Why Apple's iPhone SE lacks 3D Touch technology

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2016
Apple on Monday debuted iPhone SE, the long-awaited 4-inch form factor refresh that borrows liberally from iPhone 6 and 6s parts bins to offer consumers a low-cost iPhone option with very few sacrifices. However, the SE is missing one key feature: 3D Touch.




Starting at $399, the iPhone SE will launch as Apple's most affordable iPhone ever. Wading into the sub-$400 price bracket stacks Apple up against OEMs well-versed in catering to budget minded consumers, and SE needs a compelling feature list to break into Android territory.

To that end, Apple basically recycled the aging iPhone 5s platform, gutting it and stuffing in modern internals borrowed from more recent iPhone models. Key components (A9 SoC, 12-megapixel iSight camera, communications suite) come straight from iPhone 6s, while a few last-generation parts (Touch ID module, 1.2MP FaceTime camera) from iPhone 6 are thrown in for cost-saving purposes. A new matte finish done up in four colors completes the transformation.

From a bill of materials perspective, iPhone SE strikes a happy medium between industry commoditized components and current-generation technology seen in the latest flagship iPhones. Apple's pressure-sensing 3D Touch technology, however, didn't make the cut.

Introduced with iPhone 6s last year, 3D Touch is a take on Apple Watch's Force Touch tech, albeit at a much larger scale. A specialized array of capacitive sensors integrated into iPhone's display measures minute changes in distance between the flexible cover glass and the backlight. This data is combined with information from iPhone's accelerometer and touch sensor to determine how hard a user is pressing on the screen. On the software side, iOS translates 3D Touch data into useful gestures like "peek and pop" content previews, Quick Actions and more.

As it stands, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are the only devices to sport Apple's 3D Touch technology.




While a useful feature, cost was likely a deciding factor in leaving 3D Touch off iPhone SE's spec sheet. Aside from raw component and manufacturing costs, 3D Touch hardware is designed specifically for 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones. Engineering a working solution for an entirely new form factor is no mean feat.

Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in December said it was unlikely that Apple would integrate pressure-sensing technology into the new 9.7-inch iPad, which some speculated was next in line to benefit from Apple's usual trickle down effect. Technical difficulties of scaling the tech up to tablet sizes were only part of the problem, as Kuo described 3D Touch as the most severe bottleneck in Apple's iPhone 6s supply chain.

Kuo's assessment held true and on Monday Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller unveiled the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro with support for Apple Pencil, but no support for pressure-sensitive finger input.

Another potential downside is added bulk. The iPhone 5s chassis, while thicker than iPhone 6 series handsets, is still tight on internal overhead, meaning engineers had little room to work with when shoehorning the latest circuitry into iPhone SE. Consider that Apple's 3D Touch system added 0.2 millimeters to the thickness of iPhone 6s/6 sPlus as compared to iPhone 6/6 Plus. Redesigning the 5s casing to accommodate that same increase would not only result in a chunky phone, but also added costs associated with production line retooling.




Finally, users may not necessarily need 3D Touch to effectively navigate iOS on a 4-inch device like iPhone SE. Apple's mobile operating system was designed, and long touted, to be best used one-handed. When the company gave in to market demand and launch larger-screened models, it tried to compensate with software. For example, Reachability lets users double-tap an iPhone's home button to drop content down to the bottom half of the screen for easy access.

Not specifically developed to help facilitate large-screen interactions, 3D Touch does allow users to preview images, hyperlinks, calendar entries and more without opening a separate app, thus negating the need to tap back buttons often located in the extreme upper left-hand corner of the screen. It can be argued that such a system is unnecessary for iPhone SE. Indeed, many customers have been waiting for a new 4-inch iPhone as they prefer the ergonomics of a smaller display.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I'm probably going to be picking up an iPhone 5SE on day one.

    The lack of 3D touch on this model does not bother me at all. I've tried it a few times on my friend's iPhone 6S+, and it's a cool feature, but certainly not a must have or anything that's absolutely essential, in my opinion.

    I am much, much more glad that it has 2 GB ram and the A9 chip. The iPhone 5SE is going to be future proof for quite a while. Apple is obviously going to sell tons of these. The iPhone 5SE turned out to be much better than anybody predicted specs-wise, and the price also turned out to be lower than anybody predicted.

    I think it's great that Apple offers 3 different sized iPads and 3 different sized iPhones, and it's a good sign that Apple hasn't forgotten about the smaller phone crowd. Everybody has their own personal size preferences, and what works for one person, often doesn't work for the next person.

    I think that Apple has hit a home run, no scratch that, I think that Apple has hit it out of the ballpark with the iPhone 5SE. :#



    xiamenbillradarthekatcanukstormpotatoleeksoupbaconstangjamocheJanNLargonaut1983cornchip
  • Reply 2 of 48
    This post hits the nail square on the head. All four arguments against including 3D touch (cost, size, logistics, limited helpfulness) are succinct and compelling. It's easy to imagine Apple's teams coming to the same conclusions.

    Nicely written and thanks.
    radarthekatiosenthusiastbrucemcjony0
  • Reply 3 of 48
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,644member
    Just for completion's sake: the barometer also didn't make it into the SE. which to me would have been nice to have, like 3D touch, but neither is a deal breaker to me. 
    netmage
  • Reply 4 of 48
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,647member
    This article is nit picky and adds nothing of interest to the narrative that defines this particular product at the price point it sits on. Apple obviously had to formulate the right mix of features, performance, and price to fill a void in its iPhone product line that's been keeping too many loyal customers sitting on outdated products. Sure, they could have built a miniature iPhone 6s with all the bells and whistles but it would not have been a $399 product. Hitting specific price points requires compromises and trade offs. I'd say the iPhone SE represents an outstanding value for the price and dwelling on the nice to have but non essential features that didn't make the cut in this round is an uninteresting exercise in filling blank space with fluff. 
    cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 48
    apple ][ said:
    I'm probably going to be picking up an iPhone 5SE on day one.

    The lack of 3D touch on this model does not bother me at all. I've tried it a few times on my friend's iPhone 6S+, and it's a cool feature, but certainly not a must have or anything that's absolutely essential, in my opinion.

    I am much, much more glad that it has 2 GB ram and the A9 chip. The iPhone 5SE is going to be future proof for quite a while. Apple is obviously going to sell tons of these. The iPhone 5SE turned out to be much better than anybody predicted specs-wise, and the price also turned out to be lower than anybody predicted.

    I think it's great that Apple offers 3 different sized iPads and 3 different sized iPhones, and it's a good sign that Apple hasn't forgotten about the smaller phone crowd. Everybody has their own personal size preferences, and what works for one person, often doesn't work for the next person.

    I think that Apple has hit a home run, no scratch that, I think that Apple has hit it out of the ballpark with the iPhone 5SE. :#



    You might want to learn the name of the product before you order it.  iPhone SE, not iPhone 5SE.  Either way, SE is a stupid name.  The 3D Touch is actually a very cool feature.  What is not to like about quick shortcuts into an app, or using an app?  The lack of 128GB is a sore spot for many users that like to keep a variety of music, apps, photos, and video on their device.  This model was primarily targeted at corporations that buy the 4" phone for employee use.  They do not need anything bigger than 16GB for their proprietary use with custom apps, and Apple just threw in a 64GB model as an extra model.  If this was really meant to be a model to go along with the rest of the line up, they would have included a 128GB model.  Instead, Apple forces you to get a 6S if you want higher capacity.  The SE allows companies to buy a low cost $399 iPhone for employee use, and have their apps run on faster hardware.  There is really no reason to keep the 6 and 6 Plus with limited capacities in the line up, and no reason to have so many iPad models either.  They do not need the Mini 2 or Air 2.  They only really need the Mini 4, Pro 9, and Pro 12.  The product line is getting bloated with too many models. Just look how many stupid watch bands are out there....over 20 ranging from $500 to $1,100!
    bobschlob
  • Reply 6 of 48
    plovellplovell Posts: 820member
    Having the motion co-processor "in" is MUCH more important than the fact that 3-D touch is "out". The SE looks to be a winner.
    1983linkmancornchip
  • Reply 7 of 48
    dm3dm3 Posts: 168member
    So what this tells me as an iOS developer, is that its not worth adding 3d touch features to new apps because only a few phones support it. It makes 3d touch seem like a dead end technology that they're no longer including on new phones.
    bobschlobcash907censored
  • Reply 8 of 48
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 687member
    The SE is an excellent re-use of existing technologies. The upgrade to the SE2 will bring all iPh models into the same design language, if this year's model is popular. 

    That iPh5 case had proven its worth!

    A LOT of people I've spoke with are very happy with the return of the 4"!
    ration albaconstangargonaut1983cornchip
  • Reply 9 of 48
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
     Just look how many stupid watch bands are out there....
    The Apple Watch is as much fashion as it is tech, and I think that it's a good thing that people can choose from a wide variety of bands, enabling people to customize their watches to their own liking and style.

    It would look stupid for millions of people to all be walking around wearing exactly identical looking watches and bands.

    More bands is a positive thing, not a negative.
    potatoleeksoupration albaconstangargonaut1983auriconiscornchipicoco3nolamacguychia
  • Reply 10 of 48
    This article appears to suggest that anyone interested in a small phone is ok, yet weird... lol. Now, it's far too late to whine about the iPhone SE because what's done is done. I'm not going to buy one because it's too cheap and I have the need to look important. It's too bad apple couldn't make a 4" phone that didn't look exactly like a three years ago model. Why not a brand newly designed 4" iPhone with high end components and include something special... Heck I don't know; a glowing Apple symbol ? A infrared camera ? A 5MP front camera ? A smaller bezel to fit a slightly larger screen ? 3D screen mode ? A laser pointer ?? lol. 

    Then it's like; hey, is that the 4" one with the thing instead of that's the SE economy one right.. Sorry Apple you dropped the ball I think. 
    harry wild
  • Reply 11 of 48
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    Don't forget about the Taptic Engine. Probably not space for that in the 4" phone.
    cornchippatchythepirate
  • Reply 12 of 48
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,435member
    apple ][ said:
    I'm probably going to be picking up an iPhone 5SE on day one.

    The lack of 3D touch on this model does not bother me at all. I've tried it a few times on my friend's iPhone 6S+, and it's a cool feature, but certainly not a must have or anything that's absolutely essential, in my opinion.

    I am much, much more glad that it has 2 GB ram and the A9 chip. The iPhone 5SE is going to be future proof for quite a while. Apple is obviously going to sell tons of these. The iPhone 5SE turned out to be much better than anybody predicted specs-wise, and the price also turned out to be lower than anybody predicted.

    I think it's great that Apple offers 3 different sized iPads and 3 different sized iPhones, and it's a good sign that Apple hasn't forgotten about the smaller phone crowd. Everybody has their own personal size preferences, and what works for one person, often doesn't work for the next person.

    I think that Apple has hit a home run, no scratch that, I think that Apple has hit it out of the ballpark with the iPhone 5SE. :#



    You might want to learn the name of the product before you order it.  iPhone SE, not iPhone 5SE.  Either way, SE is a stupid name.  The 3D Touch is actually a very cool feature.  What is not to like about quick shortcuts into an app, or using an app?  The lack of 128GB is a sore spot for many users that like to keep a variety of music, apps, photos, and video on their device.  This model was primarily targeted at corporations that buy the 4" phone for employee use.  They do not need anything bigger than 16GB for their proprietary use with custom apps, and Apple just threw in a 64GB model as an extra model.  If this was really meant to be a model to go along with the rest of the line up, they would have included a 128GB model.  Instead, Apple forces you to get a 6S if you want higher capacity.  The SE allows companies to buy a low cost $399 iPhone for employee use, and have their apps run on faster hardware.  There is really no reason to keep the 6 and 6 Plus with limited capacities in the line up, and no reason to have so many iPad models either.  They do not need the Mini 2 or Air 2.  They only really need the Mini 4, Pro 9, and Pro 12.  The product line is getting bloated with too many models. Just look how many stupid watch bands are out there....over 20 ranging from $500 to $1,100!
    SE = Special Edition. I think it make perfect sense. 
    ration albaconstangargonaut
  • Reply 13 of 48
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    dm3 said:
    So what this tells me as an iOS developer, is that its not worth adding 3d touch features to new apps because only a few phones support it. It makes 3d touch seem like a dead end technology that they're no longer including on new phones.
    3D Touch requires Taptic Engine. Fitting that in the 4" body along with everything else was probably not feasible. 
    ration alcornchipnolamacguy
  • Reply 14 of 48
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I'm not going to buy one because it's too cheap and I have the need to look important. It's too bad apple couldn't make a 4" phone that didn't look exactly like a three years ago model. 
    It's the man, not the phone. I could be walking around with a 10 year old Nokia phone, and still look important.

    And a loser walking around with an iPhone 6S+ will still be a loser at the end of the day.

    And if you're so concerned with anybody mistaking an SE for a 5S, then you can simply get the rose gold version.


    ration albaconstangJanNL[Deleted User]argonautcornchip1983waverboynolamacguychia
  • Reply 15 of 48
    El2016El2016 Posts: 7member
    Other missing key features: Water resistance, wireless charging, Micro SDHC slot, replaceable battery. The first two were "must have" features for me, and the reasons I replaced my Galaxy S5 with a Galaxy S7. Yeah, I get it, this is a low-end iPhone for budget conscious buyers, but it really provides no compelling reason to upgrade my daughter's iPhone 5s. I really like the 4" form factor, it's small enough to fit easily in a pocket and usable for people with good eyesight (not me). Hopefully Apple will release a version of the iPhone 7 with A10 processor, 3D touch, wireless charging, and water restance, all with the same size as a 5s... I think Phablets are just silly status symbols anyway; if you want a large screen, just carry a tablet and use your phone as a wireless hotspot.

    Oh, and shipping a phone with just 16GB of non-upgradeable memory is just silly these days, unless you're trying to make money by charging customers for iCloud storage.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 16 of 48
    nchianchia Posts: 124member
    I agree, still a little disappointing but not a deal breaker.
    bobschlob
  • Reply 17 of 48
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,980member
    Don't forget about the Taptic Engine. Probably not space for that in the 4" phone.
    Doesn't the Watch have a Taptic engine surely the size can be relative to the device?


    Edit to add more generally:
    The main sales pitch to me would be ApplePAY but not so much given the limited roll-out of the service here.
    Still if i broke/lost my 5S at least i could buy a worthy replacement now.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 18 of 48
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    El2016 said:
    Other missing key features: Water resistance, wireless charging, Micro SDHC slot, replaceable battery. The first two were "must have" features for me, and the reasons I replaced my Galaxy S5 with a Galaxy S7. Yeah, I get it, this is a low-end iPhone for budget conscious buyers, but it really provides no compelling reason to upgrade my daughter's iPhone 5s. I really like the 4" form factor, it's small enough to fit easily in a pocket and usable for people with good eyesight (not me). Hopefully Apple will release a version of the iPhone 7 with A10 processor, 3D touch, wireless charging, and water restance, all with the same size as a 5s... I think Phablets are just silly status symbols anyway; if you want a large screen, just carry a tablet and use your phone as a wireless hotspot.

    Oh, and shipping a phone with just 16GB of non-upgradeable memory is just silly these days, unless you're trying to make money by charging customers for iCloud storage.
    Apple's flagship phone doesn't have wireless charging but you think their $399 entry level phone should? What's so great about it anyway? Often times I'm using my phone while it's charging. How do you do that when your phone is sitting on a wireless charging mat? 
    baconstangjamocheJanNLargonautcornchip1983waverboypatchythepiratenolamacguychia
  • Reply 19 of 48
    El2016 said:

    Oh, and shipping a phone with just 16GB of non-upgradeable memory is just silly these days, unless you're trying to make money by charging customers for iCloud storage.
    Well, Apple aren't silly then. They are trying to make money from iCloud storage.
    baconstangcornchip
  • Reply 20 of 48
    tenlytenly Posts: 710member
    I have a female friend that is still using a 4s because she found the 5 to be too big for her liking.  She would prefer a 3.5" phone - at any price and has even begrudgingly suggested that she might move away from iOS in order to get something she is comfortable with.

    I've encouraged her to give the SE a try before she does something drastic - and she's agreed to do so - but I have a question about it.  With the release of the iPhone 6, Apple provided a feature (I forget what it's called) where you can double tap the home button lightly and the top of the screen will slide down halfway making it easier to hit the buttons at the top of the screen without stretching.  Simple question - will that feature also work on the new 4" phone?  If so - I think I'll be able to convince her to stay with Apple.  I can't think of a reason why the feature wouldn't work on a smaller phone - but stranger decisions have been made in the past - so I figured I'd ask.

    Can anyone with a 5s confirm whether the feature I described is currently available on their phone?  Thanks.
Sign In or Register to comment.