In a nutshell: Apple is phasing out the Force Touch feature of Apple Watches. Starting with watchOS 7, developers who use that functionality are urged to find a different means. The removal also hints that the upcoming Series 6 will be stripped of the hardware that allows it. This may mean slightly thinner watches or perhaps larger capacity batteries or other features.
During the WWDC, Apple outlined features coming to watchOS 7. The wearable's next operating system is getting new faces with more customizable complications, a sleep app, improved fitness app, and a lot more (video recap below).
Perhaps what is more interesting than what's coming to the new Apple Watch software is what is going away. An update to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines indicates that watchOS 7 will no longer support Force Touch.
"In versions of watchOS before watchOS 7, people could press firmly on the display to do things like change the watch face or reveal a hidden menu called a Force Touch menu," the guide reads. " In watchOS 7 and later, system apps make previously hidden menu items accessible in a related screen or a settings screen. If you formerly supported a long-press gesture to open a hidden menu, consider relocating the menu items elsewhere."
MacRumors notes that several native apps have already changed their functionality in watchOS 7 beta to reflect the soon to be disabled gesture. The app layout screen, Calendar, and Activity app options have been moved to the Settings app. The face customization menu is now accessed via a long press.
The move away from capacitive Force Touch follows its removal from iOS with the release of the iPhone XR. Instead, Apple switched to a "Haptic Touch" system that activates after a long press rather than when pressure is applied to the screen.
Apple has not officially voiced the reasons for the change, but it seems likely that the Apple Watch Series 6 will lack that Force Touch hardware out of the box. Presumably, removing the capacitive layer beneath the screen will bring production costs down or allow more room for other features, such as a larger battery or an under-screen fingerprint scanner. I don't know about you, but I sure don't enjoy fumbling with my passcode on that tiny watch screen.
Whatever the case, we'll have to wait for the Series 6 unveiling this fall to see what Cupertino does with the extra space.