How to Use 3D Touch

Another way to use apps on your iPhone

iPhones on display

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One of the more useful tools Apple gives you is one it doesn't discuss that often. 3D Touch, also called Force Touch on the Apple Watch and Haptic Touch on the iPhone XR, is useful, but you have to know what it is, and what apps support it. Here's everything you need to know about 3D Touch.

What Is 3D Touch?

3D Touch, Force Touch, and Haptic Touch are all features that change how apps react based on the pressure placed on the screen. 3D Touch can be activated in one of three ways: via a tap, a firm press, or a long press. For example, on an iPhone, if you firmly press the Messages app, it'll open your most recent text conversations. If you're using a drawing app that supports 3D Touch, a long press will make the line you draw thicker.

Force Touch is slightly different. It only has two modes: a tap, and a firm press. If you hold down on the Apple Watch's face, for example, you'll open a menu that lets you swipe through the many different faces available and install a new one.

Lastly, Haptic Touch works much like Force Touch, but makes a “click” sound when you hold down on an app. Haptic Touch is similar to right-clicking your mouse or trackpad on your computer.

You don't need to hold down your finger to keep the menu open. Once an app opens a menu, it stays open when you release the pressure.

Which Apple Products Have 3D Touch?

  • Every iPhone from the 6S to the iPhone XS Max has 3D Touch.
  • The MacBook Retina, MacBook Pro models from after 2015, the 2018 Macbook Air, and all Apple Watch models have Force Touch.
  • The iPhone XS is currently the only product with Haptic Touch as of this writing, although it may become more commonplace.

How to Change the Sensitivity of 3D Touch

  1. Open the Settings app and tap General.

  2. Tap Accessibility > 3D Touch.

  3. Set the slider to your preferred sensitivity.

    iOS 3D touch adjustment in the Settings menu

    If you don't want 3D Touch, or if it interferes with your phone usage, you can also turn it off from here.

  4. That's it!

Which Apps Support 3D Touch?

Most apps that come standard with your phone, or are made by Apple, have some form of 3D Touch or Force Touch support. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't do a good job of explaining them, even though there are some handy shortcuts available. Here’s a brief guide to what you can get from using 3D Touch on some standard iPhone apps.

  • Messages: 3D Touch will show the most recent people you've texted with a long press, and will let you choose to write a new message as well.
  • Mail: 3D Touch will open your most frequently used mailboxes, allow you to search emails, write a new message, and add "VIPs" to your mail app.
  • Safari: Safari will let you open new tabs and your bookmarks.
  • Settings: A long press will open the most frequently used settings people configure.
  • App Store: The App Store lets you redeem Apple gift cards and look at purchased apps.
  • Phone: 3D Touch on the Phone icon will open a fairly extensive menu that lets you view your most recent calls and voice mails, search your contacts, and add a new contact quickly.
  • Reminders: A long press on reminders will show your next reminder and add one without opening the app.
  • Photos: The Photos 3D Touch menu will give you quick access to widgets, favorites, and your most recent photo.

Do All Apps Use 3D Touch?

3D Touch support is optional for app developers, but many have chosen to use it. Instagram, for example, will open a menu that lets you access the most common and important features. This is a common use for it and you'll see it on many popular apps as a “shortcut.” Test your favorites by using both firm presses and long touches to see if anything happens.