My favorite iPhone feature was removed long live its subpar replacement

Hacker News - Fri Aug 5 05:43

There’s a lot of features I’ve liked on the iOS platform, and particularly for the iPhone. I haven’t used an iPad for many years until more recently, and this feature I believe was iPhone only. It was called 3D Touch (known as Force Touch on other types of devices). The screen actually had pressure sensitivity built into the physical screen and it would respond to a more forceful push into the screen. It was pretty cool, you could access secondary menus and things like this:

But this pressure sensitivity feature alone wasn’t breathtaking. What really blew my mind was that if you pushed harder anywhere on the keypad it would go into trackpad mode and you could move the cursor in the text you were typing and quickly edit, delete, and fix things. Since I type fast-ish and also make lots of typos I used it all the time. It was really good. I say “was” because all the newer phones do not have the physical hardware in the screens to support the feature (or not the exact same feature, see below for the spacebar version).

My guess is that people had no idea it was there. Likely it had very low usage statistics and so Apple cut it in order to save cost, weight, and engineering space. If it was just up to secondary menus I would have to say I agree, I don’t really need a “right-click” powered by hardware enabled pressure sensitivity on my iPhone. But the trackpad mode was divine. Hands down worth the price of the hardware and any added thickness or weight for me.

I mourn its loss daily. I truly do. Feel free to join me in a moment of silence… Everytime I make a typo and go to activate trackpad mode I am reminded that:

  1. I can’t push anywhere on the keyboard anymore to activate it. I now have to move all the way to the spacebar to activate it.

  2. I don’t get the same snappy, haptic feedback experience I once had.

  3. And my favorite part and most missed feature: I can’t do one-handed text selection.

When you were already in trackpad mode you could select text by pushing in again after you had arrived at your starting character then dragged to your ending character. Boom, it was now magically selected. And it worked really really really well. And it was all with one hand on the phone.

Fast forward to today, the trackpad mode and selection feature technically still exist albeit in a lesser form. If you long press (aka hold down) on the spacebar of your touch screen keyboard (which works on iPad too) you can get into trackpad mode. To give Apple credit I still use this feature and I’m thankful that it’s there. But the ease of use and selection capability has been greatly reduced. You can still select text but it takes two hands (or fingers?) and I can’t seem to figure out how it delineates its boundaries so I end up never using it. I mean never. I will say it’s still very accurate as a basic trackpad for cursor insertion, but something about the software only version lacks the magic and full impact the original feature set offered. I still use it but I long for a time in the past or a miraculous resurgence in a future model as technology advances. I’m holding out hope!

Have you used 3D Touch on the iPhone before? Do you miss it? Did you even know it was there?! What do you think of the new spacebar version? Let me know!

-Jesse