Google Adds Apple’s 3D Touch To Pixel Phones Via Software Update

Google has been started releasing new feature drops for its Pixel phones, with the second one now rolling out to users. It adds a few changes that users will be pleased to see, including the ability to schedule Dark Mode. But there’s something much more interesting going on here.

Google seems to have added a 3D Touch-like feature, purely working on the software level.

“In addition to long press, you can now firmly press to get more help from your apps more quickly,” says Google’s support page. And yes, that sounds very much like 3D Touch. But Apple’s iPhones require special hardware for that to work, hardware that it seems to be killing off. It isn’t in the latest iPhones, for example, and it never made the switch to iPads.

So, how is Google doing it in software and what’s it going to be used for? The Verge managed to get some more information out of Google, and it seems to be using the gesture as a way to shorten the existing long-press gesture.

Long Press currently works in a select set of apps and system user interfaces such as the app Launcher, Photos, and Drive. This update accelerates the press to bring up more options faster. We also plan to expand its applications to more first party apps in the near future.

That means that it won’t be used to do something different to a long press. Instead, it’s just a different way of doing the same thing. Confused yet?

Tap your screen right now, and think about how much of your fingertip is getting registered by the capacitive sensors. Then press hard and note how your finger smushes down on the screen — more gets registered. The machine learning comes in because Google needs to model thousands of finger sizes and shapes and it also measures how much changes over a short period of time to determine how hard you’re pressing. The rate of smush, if you will.

So sure, Google has found a way to use algorithms to do what Apple’s 3D Touch hardware did. So could Apple do something similar and bring 3D Touch back to iPhones? Probably. Will it?

Probably not.

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