Maybe you are as confused as I was about all these new-fangled touch screens. It’s no big surprise; Force Touch, 3D Touch? And they are different on each device Apple offers! Or are they? I hope to clear this touchy issue up once and for all!
There are currently two types of touch systems in the Apple product line: 3D Touch and Force Touch. Let's look at both, and clarify which devices have which feature.
3D Touch was introduced with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and has a more robust feature set than regular old Force Touch, giving you a new level of interaction. You can now trigger a different response by varying the amount of pressure you use. 3D Touch also features Apple's Taptic engine, which - believe it or not - feels better then normal haptic feedback. I know this because I am a nerd, naturally!
3D Touch works on the home screen or inside of apps, but please note that not all apps support this feature. Even some of Apple's apps don’t support 3D Touch yet.
Peek and Pop
Depending on how much force you use on the screen, will result in a peek or pop action.
Peek: press lightly on an app or content, and you will get a Peek window. This will show a little snippet of what you can do or see, without actually opening an app or diving deep into content.
Pop: Pressing and long holding harder will result in a Pop. This will get you into the app or content, giving you the deeper control you might expect with the gesture.
This is all done with new sensors in the screen that allow you to make the Peek and Pop gestures happen smoothly.
The 3D Touch is actually quite handy once you get used to it; it gives you the ability to move in and out of content without getting too far away from what you wanted or were doing. There is a slight learning curve, and it can be a little frustrating not knowing what content or apps support the feature without actually trying it.
Important to note that this is only available with iOS 9 and up, and on a limited number of devices, such as the 6s line of iPhones. You will also never move the physical screen, but the Taptic Engine may make it feel that way.
Force Touch is similar to 3D Touch; in fact, they are almost the same. A lot of the differences seem to be what device you are using. I am no Apple engineer, and I can't begin to explain what all is going on under the hood when it comes to Force Touch and 3D Touch, but both technologies can measure how hard or soft you press.
Force Touch in the new MacBooks and stand-alone track pads can measure how hard or soft you press. This, like 3D Touch, will give you different results. With Apple Watch, it's a bit different; you can tap on the screen like normal, but when you press hard on certain screens, you get an extra level of control or options. For example, when on your clock face, a hard press results in customizing your watch face display and layout.
Apple devices that use Force Touch also have a haptic feedback like 3D Touch. Apple claims that their Taptic Engine feedback system is better than the older haptic technologies. I can say that after testing it on my Apple Watch and a Trackpad, I agree. It feels great! The new trackpad, which has no real moving parts, feels like it actually moves down when you press it!
Devices using Force Touch:
Apple Magic Trackpad 2
Updated MacBook Pros
In conclusion, I think the 3D Touch is a bit more polished in terms of hardware and software than the Force Touch. As a user, these two technologies seem to do the same stuff, so I’m not going to sweat the details. After all, I feel it's the desired effect that's important, not all the under-the-hood stuff.
If you're using a newer device and would like to disable or change sensitivity of 3D Touch, check out my post on turning off or adjusting 3D Touch.