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What is Apple's Haptic Touch technology, how does it work and what can you do with it?

Apple introduced a pressure sensitive technology in 2015 called 3D Touch. This technology allowed devices from the iPhone 6S and newer to deliver different results like a shortcut menu, based on the force with which you pressed the screen.

Apple then switched the 3D Touch technology out for the 2018 iPhone XR, as well as the 2019 iPhone 11 models, replacing it with Haptic Touch. 

This is everything you need to know about Haptic Touch, how it works, what it lets you do and how it is different to 3D Touch.

How does Haptic Touch work and how is it different to 3D Touch?

Apple’s Haptic Touch technology is similar to 3D Touch but it doesn’t rely on pressure. Instead, Haptic Touch kicks in when a user long-presses the screen, offering a small vibration as acknowledgment following the press – haptic feedback as it is officially known, hence the Haptic Touch name.

Haptic Touch is software based rather than hardware based, while 3D Touch was hardware based, requiring a different type of screen technology that would have made it difficult to deliver the edge-to-edge LCD displays found in the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 models.

With Haptic Touch, when you hold your finger or thumb on an icon within the iOS, the length of time will be acknowledged with a small vibration and a shortcut will appear, if available. 

With 3D Touch, different results appear depending on the force with which you press – such as Peek and Pop. You can read all about 3D Touch in our separate feature if you have a 3D Touch compatible device.

What can you do with Haptic Touch?

When 3D Touch first launched, only a few apps were compatible – predominantly Apple’s native apps. As the months and years went on however, more third party apps built in compatibility and while 3D Touch was never a feature we used that much, there were some pretty cool shortcuts.

According to Apple, Haptic Touch “lets you do things faster, like take seflies without launching the camera app”, and there are numerous things you can do – more so than you could when Haptic Touch first launched on the iPhone XR in 2018. 

In fact, Haptic Touch now offers a lot of functionalities very similar to 3D Touch – so much so that you are unlikely to miss 3D Touch at all – if you used it in the first place.

With Haptic Touch, when you long press some apps, widgets will appear along with a shortcut menu, for other apps just a shortcut menu will appear and for others that haven’t developed Haptic Touch compatibility yet, an option to share the app or rearrange apps appears.

What apps work with Haptic Touch?

Most of Apple’s native apps work with Haptic Touch – though not all – and there are a few third party apps too. Here’s a list of a few of our favourite icons to long press on to deliver shortcuts:

  • Torch at the bottom of your lock screen for turning on or off
  • Notification on the lock screen to see more details
  • Camera app to see a menu for take a selfie, starting a video or taking a portrait selfie
  • Calendar app to add an event quickly, and see what’s coming up next in your day
  • Photos app to see your most recent photos, your favourites, search or show photos from one year ago
  • Phone app to create a new contact, search for a contact or view your most recent call
  • Maps app to send your location, mark your location or search nearby
  • Settings app to open Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Mobile Data and Battery settings
  • Mail app to open all inboxes, create a new email, search emails or see VIP messages
  • Safari to show your bookmarks, start a new private tab, start a new tab or show your reading list
  • Clock to create an alarm or start a stopwatch
  • Siri Shortcuts to create a new shortcut
  • Weather app to see the weather in your location at a quick glance
  • Health app to see your Medical ID, a summary or all your health data
  • WhatsApp to start a new chat, search chats, open the cameras or see starred messages
  • Slack to snooze notifications or search your DMs and channels
  • Instagram to open the camera, create a new post, view activity or see direct messages
  • Sonos to resume your last played, search or see My Sonos
  • Waze to drive home, drive to work, send your location or search an address
  • Amazon to open search, see today’s deals or scan a product
  • ASOS to see new in, saved items or open search

The list above are just a few of the ones we’ve used regularly, but if you try long-pressing any of your favourite apps, you might be surprised to see a shortcut menu appear.

How do you change the sensitivity of Haptic Touch?

There are two sensitivity options for Haptic Touch – fast or slow. Fast will deliver shortcut menus quicker so you don’t have to press an icon for as long.

To change the sensitivity of Haptic Touch: 

Open Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Haptic Touch > Select Fast or Slow. 

How to rearrange apps on the iPhone XR, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max

On devices without Haptic Touch, rearranging an app or deleting an app from your iPhone home screen would simply have required a long press on the respective app. This would result in all the apps on your home screen wobbling, with an ‘x’ appearing in the top right corner of those you could delete, allowing you to uninstall them.

As Haptic Touch needs the long press functionality for other features too – rearranging apps is now different on iPhones that have the technology. 

To rearrange apps on iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, you’ll still need to long press the app you want to move and then tap on the “Rearrange Apps” option in the menu that appears.

The apps will then start to wobble, enabling you to shuffle them around as you can on devices without Haptic Touch, and the “x” will appear in top right corner of the apps you can remove. It’s essentially the same but with an extra step.



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