While Force Touch sounds like something a frisky Luke Skywalker might try on a date, it's actually a new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) technology that could revolutionize how people interact with their iPhones.
The company introduced the concept in the trackpads of its latest MacBook computers, as well as in its Apple Watch line. Apple explained how it works on MacBook on its website:
Force sensors detect how much pressure you're applying, and the new Taptic Engine provides a click sensation when you press anywhere on the surface. Now the click that once was a single, mechanical function is just the start of what you can do with Force Touch. The sensory capabilities of the Force Touch trackpad allow you to tell your MacBook what you want it to do based on subtle differences in the amount of pressure you apply.
This makes the trackpad much more versatile and makes it possible to perform a variety of different actions by modifying your touch. It's an intriguing idea that increases the utility of the MacBook trackpad.
Now, Bloomberg has reported that Apple plans to bring Force Touch to new iPhone models. The potential there is tantalizing.
The phone will work like the watch
The basic premise of Force Touch -- the idea that the device can tell how much pressure you apply with a tap -- remains the same whether you are using a watch, a phone, or a laptop trackpad. However, the iPhone version will likely function similarly to how the tech has been integrated on Apple Watch. The watch is able to recognize both touch and force, according to the company, which explained the feature on a Web page about its watch line:
Force Touch uses tiny electrodes around the flexible Retina display to distinguish between a light tap and a deep press, and trigger instant access to a range of contextually specific controls. With Force Touch, pressing firmly on the screen brings up additional controls in apps like Messages, Music, and Calendar. It also lets you select different watch faces, pause or end a workout, search an address in Maps, and more. Force Touch is the most significant new sensing capability since Multi‑Touch.
That same technology could be employed on the iPhone screen to give users much more control without having to navigate multiple screens. The iPhone has more real estate to play with than the Apple Watch, but it's still a relatively small screen compared to a tablet or laptop, so this type of control will enable app creators to build in functionality that otherwise might have required too much navigation.
The iPhones will be similar
In many ways the launch of Force Touch will be handled in the same way Apple rolled out its Siri voice assistant. In that case Apple simply offered a new version of the iPhone 4, the 4S, with the voice-activated technology built in.
That appears to be what it's doing this time, with Force Touch being added into new versions of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, according to Bloomberg. The new models, which the company has not commented on, could launch as soon as next month.
Force Touch is a differentiator
While facing increasing competition at the top of the smartphone market, as well as at the bottom from cheaper but high-functioning phones, Apple has continued to push innovations forward to make the iPhone stand out. Products and services such as Apple Music and Apple Pay accomplish some of that, but Force Touch has the potential to be a major differentiator.
The company has been working on perfecting the sensors used for Force Touch since at least 2013, according to a Bloomberg article at the time. Developed alongside a potential curved screen, which has not yet come to be, Force Touch has the potential to change how people use their iPhones. In some cases the differences will be subtle, but Apple, unlike many of its rivals, has historically done an excellent job of releasing new innovations in a way that its customers adapt to using easily.
Force Touch has the potential to give the iPhone a unique feature that its rivals do not have. Siri was that for a time, and it sparked renewed interest in the iPhone, reminding people of the advantage of being with Apple. This latest move could make iPhones more useful while also being pretty cool, and that could help Apple sell a lot of phones.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.