Action Launcher and 3D Touch on iPhone

The 3D Touch capability unveiled by Apple on 9 Sept reminded me quite a bit of Action Launcher on Android. It was my favourite 3rd party launcher when I used Xperia Z2 earlier this year, mainly because it let you pull up an app’s widget or shortcut with a swipe. Such a simple gesture resulted in a delightful interpretation of one of Android’s chief strengths. Widgets show an enormous amount of glanceable information, but usually take up a lot of space and thus require multiple homescreen pages to set up. Action Launcher killed two birds with one stone: it allowed the user to focus on one or two homescreens, and yet enabled access to full-size widgets all the same. Its one Achilles heel was the bugginess. Successive releases by programmer Chris Lacey never quite managed to get completely rid of the crashes and freezes, and stopped Action Launcher from becoming the full-blown masterpiece it so nearly could have been.

Watching the demonstration of 3D Touch last week was a reminder of the excellence of the concept. It’s not quite the same, of course. There are still no widgets on iPhone, and 3D Touch is nowhere near as customizable as Action Launcher. But the fundamental opportunity for convenience and frictionless navigation remains: by removing the need to dive into apps for every action, 3D Touch meaningfully reduces the number of steps that need to be taken between the user deciding to do something and then the desired outcome being produced. Another great feature was the ability to invoke multi-tasking screen by 3D Touching from the left edge. It hints at a possible extinction of the venerable home button, which continues to force iPhone’s bottom bezel to be bigger than the high-end Android rivals (and which, given Apple’s obsession with symmetry, also obliges the top bezel to be big). The iconic nature of the iPhone home button will no doubt inspire end-of-an-era tributes when it finally goes, but it will also free Apple to significantly update the aesthetics of its big money maker for iPhone 7 and beyond. 

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