How to use 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

Press harder. No, seriously – in essence, that’s all there is to it.

3D Touch isn’t about using two or more fingers to perform clever touchscreen gestures – it’s about making it easier and quicker to do things with just a thumb or a finger. In many cases, what used to involve multiple taps and swipes of the screen can now be done with a hard press and a tap. It’s a hugely impressive timesaver, so we’ve gathered a few tips, pointers and cool 3D Touch features to help everyone get to grips with it.

What is 3D Touch?

Activating 3D Touch really is as simple as pressing harder on the display, but the technology is actually quite sophisticated. It doesn’t just register light and heavy presses – it’s actually capable of accurately measuring exactly how much pressure is being applied. 

It’s this that powers a whole bunch of the iPhone 6s’ new features – Peek and Pop, Quick Actions, pressure sensitive sketching in the Notes app and several other nifty little additions. You can use 3D Touch to preview and open documents, or launch application features, just by varying how hard you press on the screen – and you can even use it to turn the keyboard into a trackpad, or quickly bounce between multiple apps.

How to change 3D Touch settings

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all feature, though, as some people may prefer to press harder, or a little less so, to activate 3D Touch. To adjust this, go to Settings, General, Accessibility and then scroll down the menu to find the 3D Touch option.

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Here you can adjust the 3D Touch Sensitivity between Light, Medium and Firm settings, and you can test the new setting by pressing and pushing on the picture below. Press down lightly on the picture and, as you gently increase the pressure with which you’re pressing, the menu and text surrounding it will go steadily out of focus. Once you’re pressing hard enough, you’ll feel a click of feedback and the picture will fill more of the screen – this is Peek. Without letting go of the screen, pressing slightly harder again will trigger a heavier, more solid thunk, and the image will expand to fill the screen completely – this is Pop.

Why are Peek and Pop useful? Imagine that you want to read a message in your Mail inbox. Previously, you’d have to click it, read it, and then hit the back arrow at the top of the screen to go back to your inbox view. Now, you can simply press lightly on the message in question, and it’ll ping it up in a preview window. If you decide you don’t want to read further, you simply let go of the button and the preview will disappear and  And if you do want to read the email, you just press harder again, and it’ll pop up and fill the screen. You can also do the same with addresses in text messages or emails, or use Peek to quickly check out the photos you’ve just snapped in the Camera app. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an incredibly handy feature.

Quick multi-tasking with 3D Touch

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The iOS app switcher is usually activated by double-tapping the home button, but the 3D Touch makes it even easier to multi-task. Press hard on the left-hand edge of the screen and you can swipe back to the last application you were using. Want to bounce back to the previous app? Just repeat the process.

Using the keyboard as a touchpad

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Another useful one, this. Hard press on the onscreen keyboard’s spacebar, and the letters on the keys disappear – you can quickly scroll left and right through web addresses, or freely scroll up and down through documents just as you would on a Macbook touchpad.

3D Touch: Quick Actions

Peek and Pop are a perfect example of the kind of features you miss when they’re gone, but Quick Actions are also very, very nifty. Where it used to be necessary to launch an app, wait for it to appear and select the action your looking for, Quick Actions reduce many of interactions with regular go-to apps to a hard press and a tap. Here are some examples of where Quick Actions come in really handy:

1. Citymapper

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I’m a huge fan of the Citymapper app for getting around in London, but 3D Touch opens up a whole new dimension. Light press the Citymapper icon and you can activate Get Me Home, Get Me to Work (this option doesn’t appear because I’m already at work), Get Me Somewhere or bring up a map of all the nearby stops. And the 3D Touch features don’t end there: in the app itself, you can hard press any of the markers on the map to bring up station and bus stop details, or see when your next ride is due to arrive.

2. Shazam

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If you’re always hearing great music and wishing you knew who was responsible, Shazam is an absolute godsend. But, if like us, you’ve ever been thwarted from discovering music because of the time it takes to fire up the app, dismiss the pop up window and activate the listening feature, then hope is at hand. With 3D Touch, you can quickly hard press the app icon and activate the always-on Shazam Now feature – handy if you want the app to automatically identify all the music that you hear during a DJ set – or just quickly Shazam a track on the radio or down the pub. Banging.

3. Apple Maps

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Yes, yes. I know almost everyone uses Google Maps. But while Google, perhaps unsurprisingly, hasn’t yet introduced 3D Touch features to its iOS app, Apple Maps is ready and raring to go. I’d still resort to the frankly wonderful Citymapper for most Help me! I’m Completely Lost scenarios, but being able to quickly pin my position on the map, or ping my location to friends while I’m off gallivanting around obscure craft beer bars is just super, super handy. 

4. Camera

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Forget the other three options here – it’s all about the Take Selfie quick action. Hard press on the Camera app icon, tap Take Selfie, make sure to look utterly gorgeous and upload that photo to Instagram right away. Showing everyone how completely and utterly fabulous you are on social networks has literally never been so quick and easy. If only the fabulous bit came so easy.

If this hasn’t already tempted you to rush out and buy an iPhone 6s, then click here to read Alphr’s iPhone 6s review. But consider yourself warned, you will want to buy one if you do. 

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