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Google releases an iOS-like 3D Touch feature in Android N

18 Apr 2016

Google's Android N operating system will be the first version to support pressure-sensitive displays, enabling manufacturers to create their own version of 3D Touch

Undoubtedly, every Apple fan knows about the small tricks which make the iOS platform so unique and great. Apple’s 3D Touch control is one of those subtle, yet highly functional features, whose development craftsmanship we deeply admire. On the other hand, Google’s widely accessible Android platform is trying hard no to fall behind on efficiency and functionality. Every so often, we stumble upon great new feature releases and development tool upgrades, which prove the indisputable ingenuity of Android’s open source community.


This week we came across the second Android N Developer Preview, highlighting some of the most prominent features in the new operating system like the launcher shortcuts. They are meant to help users perform actions quicker and can contain an “Intent into specific points within your app”. It's unclear how exactly the feature will work in Android N, but Google offered four potential scenarios in its release notes: navigating to a particular location in a mapping app; sending messages to a friend in a communication app; playing the next episode of a TV program in a media app; and loading the last save point in a gaming app. It turns out, however, that the actual implementation of this feature is very similar to Apple’s 3D Touch.


While Google did not provide any imagery in the developer documentation, Phandroid, with the help of some developers, was able to create a working demo that reveals the new feature in Android N. Launcher shortcuts have to be supported by the launcher and require an app with the added functionality. Using Nova Launcher and a weather app, Phandroid was able to get the feature working. As you can see in this video of the demo, swiping down on an app icon reveals a dropdown with an extended weather forecast. In theory, tapping on any item would allow users to navigate to a specific part of an app. An alternate gesture involves holding down the app icon and revealing a dropdown of settings. Developers can begin adding this functionality to their apps and should be able to begin releasing them to Android N devices later this year. As usual, Google is trying to give developers the freedom they need to customize their apps and make them stand out in the ever-growing market of mobile applications.


It’s possible that future Nexus hardware from Google will include a force sensitive screen to go hand-in-hand with this feature. OEMs like Huawei and ZTE have already added the hardware with some similar functionality and rumor has it that HTC is also hard at work to bring their own Touch-like features. There is nothing surprising in these deductions, but we still have to wait until later this year to know for sure.