different hardware, it can be confusing as to which device does, or should, support various UI features.

Press Here

Force Touch launched on the Apple Magic Trackpad 2 in the autumn of 2014. According to Apple:

The Force Touch trackpad lets you Force click by pressing on the trackpad and then applying more pressure. This allows you to take advantage of added functionality in many apps and system features on your Mac.

Force Touch is featured on the Magic Trackpad 2, the Apple Watch and the trackpads of the MacBook Pro (starting in 2015) and the latest MacBooks. It uses a electro-mechanical system branded as the “Taptic Engine,” and it relays a vibrational feedback to the user.

Apple's Magic Trackpad 2

Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2 introduced Force Touch. Image credit: Apple

But Wait….

Starting in September, 2015, with the iPhone 6s, Apple launched what’s called 3D Touch. That’s a more sensitive version of Force Touch. 3D touch is able to detect a change in distance (hence the force applied) between two glass layers in the display, and that changes a capacitance which can be measured.

3D touch is exclusive to iPhones. According to Apple, “you can adjust the sensitivity of 3D Touch on iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.”

The problem is that it’s hard to remember which is which. Apple likely wanted to distinguish between the two technologies because they are, in fact, different hardware. But it has just resulted in confusion. Consumers generally don’t care about the underlying hardware technology, but they do care when confronted with multiple, confusing terms for what seems like the same user interface and effects.

Worse, 3D Touch isn’t available on iPads. That’s probably because it would be cost or technology challenging to implement 3D touch in a large 12.9-inch iPad Pro display. As a result one must be conscious of what device one is using. iPad display: nope. iPhone display: 3D Touch. Latest MacBook/Pro trackpads: Force Touch. MacBook/Pro displays: Don’t even think about touching those.

Next Page:  Touch ID wanes. Face ID is the future. Except. Wait.

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