Take the Size Difference with a Grain of Salt
There is a very slight difference in the thickness of the iPhone 6S when compared to the 6. And because it's thicker, just like with human beings, that means it weighs slightly more. However, until I held the 6s in one hand and the 6 in another, I couldn't really tell that there was a difference in the weight or girth of the phone. Take this with a grain of salt then, quite literally, as that's about the difference in thickness between the 2 devices. This is good news, though, since it means that most cases designed for the 6 should work on the 6S. That said, with the new 7000 Series aluminum, the phone feels more sturdy in my hand. I haven't tried to bend my phone, since it's new and a device I plan to hold on to for a year or two, but it doesn't feel like it would bend very easily.
It’s Old and New All at Once!
Many people have been wondering about the new 3D Touch system found on the new iPhone models and how it will work with VoiceOver. From what I’ve found thus far, the way it works for VoiceOver users is the same way in which it works for people not using the screen reader; all the gestures for VoiceOver remain the same; open or activate items by double tapping, flick left and right to get around the screen, etc. I have not had to change much in the way I interact with the touchscreen to do the things I normally would. I was talking with a friend, though, who is quite heavy handed on the onscreen keyboard, and this transition appears to be not so smooth for this person. I even had to lighten up the pressure slightly when using Touch Typing. If 3D Touch is really an issue, you can always go in to the Accessibility menu and turn 3D Touch off.
It’s also possible to control the sensitivity of 3D touch. If you tend to apply more pressure with the touchscreen out of habit, you may wish to set this to “firm”. If you continue past the option of setting the sensitivity, you will find the ability to evaluate how it will feel at that setting. Simply press firmly to feel the haptic feedback which will let you know when 3D Touch has been activated.
How 3D Touch Works
I’ve only been playing with this new functionality for a brief time, but here’s what I’ve figured out so far:
When performing a 3D Touch, VoiceOver takes you in to a menu where you can select the item you wish by double tapping like you always have in any other situation.
When an app or option that utilizes 3D touch is in focus, you will be able to press and hold more firmly to launch the context menu. Many have compared this to right-clicking on a computer, and this does seem an accurate analogy. You will also get a bit of haptic feedback that the menu has come up, along with VoiceOver making a noise. If the app does not have any support for this option in the context for which you are trying to utilize it, you will get a double tap of haptik feedback instead of a single one to indicate as such, and VoiceOver will do nothing. Sadly, I could not find a braille keyboard equivalents for performing this action, which would be very handy for braille display users who could access the same menu without having to take their hands off of the display.
Peekin’ and Poppin’ Through iOS
As stated previously, the 3D Touch features appear to work the same for VoiceOver users as they do for sighted users, and Peek and Pop is no exception. The best way to explain this one would probably be by example. Let’s say I’m in the Mail application in a list of messages. I can, of course, double tap to open the message, or I can touch fairly lightly and hold, which will then give me the content of the message itself. The haptic motor confirms I’ve activated this feature with a single tap being felt on my finger. With VoiceOver, I then have to move my finger around the screen to read the entire email unless it is very short. If I’m done with the message, I raise my finger off the touch screen, and am returned to my list of messages. While this works well enough, I think it could be better implemented by just needing to press lightly and hold and then having VoiceOver read the entire content of the message automatically. This is the “peek” part of Peek and Pop.
The “pop” part has nothing to do with soda, but allows you to move in to the message that you want to read to do things like reply, forward, etc. While holding your finger down lightly, press more firmly to activate the message, or to “pop” in to it. You’ll get another tap from the haptic motor confirming you have gone in to the message. While this feature works as intended, for those who tend to flick left and right to navigate around iOS, the 3D Touch features will be a significant challenge. This is because, at least in its current state, you have to touch an item normally before you can apply pressure to launch either the peek and pop feature or to invoke the previously-mentioned context menu. I’ve also been told that once you are holding down your finger and are peeking, you are able to slide your finger up to perform custom actions with VoiceOver turned off. At this time, VoiceOver is set to read the text of the peek while you are holding down a finger. As such, it’s not possible to access these custom actions at this time. By reading the content automatically instead, this would allow VoiceOver users the same functionality as their sighted counterparts since the sliding up of a finger could then be interpreted the same way.
So the obvious question then becomes, what apps have 3d Touch support? The simple answer is that there is no way to really tell. Reminders, Notes, Phone, Mail, News, Maps, App Store, and a few other Apple apps have it. A few third-party apps I noticed were Workflow, Dropbox, and Tweetings 2 for Twitter. How the various apps will incorporate 3D Touch will depend on the app. Just like the context menus in different programs on Mac and Windows, the 3D Touch menu will also have varying degrees of options in each context.
Though I handle many models of iPhones and other devices on a daily basis, the iPhone 6s was an upgrade from my 5S. Overall, I find loading web pages, using Siri, and unlocking using Touch ID to be much faster than what I am used to on the 5S. And, of course, this is the phone of the future. With 3D Touch just now rolling out, I have no doubt many other app developers will jump onboard, and improve the user experience by implementing support for context menus and Peek and Pop. While I may not have upgraded from a 6, I’m very happy with my upgrade from the 5S to the 6S. If the 3D touch feature was the biggest reason for you to upgrade, and you are a person who navigates primarily via flicking around the screen, it may not be worth an upgrade.