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Google uses software magic to replicate Apple's 3D touch on Pixel 4

Google was able to copy 3D Touch without the use of specialized hardware.

Published onMarch 3, 2020

google pixel 4 xl oh so orange display home screen 2

Google’s recent Pixel feature drop began rolling out yesterday, and it introduces a few new features — and a few regressions — including a new Motion Sense gesture, improved dark mode functionality, and the ability to quickly launch Google Pay. But one new feature Google didn’t explicitly advertise includes advancements to long-press functionality, effectively adding Apple’s 3D Touch feature to Pixel 4 devices.

Though Google didn’t bring this feature to the forefront of its marketing, and it hasn’t even released an official name for it, the company briefly explained it on the feature drop’s support page. In addition to the standard long press, Pixel 4 users can now “firmly press” on their device’s display to bring up that same context menu even faster.

For example, you can press-and-hold on the launcher to pull up the customization screen, but force-pressing it brings up that menu much faster. This also works in applications like Google Photos, WhatsApp, Slack, Pocket, etc. As far as we can tell, in our brief time using the feature, it should work anywhere a traditional long press would.

What’s interesting about this is Google was able to implement it without the use of specialized hardware. Apple needed to develop a new haptic engine to achieve 3D Touch functionality on the iPhone, while Google brought a similar implementation to the Pixel 4 in a software update.

Read also: Apple in 2020: Can’t stay in the ivory tower forever

Google didn’t provide a tutorial on how to use this 3D Touch-like functionality, but it works on our Pixel 4 devices. We initially heard Google was developing an answer to 3D Touch in early 2019, but we expected the feature to launch to more fanfare.

As of right now, it is only available on Pixel 4 devices, but since it only requires a software update, it’s feasible other OEMs could implement this 3D Touch competitor on their devices with minimal effort.

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