Apple Inc. wowed the world with the multi-touch display it showed off with the first iPhone, and the firm seems set to make another splash. Patently Apple has discovered a patent from Tim Cook’s team that could change the way people touch their phone forever, and it’s likely to debut with the iPhone 7.
We have already seen Force touch at work in the Apple Watch and in the new Macbook, and many users are in love with the new way of using their devices. For the Macbook Force Touch adds a clickable track pad where there isn’t one. On the Apple Watch Force touch gives a huge range of new options to use a tiny screen.
Apple gets Force touch into the iPhone
A patent application from Europe shows that Apple may be working on making Force Touch a central part of the iPhone 7. Patently Apple, which knows a little more about iPhone tech than most, says that the “invention relates to force sensing and, more particularly, to a temperature compensating force sensor having two or more transparent force-sensitive components separated by a compliant layer.”
Putting Force Touch in the iPhone 7 is likely to make the device work a lot more like the Apple Watch than like the MacBook. It’s likely to give a new range of ways to use the simple iPhone UI. Tapping softly on a message on the Apple Watch lets you read it, while pressing hard will bring you to a reply screen.
Force touch on Maps allows the user to bring up a search, while using it on the Watch face allows users to change the face show on their device. For now it’s a cross between the tap-and-hold on the iPhone and the home button. Once devs get their hands on it and figure out how to use it well it could become so much more.
Getting deeper into the iPhone 7 patent
While it’s clear that most Apple patents don’t make it into a new iPhone, the rumors around the iPhone 7 suggest that this will indeed form part of the firm’s design for the next release.
The patent shows the design of the force touch module may allow for directional force touch to form part of the design of the iPhone 7 UI. Right now Force Touch only works as a hard press, but allowing that hard press to be differentiated by direction would make sense for the iPhone team.
Ming Chu Kuo of KGI Securities says that the “iPhone’s Force Touch sensor doesn’t directly detect the pressure applied by fingers.” It measures, instead, the “contact area on which the finger touches the screen to decide how big the pressure is.”
The heat sensors in the patent found today make that version of Force touch seem more likely.
Right now all Apple users are used to using their iPhone though a series of swipes in different directions coupled with taps when needed. Directional force touch would double the number of ways that a user could control their device. That would give devs many more ways to user their Apps, and could make the iPhone 7 a much different beast to those that came before it.
The patent shows that the tech can be used to in any of a number of different devices. The firm mentions the iPhone and iPad by name, but also says it could come to an external input device, like the Magic TrackPad, a wearable, a notebook PC, or even a Desktop PC.
Making the iPhone bigger and better
Force Touch isn’t going to be easy to put in the iPhone 7. Reports suggest that Apple is going to have to roll back a trend it’s been on for years in order to get the Taptic Engine Module into the device. Released iPhone 7 specs show that the next device from the firm might be thicker than the iPhone 6, with the extra room needed to make Force Touch work in the device.
Blueprints for the iPhone 7, as well as info from reliable Apple analyst Ming Chu Kuo, show that the firm is indeed making the next version of the world’s best phone thicker. The iPhone 7 will be 7.1mm thick. The iPhone 6 came in at 6.9mm. That 2mm may not seem like much, but it’s a change in the Apple thinks about its devices.
Up until now the firm has followed a clear path from launch to launch. Each version of the iPhone and iPad have been thinner, or at least the same thickness, as the last. Achilles and his tortoise friend ensures that a device that travels that path will never disappear, but it could become more fragile.
That happened with the release of the iPhone 6, though “Bendghazi” was likely an overblown scandal. The extra 2mm in the iPhone 7 should help it resist attempts to twist its shape, giving Apple time to develop ways to get devices thicker without needing to lost strength.
A new way to touch the world
Apple is going to use Force Touch to make the iPhone 7 the best smart phone that it has ever released. Any Apple Watch users will already know how easy it makes the device to use. The iPhone 7, with its larger Force Touch area, will give even more options to those looking to create ways to use Force Touch.
Once devs get used to the options that Force Touch gives them, who knows what kind of ideas they’ll come up with to use the input method? Who knew that the Apple iPhone would spawn Finland’s Angry Birds or all of those other great touch based games?
Multi-touch displays created a whole new world of gaming and app development. Force Touch may do the same.
Force Touch will define the iPhone 7
Force Touch will be the key feature in the iPhone 7 that will tease iPhone 5s users into an upgrade. Force Touch may be more than just a new way to use the iPhone, however. If recent rumors about future releases from Apple are right, it may change the way that the device is used completely.
Digitimes said recently that Apple is looking to make a TouchID scanner that works through the screen. That would allow the firm to get rid of the Home button once and for all and replace it with Force Touch.
Getting rid of the Home button would meet a number of Apple design goals, reducing the need for the bezel and getting people closer to their phone. Force Touch will be a central part of the move away from the Home button, and the firm will want the tech to be mature before it takes the hard button off of the device.