Note: I’m not a tech expert (techxpert?). These are my observations and opinions on what the future can hold.
Recently, I got iPhone X. It’s a great device. I switched up from iPhone 6 and the new iPhone has so many great new features for me to fiddle with. I’d never had a chance to use 3D touch so often — nor did I have a chance to expeience how unfrequently you use it during your day.
Face ID works better than I would have imagined. Yes, there are quirks to it: like holding your phone at a certain angle for it to unlock, especially if you’re looking down and it’s in your lap. But it works and works well 99% of the time.
I simply adore how the notifications are revealed only when my face is authenticated. There have been so many instances where my phone buzzes and all I do is look at it to suddenly see the notification reveal itself to me, and only to me. All I have to do is look. Seriously. A glance in the right direction and like magic it shows itself.
But I’m not here to go gaga over Face ID (I think I already have?). I simply want to point at the experience that Face ID provides. And a simple reason why 3D touch never gained any momentum. Both are input mechanisms. They feed some instruction to the device to do a certain task. Both go about it differently. In 3D touch, you have to press and press hard on the screen. The Haptic engine does a good job of simulating the feel of a button. But we have crossed over from the button mashing era to a touch era and no one wants to go back. It’s skeuomorphic, almost.
But Face ID. It’s hands free. You don’t have to press anything. It’s beyond even touch, the simple gestures that we’ve come to love over the last 10 years since the first iPhone pushed us into a screen-for-all era of mobile smartphones.
There are other modes of sending instruction to your smartphone too that don’t rely on touch. Siri. (I know, I know, Google Assistant and Alexa are miles ahead. She is dumb, no denying it, but you give her simple instructions and she follows through with them quite well.) Siri is one of my favourite ways to interact with my phone. Even on my iPhone 6, when the phone was lying next to me, charging, I’d simply announce: “Hey Siri, set an alarm for me at 8:30 am.” (I snoozed the alarm and never got up before 10, but we’re not here to talk about that.)
Everytime I did this, which was almost every night, I’d have a thrill when she’d reply “Your alarm is set for 8:30 am.” It is a magical expeirence and I love the fact that I did not have to touch my phone or even pick it up. I’d do this often in front of my family and they’d all think I was a magician. (Except my sister. She thought I was a nerd.)
I’d read an article once (I wish I could find it, but I can’t). Anyway, the gist of it said that any good product, any good service, anything new invented by mankind has the potential of success, if and only if, it leads to the user’s laziness or saves time. It’s that simple. Everything we created, from the very industrial revolution has helped man get steadily lazier. Make regualr tasks easier. Convenient.
And herein lies my issue with 3D touch. It asks for more effort than a normal touch. Hence, people don’t use it as often. Whereas Face ID asks us only to look. Not even rest our finger on a button. Just look. Imagine how happy our lazy lizard brain must be.
Face ID is just a glimpse, I believe, of a truly touchless interface. Imagine a screen you don’t need to touch. Just flick the air above it and the page turns. Imagine a smartphone screen that follows your eyes movements and scrolls the page as soon as your eyes intake the last word on it. Just imagine the possibilities of these smart devices, who will do things without us telling them to, because they know what we’d want without gestures, maybe just a look.
It was easier when we transitioned from a button interface to a touch interface. The buttons became virtual, dynamic, that’s all. They are still there. How do we deal with a smart device that won’t have any buttons? What will the UI be? How will the UX work? I’m curious to see and I can’t wait for the future.
Face ID of iPhone X is just the start. And it’s convenince gets me excited for a touchless future.
PS: I haven’t spoken about augmented reality nor virtual reality because my experience with both is marginal. They are technologies that are still a ways away from becoming a part of everyday use.