How Apple is changing user experience - and why brands need to take note

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Apple are calling 3D Touch "a tremendous breakthrough".

Another action packed Apple Event this September means another raft of hardware and software announcements. For an “S” iPhone launch event, this was the biggest and best to date. “So what?” you may say, but for the brands willing to dig a little deeper, there are opportunities and fundamental changes in user experience that you should know about.

3D Touch will revolutionise interface design

Force touch is not a new feature, with Apple having employed it on Apple Watch and on certain laptop trackpads before. However 3D Touch, currently exclusive to iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, is more advanced, as it can track three kinds of presses; a regular press, a tap and a deep press.

The thinking behind this hardware and software innovation is that Apple want to save you time and create a whole new dimension of user experience. During the event Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive called 3D Touch "a tremendous breakthrough in interacting with our devices" and senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said: "It lets me take action on apps without even having to open them."

Meet Peek & Pop, the new Pinch & Swipe

Apple designed “peek”, “pop” and “quick actions” to make everyday actions quicker. 3D Touch enables more fluid journeys, with less transitions screens and quicker journeys therefore accessing key actions with fewer taps.

In apps, pressing lightly triggers an action that Apple calls a "peek". Once you've peeked, you can press harder to "pop". So with email you can tap lightly to see a preview of the message and press harder to reveal the message in full screen. This is a more efficient motion than before.

Third party brands can access peek & pop. Instagram showed off a new 3D Touch version that lets users peek at photos and pop to like them, therefore creating a new quick and easy experience. So this means we as consumers have a new thing to learn and our muscle memory will take a while to catch on for it to become a habitual learned behaviour.

For brands this meets their goals of increasing engagement and conversion, by reducing the need of the user to keep tapping to get what they want.

Menus and clicks define the desktop era, whereas touch and now vibrations are defining the latest interface era. As a mobile agency we’ve seen much greater use of floating action buttons positioned in core journeys, these then reveal key actions. Use of peak and pop this will minimise the interface.

Shortcuts that create App experiences without opening the app

From the home screen, developers can define shortcut menus called “quick actions” that appear when you press an app icon. These are essentially four deep links.

For example, you can quickly open the Camera app with the Selfie cam enabled or start playing Beats 1 without opening the Music app. So Santander could take you straight to your balance, Uber could be set to pick you up where you are, or Amazon could take you straight to your wish list, therefore saving time and increasing utility.

Pressure sensitivity controls

Within Apps, a developer is not limited to three pressure levels, so apps cans take advantage of pressure sensitivity for things like speeding through videos or even for drawing. This will unlock new experience opportunities.

More multi-tasking, means nano-tasking

We believe users will dip into and out of in-app content quicker, as things are more contextually linked on iOS 9. Users can multi-task between apps just by pressing the edge of the screen with 3D Touch. Search is also smarter with more deep linking opportunities within iOS 9. We predict dwell times will drop, but that conversion will rise.

Gaming

3D Touch is the spiritual sequel to multi-touch, a UI technique that defines one of the best selling mobile games of all time; Angry Birds. So it’s no surprise that gaming applications for 3D touch are exciting. At the Apple Event upcoming mobile game Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade was demoed on the 6S. In the demo pressing harder zoomed, pressing even harder changed weapons all without need to take your finger off the screen or access a fiddly disruptive menu. So we predict this will make interacting with software simpler, with games being the big beneficiaries initially.

One more thing: Live Photo

With iPhone 6S and 6S Plus there is a new take on the short video / animated GIF trend, which has become the mainstay of social media content. It’s called Live Photos and developers such as Facebook are on board to help customers have new experiences. When you take a photo it captures a few seconds either side you can watch it as a video.

Take the dating sector - there is a now an opportunity to bring customer profile pictures to life in new and interesting ways. Hold the picture to see the Live Photo, give people more of a glimpse into your life. It’s a gimmick but it could catch on.

David Skerrett is managing partner of Nimbletank.

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