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Did Huawei Just Beat Apple to the "Force Touch" Punch?

By Ashraf Eassa - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:00AM

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With limited availability, it doesn't seem likely.

Huawei, which has been something of a rising star in the smartphone market, recently announced a next-generation flagship device known as the Huawei Mate S.

One way that Huawei has managed to grab headlines was to demonstrate a feature that it shamelessly calls Force Touch in the device.

Force Touch, according to Huawei, "perceives different levels of pressure on the screen." 

Did Huawei just beat Apple (AAPL -1.92%), which is expected to include Force Touch as a major feature in its upcoming iPhones, to the Force Touch punch? I think not. Here's why.

Apple will sell tens of millions of these starting later this month, Huawei will not be
Perhaps the almost comical part of Huawei's attempt to upstage Apple is that "Force Touch" will only be available on a very high-end 128 gigabyte model expected to be available only in select regions. Oh, and the variant of the Mate S that will have Force Touch isn't expected to go on sale until 2016.

In contrast, both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus from Apple, which are also expected to include Force Touch, should be unveiled on Sept. 9 with broad availability within a couple of weeks of the unveiling. The feature isn't expected to be limited to a select high-end model, nor will it be available for sale in just a handful of regions.

We are talking tens of millions of iPhones with Force Touch getting into the hands of customers in a matter of months.

Without scale, developers probably won't care
I believe that for Force Touch to become an integral part of the smartphone experience, apps will need to be tailored to take advantage of that functionality. That means getting the software development community interested in investing the time and money into trying to take advantage of this feature.

I find it difficult to imagine that software developers will care all that much about trying to support this feature in their Android applications just so that users of a select version of the Huawei Mate S available in select regions can have a better experience.

In contrast, given that Force Touch is likely to become very popular within the iPhone installed base in just a matter of months, there is a clear incentive for app developers to try to implement compelling new functionality in their apps to take advantage of this new iPhone feature.

What I believe that this boils down to is that customers who buy Force Touch-enabled iPhones can look forward to a solidly improved user experience as a result of this new feature. In contrast, I think that buyers of the Force Touch-enabled Huawei Mate S -- for the relative few who will even be able to purchase the device -- will simply be buying a gimmick.

Anybody can do hardware, but the combination of software and hardware is king
Any company can essentially choose to implement whatever hardware feature that a competitor can. The more difficult part of the equation is to get the subtle interplay of hardware and software correct so that customers find enough value in these features to fork over real money to have them.

Apple has this down pat, and I would be surprised if Force Touch isn't well received when the company's new iPhones hit the shelves later this month. 

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