So what the heck is a “Taptic Engine”and “Force Touch”? And why is Apple using it?


Taptic Engine Chip
Taptic Engine Chip

Apple is using new technology in both the Apple Watch and the new Apple MacBook.  Although there are more than a dozen new technologies used in these devices (and maybe in the forthcoming Apple 6s and 6s Plus iPhones coming this fall) we are going to look at just a couple of them today.

Taptic Engine:

We are all familier with devices that have “buzzers” (vibrators) those anoying little shocks we get if we have our smartphone set to “stun” (mute) when we are in church, a movie, or other place where a ringing phone would be embarrassing.

A Taptic Engine is a piece of hardware that replaces the vibrator in a phone, tablet, or other mobile device.  Instead of a rude buzz to your wrist the Taptic Engine presses gently (or not so gently) on your wrist.  More like a gentle nudge.  It can also provide tiny sounds like the “click” of a mouse or keyboard button.  In addition a Taptic Engine device can be software to provide patterns of presses to your wrist.  Say you have requested a walking or bike route on your Apple Maps app and sent the route to your Apple Watch.  When you approach a street corner it can tap you wrist on the left side denoting a left turn.  It can also send you different pulses (quantity, pattern, and forcefulness) to indicate an email, phone call, text or other notification.  In a game on your Apple Watch it might “shudder” when the race car slams into a wall.  This is called “haptic feedback.”

Force Touch:

This technology can be used on screens and on trackpads.  On the screen of the Apple Watch (and maybe the iPhone 6s) Force Touch will be used to differentiate between a “tap” and a “press.”  A tap will provide one set of options or menus, while a press may reveal additional options or menus.  For example I might tap an icon of a folder on the Apple Watch and this will select it.  But if I press on the folder icon it will open the folder and reveal the contents.

Another example would be a audio or video player that if I tap the forward button  starts the forward motion, but if I press the forward motion gets faster and faster varying the speed if I press lighter or harder.

Taptic Engine and Force Touch
Taptic Engine and Force Touch

The photo shown above shows the new Apple MacBook trackpad which uses both technologies.  The Apple Watch screen uses them in a similiar way.  You don’t really “click” the Force Touch at all as the trackpad is solid and doesn’t actually depress. Instead you just get the sensation of a click provided by the “Taptic Engine”. 

Additional Apple Multi-Touch features you already use on your iPhone, iPad – such as pinch-to-zoom and scrolling with a finger or two (maybe more) remain. The new features will give you an extra bit of control and additional options. Both the Apple Watch and the new 12″ MacBook will have both the Taptic Engine and Force Touch.

What does this all mean to me?

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