Both iOS and Android take inspiration or copy or steal from each other. But that’s a moot point if you follow the evolution of these two smartphone operating systems, whose domination has over the years become so profound that it’s crippling for all tertiary players who even try.
Apple wasn’t the first phone to introduce a fingerprint sensor (or 3D touch), but when they did present it in iPhone 5s, Samsung was quick to reciprocate with one in Samsung Galaxy S5 (Which was a hasty half-baked attempt). Series of fingerprint sensor debacles later, we had some meaningful ones and the feature finally became mainstream after the support for the same was baked in stock Android Marshmallow.
Something similar was seen when Apple transitioned to 64-bit computing (Late 2013). Android had to suffer a whole year of lacklustre flagship SoCs directly lifting ARM cores off the selves. 2015 was indeed a bad year for chipsets, where many consumers became hysterical about heating issues. Even the Nexus 6 (2014) was running a 32-bit chip and only with Android Marshmallow and new Nexuses are we making sense of the transition. It also took Qualcomm a couple of years to come up with custom Kyro cores in Snapdragon 820 which are supposed to reinstate its position as a quality chipset maker.
This is how the adoption cycle goes
- A feature debuts in Apple S series iPhone
- Samsung and other Android OEMs implement it in the next flagship
- There are no universal or standard APIs and thus no proper developer support
- It gets carved in stone when Android adopts it in a Nexus
Those are the lines on which one would expect Android adopting 3D touch, but this year at MWC Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and almost everyone else (save Gionee) shunned 3D Touch…. and probably no one cares.
That’s an unanticipated error at step 2.
How well is 3D touch doing on iOS?
If you have been living under the rock, 3D Touch is Apple’s pressure sensitive display tech on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus that adds another layer of interaction with iOS. The display senses when you apply extra pressure, and flings a menu with relevant options to choose from. You can also use it to quickly switch between apps, select highlighted text, peep and pop, etc.
Initially, the feature was present only on Apple’s own apps, but gradually many developers took advantage of this added layer of sensitivity and integrated it into their apps. The list includes well-renowned players like Evernote, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
In tech corridors, reviews for 3D touch have been mixed. While some call it a glorified long press that exists on Android since the dawn of time (some developers have indeed ported 3D touch functionality to corresponding Android apps using a long press), others consider it a handy feature that lets you save time and directly jump to a particular app action even before opening it. User reviews I have come across on online forums have mostly been positive. In my personal opinion, 3D touch is great and much more than a Gimmick. This could indeed be the natural way to interact with your phone in near future.
The main problem with 3D touch is that it doesn’t add anything new that you can do, but just is a new way of doing things. This gives little incentive for users habituated to old way for investing in learning these nuances, especially those who aren’t tech savvy.
So, 3D Touch won’t be coming to Android?
Though Huawei Mate S 128GB was the first phone with a 3D touch that is not yet available in most markets, general adoption of 3D Touch on Android isn’t off to a great start. However, with Synaptics already mass producing ClearForce display controllers and isolated Chinese manufacturer experimenting with it, you can expect to see a lot more of 3D touch on Android in 2016.
If Google decides to integrate 3D Touch in Android N, this would definitely be a mainstream feature in late 2017 (since it takes 1 year for Android version to gain a respectable market share). If not, the process will be delayed. We might get to hear more on this at Google IO in May, 2016.
3D Touch is here to stay though
Even if Google doesn’t standardize an API for 3D Touch in Android N, Apple surely will stick to this for future phones. Upcoming iOS and iPhone iterations will further improve on it, and eventually it will be that irresistible feature that Android users crave for. And then Google shall bake it in stock Android too.
Its a good thing that Android OEMs have grown mature
You might argue that it’s way to early for 3D touch on Android, but we did expect more of pressure sensitive touch tech at MWC this year. Maybe leading Android manufacturer want to do it right rather than doing it quick, may be they will add 3D touch after all on other high-end phones as 2016 progresses or maybe they will wait for Google to integrate it first… whatever be the case, it’s good news that Android OEMs aren’t hastily lusting after the ‘latest and greatest’ features just for the sake of it and are primarily focusing on their own innovations to make end user experience better. Android OEMs have matured.