Force Touch might be the future

Throughout the years, companies have tried to reinvent the wheel and make a mark on how we interact with our devices. The keyboard has been our longest-standing method of input in the computers around us. I don’t think anything is going to contest or dethrone the keyboard in that aspect – voice input simply isn’t up to the mark yet.

The weirdly named mouse has served us well since the 1960s in helping us move a cursor around in 2-dimensional space, helping us interact with interfaces. While the mouse has evolved over the years in the way it works, there have been very little improvements in the way the user inputs intentions into the computer. Even as we moved on to the functionally similar “trackpad”, it was still the same “left-click” and “right-click” mechanism.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with this very efficient and proven way of interacting with our computers, improvements and innovation is always welcome. Apple has tried adding something new to their trackpads, and I think there’s potential. Introducing, Force Touch.

At WWDC 2014, when Apple unveiled the newest device in its lineup, the Apple Watch, it introduced a new technology called Force Touch .

Pressure sensitive “Force Clicking” mechanism

“In addition to recognising touch, Apple Watch senses force, adding a new dimension to the user interface. Force Touch uses tiny electrodes around the flexible Retina display to distinguish between a light tap and a deep press, and trigger instant access to a range of contextually specific controls.” – Apple.

A rather interesting way to interact with a touchscreen device, pressing harder into the screen. We thought it was novel, but who would have expected Apple to introduce this concept as part of a trackpad? I didn’t see that coming.

In March 2015, when Apple announced the new 12” MacBook, it introduced a new trackpad technology that it termed “Force Touch”. A trackpad that didn’t actually move, but simulated a clicking sensation using haptic technology and pressure sensors. And, just as in the Apple Watch, you could “force-click” something and it would provide contextual information about whatever you decided to press harder into.

Like many others, I was initially sceptical about this. In a world that lauds mechanical keyboards for haptic satisfaction, how is Apple going to introduce a trackpad that “simulates a click”? It’s never going to be a satisfactory click, and it’s going to be terrible.

The new 2015 Retina Macbook Pro 13
The new 2015 Retina Macbook Pro 13″ model now comes with the new Force Touch trackpad.

I was wrong. Very wrong. Now I’m addicted to the click. Click. Click. Click. And a deeper click. Not only is this click surprisingly satisfying, I can now press deeper into it and get an even louder and more satisfying click. click-CLICK.
While whether the haptic feedback is good enough to replace a normal laptop is debatable, I personally think that “force-clicking”, the concept of pressing harder into a screen/trackpad to get more interaction, has great potential.

You can force-click on words in a webpage to get their definitions when using Safari.
You can force-click on words in a webpage to get their definitions when using Safari.

On my 2015 Retina MacBook Pro, I’ve been force-clicking everything I can. It is a novel way to interact with content on the screen. Earlier, the only way of taking a “deeper look at something” was to right-click on it and choose from a list of actions. On the MacBook, force-clicking gives you a preview of the content you force-clicked.  A preview of the image, or a definition of a word in a body of text. A slight increase in convenience, but not exactly something that you’ll consciously choose to do. Most people don’t consciously choose to force-click on something simply because they don’t need to. I can choose to open the image, why force-click it? Is it just a gimmick that will be forgotten simply because it isn’t useful enough?

No. I can see a future in force-touch. A new way to “right-click” I would dare say. Apple has introduced this new technology, not because people need a way to look at an image without actually opening it. It is because this technology has great potential. It will take time to be adopted, however.

Let’s think of force-touch on other devices. Maybe iPhones and iPads. Imagine force-clicking on a contact to call/text them. Imagine force-clicking an item on the screen to select it and go into multi-selection mode. We wouldn’t need to click the “Select” button to select a few pictures anymore. Just click-CLICK. We wouldn’t need to press and hold on text we want to copy or find info about. Just click-CLICK. A touch to focus, and a click-CLICK to capture.

I believe that Force-clicking has great potential to be a new way of interacting with mobile devices, especially on touch-screens. While force-touch may seem like a gimmick on laptops, it will be genuinely useful on touch-screens because there is no right-click. The only way to open a contextual menu on Android or iOS is an inconsistent “long-press”, which if absent, I have to go hunting for a 3-dot menu button on the screen. Force-clicking on the other hand, can become a standard for “right-clicking” on a touchscreen – a way to access a contextual menu. And it is only a short period of time before it becomes muscle memory. Just click-CLICK.

With force-touch, we can have a new dimension in the way we interact with screens. A new way of selection, a new way of contextual menus. A new way of input.

Now, it’s just a matter of time before Apple decides to bring it to it’s devices. And hopefully, other manufacturers can try and incorporate a similar technology into their devices (without getting sued).

Until then, I shall continue to dream about “click-CLICK”-ing  on all my other devices.

Here‘s an Apple Support document that tells you where and how you can use the Force-Touch trackpad.

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