The VoiceOver User's Guide to 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S


This guide may no longer be accurate or up-to-date for most users and use cases. We're keeping it online as a courtesy to its author, but we consider it archived.
Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

What is 3D Touch, Anyway?

  3D Touch is arguably one of the biggest features of the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus models. Before we get in to specifics about how it works with VoiceOver, I thought it would be helpful to go directly to Apple's 3D Touch webpage to get an overview of exactly what 3D Touch is:  

iPhone 6s introduces an entirely new way to interact with your phone. For the frst time, iPhone senses how much pressure you apply to the display. In addition to familiar Multi‑Touch gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop. This brings a new dimension of functionality to the iPhone experience. And when you use 3D Touch, your iPhone responds with subtle taps. So not only will you see what a press can do — you’ll feel it.   Continuing in what has now become conventional fashion for Apple, 3D touch is usable for VoiceOver users. There are actually 2 ways to utilize both the Quick Action and the Peek and Pop features, each of which will be discussed below.  

What are Quick Actions, anyway?

  The Quick Action option allows you to launch context menus for apps that support the feature. It's very similar to what happens when you press the Applications key on Windows for VO-Shift-M on a Mac. You are given specific menu options for the app or program your screen reader has focus set to. For visual users, it's equivalent to right-clicking. Just like when you use this keyboard command on other platforms, you're not launched in to the program, but are presented with a list of actions which you can choose from. Tgese context menus are what Apple is referring to as Quick Action on iOS. If you activate any of these options, in this case by double tapping on the one you desire, you will be put in that app or program with the action you chose already carried out. As far as I know, Quick Action menus are only available on the Home Screen. Also, only apps where the developer has chosen to utilize this feature will Quick Actions menus or the Peek and Pop feature we will discuss later be available.  

Does 3D Touch Change any of the Gestures I Already Know?

 The short answer is, "No." Open or activate items by double-tapping, flick left and right to get around the screen, etc. If you are someone who is heavy-handed with their touchscreen, you can adjust the sensitivity of 3D Touch gestures by going to Settings>Accessibility>3D Touch, and either turning it off or setting the sensitivity level to "firm." On the other hand, if you're finding that you need to press too hard or are otherwise having trouble activating 3D Touch, you can adjust the setting to "light." If you're not sure which setting will work best for you, on that same settings screen, you will also find a button to test the sensitivity level to see if it fits what you would be comfortable with.  

Using Quick Actions With VoiceOver

 As mentioned above, there are 2 different ways in which you can use 3D touch. One way is to slide your finger around the touchscreen until you find the app you would like to perform a 3d Touch action on. Once you find that app, leave your finger on it and press firmly on the touchscreen. The Haptic Engine will click one time to alert you that you have launched a Quick Actions menu; if no Quick Actions menu is available, you will feel 2 clicks and will remain on your Home Screen with that app still in focus.   If you get the single click, most times, you will be at the end of the menu that you just launched; flick left from the end of the menu to find out what actions are available. For example, in Tweetings (a Twitter client), you can send a Direct Message, or send a new tweet. In the Quick Actions menu, double-tapping will launch Twetings and place you in the edit field to type either a Direct Message or tweet depending on which option you chose. Performing a 3d Touch on the Phone application gives you the menu options of creating a new contact, or contacting your favorites. Again, double-tapping the selected action will give the phone the green light to fulfill your request. TO exit a Quick Actions menu without carrying out any action, do a 2 finger scrub on the touch screen, press Escape on a bluetooth keyboard, or press space with B on a raille display.  

I'm a Flicker, Not a Poker, What About Me?

  You're in luck as well! If you tend to flick around the screen, this is also fine, but you will need to utilize a different gesture to enjoy the Quick Actions feature. First, flick to the app you wish to perform the 3d Touch on, and then double tap and press down. You will then be presented with the same Quick Actions menu you get when using the first method I described. Bluetooht keyboard users can also press VO Shift F to perform a 3d Touch, but unfortunately, there seems to not be a braille keyboard equivalent at this time. Again, to activate an item in the menu, double-tap it. If you are struggling to use Force Touch and keep entering Screen Edit Mode by accident, you can Adjust the sensitivity required to activate this feature. Head on over to Settings>Accessibility>3D Touch, and set the sensitivity level to "firm" or turn 3D Touch off entirely.  

Peek and pop

  Building on earlier sections of this guide, we'll now take a look at Peek and Pop. Peek and Pop allows you to "peek" at an item, and then dismiss it just as quickly. You can also "pop" in to it, which is the fancy way of saying that you are opening it as you always have.   The best way to explain how Peek and Pop works would probably be by example. Let’s say you're in the Mail application in a list of messages. You can, of course, double tap to open the message, or you can touch and then press which will then give you the content of the message itself. The HapticEngine confirms you've activated this feature with a single tap being felt on the finger, just like with Force Touch. You can move around the message while still holding down your finger by moving it downward. Once you lift your finger, you are returned to the Inbox. There are also actions available with the Peek function, which you can activate by sliding your finger to the bottom right of the screen. VoiceOver will say, "preview, actions available." Once this happens, you will have a list of rotor actions to choose from. Double-tap the one you want, and it magically does as requested.   Where you can "Peek," you can also "Pop." To "Pop," while holding down your finger still, press a bit harder. The Haptic Engine in the phone will confirm that you have now "popped" in to the message. Another way to do this is to slide your finger in to the "preview" part of the screen, and then double-tap.  

Can I Flick and Peek Too?

  Yes you can. Continuing with our Mail example, (note the spelling so that you know I'm not being sexist), find the message you wish to Peek in to. Double-tap and push on this message, and you will feel the Haptic Engine click under your finger--notifying you that you are now checking out the selected message. While not everything in this screen can be flicked to, you can find the message on the left and center of the screen and use your standard VoiceOver gestures to read the message. TO get to the "preview" area, tap the lower right side of your screen. You will then find the actions rotor available as described above. To exit the preview area and return to your inbox, do a two-finger scrub.


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Submitted by J.P. on Sunday, September 27, 2015

It took about 15 minutes to get comfortable with this on Fri. However, now it's so natural... Like I've always used it.
This is a great feature for ALL on iOS. From an Accessibility point of view, Huge feature to have at the ready!

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Sunday, September 27, 2015

3D touch is great with Voice Over. I'm already pretty used to it to the extent that I've tried without thinking to activate it on my Ipad Mini. For Voice Over users though it would be nice as an alternative if home screen icons had actions like available on other items but the actions would be those which come up when you peak on an icon. It could then be implimented on all Iphones running IOS9 for Voice Over users but I guess that wouldn't sell new hardware and there is something quite nice about how it's implimented as it is. On a slightly different note for those 5s users considering upgrading to a 6S, I can definately recommend it. The speed increase is quite surprising. The only ting I don't like is the larger screen for reaching over to the delete and a couple of other keys on the screen keyboard. The larger screen is easier for doing 3 and 4 finger gestures though.

Submitted by Diego Garibay on Monday, September 28, 2015

The gestures work all right for me but it feels like I'm pressing so hard. Do I just have a very unsensitive iPhone display or is it supposed to feel like that? Or is it just so new that I find it weird?

Submitted by J.P. on Monday, September 28, 2015

Hey Diego,
You can go into Accessibility settings to change pressure setting.
You can choose light, medium, or hard. Default is set at medium. I found light works better with voice over for myself.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, September 28, 2015

In the section headed "Using Force Touch with Voiceover", you said: "If you get the single click, most times, you will be at the end of the menu that you just launched." That's not entirely accurate - where you are placed in the menu seems to depend on whether the app you're interacting with is in the top or bottom half of the screen. For apps towards the top, the menu extends down the screen, and places you at the top; if the app is towards the bottom, the menu extends up the screen, and places you at the bottom.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Monday, September 28, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

HI Joseph, as you quoted, I said most times. I have also found this to be the case when Force Touching on the Notes app, which is located in the top row of icons in the third position. So your experience is a bit different than mine. I had originally thought you may be right, but it seems that most times, VoiceOver lands you at the end of the menu, regardless of where the item is that you are performing a Force Touch.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, September 28, 2015

That's weird. It must be app-specific, then, and the ones I have happen to be at the right place on the screen. I didn't try moving any of my apps to see if it changed where it places you in the menu. I just assumed there was in fact some rhyme or reason, and that it wasn't just arbitrarily based on the app itself. Strange.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Monday, September 28, 2015

What about moving apps? I know if you tap 2 times and hold the movng feature comes up. Does this work same with iPhone 6 s and plus?

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, September 28, 2015

Yes - unless you press down hard enough to activate a 3D Touch, all gestures work the same as on previous models.

I've also noticed that doing a 3D touch on an item that doesn't support peek and pop tends to activate that item. Not sure if this is a design feature, or if my phone is misinterpreting my hard press for a double-tap somehow.

Submitted by Zuhair Mahmoud on Monday, September 28, 2015


In the article, it states:

"One way is to slide your finger around the touchscreen until you find the app you would like to perform a Force Touch action on. Once you find that app, leave your finger on it and press firmly on the touchscreen. The Haptic Engine will click one time to alert you that you have launched a context menu; if no context menu is available, you will feel 2 clicks and will remain on your Home Screen with that app still in focus."

I cannot, for the life of me, get this to work. I put my finger on an icon, then slide it to, say, the Phone app. I leave it there, then press firmly ... but nothing happens. I don't have a problem when double tapping and holding. Are there any settings that may need to be adjusted? Am I misunderstanding how the feature is supposed to work with VoiceOver?


Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, September 28, 2015

Zuhair, maybe the 3D Touch firmness is set too high? I found that at the default firmness of medium, I had to press fairly hard to activate a 3D touch. You can go to settings > General > accessibility > 3D Touch to affect the firmness. I can't think of any other reason it wouldn't be working for you, assuming you're on an iPhone 6s or 6s+

Submitted by Khalfan Bin Dhaher on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hey all.
Is there a way to open the app switcher and switch between apps with force touch using VoiceOver? I'm sure there is, but I don't know how to do it. Can someone explain how this feature works?
I'm using an iPhone 6s Plus and I prefer using the large screen rather than clicking the home button every time.

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

You can perform a 3D Touch tap from your Bluetooth keyboard using Control-Option-Shift-F. Very cool.

Yikes! I just reread the original post and found this information already in there. Thanks for such a useful blog.

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

The Force Touch tap keystroke, Control-Option-Shift-F was tested on my 6S Plus. I also had it tested on a 4S where it did not work. In fact, on the 4S, it worked like the Control-Option-Shift-M which allows you to move icons via the Bluetooth keyboard.

Submitted by Robert Spangler on Friday, October 2, 2015

It would be nice to be able to use this feature for typing. So one could slide their finger along the keyboard and perform a firm push when they get to the letter/symbol they wish to use. I believe this could speed up typing for blind individuals using i devices.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Friday, October 2, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Yes, that would be a good use of it. Maybe call it 3D typing mode and put it in with the other 3 we already have as options.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, October 2, 2015

By that, I mean is there a specific environment where one can practise, as there is with Voiceover practice, rather than learning on the job as it were? Apologies if there are all sorts of practical reasons why this can't happen; I don't have one of the new iPhones yet and am getting the sense that one can only truly appreciate how force touch works when actually doing it.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Friday, October 2, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Yes, under the accessibility settings for 3D touch, there is a place after the sensitivity setting which will allow you to do this.

Submitted by Greg on Monday, October 5, 2015

I'm upgrading from a 5S to a 6 or 6S. Wanted some feedback on how useful 3D Touch actually is for blind iPhone users and whether it's worth the additional cost for a 6S. Thanks.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Monday, October 5, 2015

That's something only you can decide. If you were planning on upgrading anyway, go for it. If you're happy with your phone, stay with what you have. The good news is that 3d Touch will still be there whenever you decide to upgrade. smile

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, October 5, 2015

Don't forget that 3D Touch isn't the only difference between the 6 and the 6S. There's also a faster processor, faster Touch ID sensor, and overall sturdier construction. I don't know how much of a difference these things make in practice, but there are definitely more hardware changes than just 3D Touch.

Submitted by JeffB on Thursday, April 28, 2016

I got the hang of the Quick Action but I can't figure out how to use pop and peek. I tryed it in messaging and I think I got it but I keep getting the error sound. Any tips?

Submitted by Kelsey Nicolay on Monday, December 25, 2017

I am upgrading from an iPhone Se to an 8. I am concerned about accidentally activating 3D Touch when attempting to do a double tap and hold which is a gesture that already gives me trouble. Any suggestions on how to avoid activating 3D Touch when I really want to do a double tap and hold?

Submitted by tunmi13 on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

You have two options:
1. Turn off 3D Touch completely.
or 2. Adjust sensitivity level.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

This is perfect timing, because I have just received my iPhone 6S for Christmas today. Thanks for the guide Scott, it really helped.