When Apple unveils its next-generation iPhones on Sept. 9, the tech press will focus on the new hardware (a better camera is rumored; a more powerful processor is all but certain) and iOS 9, the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system.
But from a developer perspective, the most important announcement could be Force Touch, a new system that detects how hard the user presses on the smartphone’s screen. While it sounds like a relatively minor feature, Force Touch has the possibility to radically change how developers build apps. (According to 9to5Mac, which has a generally good track record with Apple rumors, the company may also decide to rename this feature.)
For example, a hard press could substitute for two or three taps through a user interface, acting as a shortcut between features. With gaming, the possibilities are even more multitudinous, with a hard press resulting in any number of character actions. Photo and video apps may also see a broader range of possible actions.
On the Mac, where Apple built Force Touch into the trackpad, some apps already take advantage of the differentials in taps:
There’s Inklet, for example, which reads the pressure of a stylus on the trackpad to trace either thick or thin lines. Native Apple apps will pop up dictionary definitions and maps, or offer video profiles, depending on how hard the user presses.
Given the enormous size of Apple’s developer ecosystem, it’s possible that Force Touch could usher in a new era of apps—provided Apple gives developers free reign with the technology. Otherwise, it may simply serve as an interesting quirk.