How to I use the 3D Touch interactivity features on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus? What new features are enabled by 3D Touch?

When Apple introduced the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, one feature that was welcome (if not a surprise) was the inclusion of a pressure-sensitive screen. Called 3D Touch, the new interface joins Multi-Touch to form the heart of your interaction with iOS. "This is the next generation of Multi-Touch," said Apple's Jony Ive.

Most people instinctively know the gestures they use with an iPhone: tap, swipe and pinch are just some of the commonly used interactions. 3D Touch introduces two new standard gestures: Peek and Pop. Quick Actions, join these and provide shortcuts to menus (typically from the Home screen).

Beyond that there is pressure sensitivity that is available to all developers, this enables developers to create apps that take advantage of the pressure-sensitive screen. A developer of a drawing app can use 3D Touch to change the brush strength, for instance, depending on the firmness of your finger press.

There are a lot of gestures to discover in 3D Touch (much more than on the Apple Watch or MacBook). We're going to skim the surface in this article, but we look forward to the range of new 3D Touch-enabled features that developers come up with in the coming months.

See also: 11 great 3D Touch tips & tricks

How to use 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s: How to use Peek and Pop

Peek and pop on iPhone 6S

Peek and Pop are both pressure-sensitive gestures.

The 3D Touch interface is based upon the Force Touch technology that Apple introduced in the MacBook and Apple Watch, and owners of either of these devices will have a headstart here. Essentially, the function performed depends on how hard you push the screen. Push it with a medium strength and you perform a Peek; push it harder and you perform a Pop.

Peek and Pop are gestures that enable you to preview content and then open it. If you're in an email, performing a light press (Peek) brings up the content of the message. If you then go on to perform a firmer Push you open the message fully.

It works across apps, so Peek can be used to get a preview of an image in Messages, and Push opens the image full screen and enables you to edit it.

  • Open the Mail app.
  • Press lightly on a message to perform a Peek and view the content.
  • Press harder to perform a Push and open the message.
  • Here are some of the things we've seen Peek and Pop used for:
  • Previewing and opening Mail messages.
  • Viewing, and opening, web links in Safari.
  • Previewing images across apps.
  • Opening a location in Maps.

These are the interactions in Apple's stock iOS apps, but developers are free to implement Peek and Pop gestures in their apps.

Using Quick Actions on the iPhone 6s: Mini and Full taps

Quick Action in 3D Touch

Another interaction touted by Apple is Quick Actions. These are made possible because the new Taptic Engine used in 3D Touch is capable of detecting between much shorter taps.

In the demonstration video, Jony Ive distinguishes between two taps:

  • Mini Tap: lasting just 10ms
  • Full Tap: lasting 15ms or longer

While these amounts seem insanely small, they may be instinctive to use. A Mini Tap is used on the Home screen to open a menu for an app.

While a Mini Tap opens the app, a Full Tap offers menu shortcuts. Perform a Full Tap on the Mail icon and you see Inbox, VIP, Search and New Message. Performing a Full Tap on the Camera app brings up an option to take a Selfie without having to open the app and switch between the iSight and Facetime cameras.

In many ways, Full Tap can be seen as the equivalent of a Command-Click on a mouse. It enables you bring up a menu for an app. These menus offer shortcuts to things you commonly do with that app.

Developers also have access to Quick Actions, and can use the technology to measure shorter taps in games and other apps. Between Quick Actions and pressure sensitivity we hope developers (especially game developers) introduce far more sophisticated interactions.

If you want to edit the quick-actions that come up in the mini-menu when you do a harder press on the icon for Phone, Messages or FaceTime, incidentally, take a look at our quick tutorial: How to edit the 3D Touch shortcut menus for Phone, Messages & FaceTime.

How to use 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s: Peek and Swipe

Taptic Engine

A gesture similar to Quick Actions is Peek and Swipe. This gesture is where you push firmly on the screen, and swipe upwards to bring up a menu.

The Peek and Swipe gesture has been demonstrated by Apple but is easy to mistake for Quick Actions. Peek and Swipe inside Safari to get a menu that enables you to open new tabs, add items to Reading List or copy links.

How to use 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s: Other uses for 3D Touch

We're seeing 3D Touch used in other areas across iOS that don't fully fit in with the stock uses. Here are some areas to try out 3D Touch:

  • Live Photos. Perform a Push to make a photo move around.
  • Perform a Push on the Home Screen (instead of double-tapping the home button).
  • Pressure-sensitive drawing.
  • Push to access a trackpad (similar to using two fingers on the iPad).

As time goes on, developers will introduce exciting new uses for 3D Touch, and the SDK provided by Apple enables them to experiment with different types of interfaces. We expect 3D Touch to offer a variety of interesting uses as time goes on.

Read next: iPhone 6s review | iPhone 6s Plus review | All iPhone reviews

Macworld poll: What do you think of 3D Touch?

Are you impressed by the new features made possible by the 3D Touch interface on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus? We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Our most popular iPhone tutorials:

How to jailbreak an iPhone

How to unlock an iPhone

How to back up an iPhone

How to block phone numbers on an iPhone

How to reset, factory-reset, restore or restart an iPhone

How to update to the latest version of iOS on an iPhone

How to take a screenshot on an iPhone