Using 3D Touch, iOS 9

3D Touch is without a doubt the marquee feature of the new iPhones. A descendent of Force Touch from the Apple Watch, 3D Touch is able to determine how much pressure you apply to the display at any given time. The feature works both on the home screen and inside applications, opening the door for a wealth of new options and shortcuts.

On the home screen, for example, you can firmly press the Mail icon to open up a list of shortcuts to create a new message, search your saved e-mails and see how many unread messages you have. A similar press on the Camera app presents shortcuts to take a photo, record a slow-motion video, record a standard video or capture a selfie while the Messages app offers shortcuts to your most recent conversations or the option to start a new one.

Inside apps is where 3D Touch really shines. The system is able to differentiate between three levels of pressure sensitivity. In the camera roll, for example, you can light press on a photo to highlight it, press a little harder to bring up a larger preview that you can swipe up on for copy, share, favorite and delete options or press even harder to fully open the image. Each time you advance down a level, which Apple calls peeking and popping, the taptic engine emits a tiny vibration to let you know you’ve successfully reached the next step.

In Safari, a light press on a picture will give you the option to copy or save it while pressing harder lets you open it. With a URL, a light press will bring up a preview of the page, letting you decide if you want to push harder to load the page, swipe up to open it in a new tab, add to your reading list or copy the URL. Letting go of the light press dismisses it completely.

Another useful implementation is with the keyboard. When typing and you spot an error, instead of having to tap back in the text or worse, backspace, you can 3D Touch the keyboard to transform it into a trackpad which makes it a snap to move the cursor exactly where you need it for your correction.

Only a handful of apps work with 3D Touch right now although I suspect developers are already working to bake in support for it. Widespread adoption and the types of interactions that developers manage to come up with is the real potential behind 3D Touch. Right now, it can be a time-saver once you train yourself to actually use it; how long that’ll take will of course vary per person. Unlike Live Photos, this certainly isn’t a gimmick and could prove to be a new standard feature to be had over the long haul.

iOS 9

All new iPhones come loaded with iOS 9, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Right away, you’ll likely notice that something looks different. That something is a new font which Apple calls San Francisco.

The new family of typefaces, also used in OS X, watchOS and tvOS, is designed to improve readability. Like I said, it’s something that’ll immediately get your attention but if you’re like me, it’ll fade into normalcy within minutes.

With iOS 9, Apple focused heavily on general performance and reliability tweaks. The end result is an incredibly snappy OS – at least, on the 6s Plus – that feels polished and primed. Of course, there are multiple new features to speak of as well, perhaps the biggest being hands-free Siri.

Much like Google Now, you can now activate the virtual assistant simply by saying “Hey Siri.” From here, you can ask Siri all sorts of questions and have her perform numerous tasks on your behalf. Just the other night, for example, I was almost asleep and remembered I needed to set an alarm for the morning. Instead of having to roll over and do it manually, I had Siri take care of the task using only voice commands. The hands-free mode works great although it does struggle to activate if there’s lots of background noise to contend with.

Something small worth mentioning in iOS 9 is the fact that Apple has finally added a “Trash All” option in its mail client. I know this is quite petty but when you receive hundreds of messages a day (many of which slip past the spam filter), it can be a pain to individually select each and every message for deletion. There's also now the option to search in the settings menu which makes it much easier to find what you're looking for without having to dig through menu after menu.