Apple iPhone users will soon be able to control their phones using a new feature called Force Touch. Reports today say Apple is building the new gesture into iOS 9 for the next iPhones.

The feature lets you press down and hold on an icon or label to cause some action. When you’ve pressed long enough you feel the buzz of the haptic feedback engine.

The feature debuted on the Apple Watch. It is already built into the trackpads of Apple’s new MacBooks and is expected to move to a number of other Apple devices, including the iPad. On the Apple Watch, for example, you can use Force Touch to change your watch face. You press down on the screen and soon the user interface shows you a number of alternative designs to choose from.

This feature could have any number of applications on the phone and could simplify the existing user interface.

Force Touch, mind you, is different from the existing tap-and-hold gesture that’s already available in iOS 8. For instance, you currently tap and hold on any app to delete or move apps on the home screen. In Maps, you press and hold to drop a location pin.

Force Touch could replace some of those functions, or add new ones. For instance, you could Force Touch on a specific word to pull up the definition of the word. You wouldn’t have to carefully move the selection brackets around as you do now.

The gesture could also be used for many tweaks you might currently make in Settings — the home or lock screen images, for example.

You could also Force Touch on a song or movie title to surface metadata on those files. The interface might no longer need a separate button to do that. This could apply to a wide range of file types.

In the new MacBook and MacBook Pros, Force Touch is used in the trackpad to control the rate of fast forward and rewind. Will the new gesture do the same thing on iPhones and iPads?

Apple is said to be already working with third-party iOS app developers on applications for Force Touch in their apps — and these developers might find the best use cases for this new feature.


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