Apple is widely expected to deliver Force Touch in its upcoming iPhone 6S smartphone, but Chinese company Huawei beat them to the punch by announcing the Force Touch enabled Huawei Mate S at IFA 2015 earlier this week.
As we covered in our Huawei Mate S hands on, Force Touch is only available on the 128GB model of the Mate S, which Huawei is calling the Luxury Edition, and in a room at the company’s IFA 2015 stand, we managed to get our hands on the next-generation smartphone.
What is force touch and what can you do with it? Join us as we take a closer look.
At the moment, Huawei’s implementation is very limited indeed and one of the gallery specific features that the company showed off during its press conference won’t be available until the Mate S Luxury Edition hits the shelves later this year. That feature let you preview images by applying additional pressure when scrolling through the gallery, but while this isn’t available at the moment, you can still zoom into images by applying pressure to the display when viewing an individual image.
This zoom feature works by magnifying the image when force-touched and the amount of magnification depends on how much pressure you apply to the screen. It works pretty well but it can be a little difficult to precisely get the exact amount of magnification you are looking for although this may be caused by pre-release hardware and will likely be improved by the time the handset is released.
Force Touch also converts the top corners and the bottom part of the display into additional features, which Huawei calls Magic Corners and Magic Bottom. Instead of having the Android navigation keys always showing at the bottom and taking up precious screen real estate, you can hide them away and anytime you need them, just force touch the corresponding areas.
So, if you want to go back, you would force-touch in the bottom left, the middle for going to the home screen and the right for showing the recent apps menu. This feature works mostly well and does help to improve the experience by freeing up the area where the navigation keys would normally reside.
The Magic Buttons feature works in pretty much the same way and force touching these areas will launch you into either the camera (the top left) or the web browser (the top right). Sadly, these features don’t seem to work quite as well as the navigation keys and getting the buttons to trigger was very cumbersome, with an almost unnatural hand placement required to trigger the shortcut. It took many more attempts that I would have liked to actually get them to work and it’s likely this isn’t a feature you’ll use too often.
Force Touch can also have a fun and somewhat intriguing aspect, with Huawei deciding to turn the handset into a portable scale. In the Fun Scale app, the Mate S can approximate the weight of an item placed on the display by the amount of pressure it exerts but since it requires a certain amount of pressure, the item needs to weigh a minimum of 100 grams and a maximum of 400 grams. It’s not the most useful feature in the world but it’s handy if you need an approximate weight of something at a moment’s notice or if you want to show off the cool feature to your friends by weighing an item.
Without doubt, Force Touch will play an important part of the future of the smartphone industry and in being first to announce a Force Touch handset, Huawei is aiming to set a benchmark for others to surpass. While the Magic Buttons, gallery and scale features are certainly interesting, there’s not an awful lot you can actually do with the device.
That being said, this is clearly a first generation product and Huawei has assured us that it is planning additional features for Force Touch, which will be announced in the coming months. It is also reaching out and asking users for suggestions on features it can create for the Force Touch display – you can submit your ideas here – and this is a great way to ensure that Force Touch becomes a feature that can be as useful to as many people as possible.
Force Touch is only available on the 128GB Mate S Luxury Edition model, which is launching later this year and although the price is yet to be confirmed, it’s likely to exceed €749 before taxes and subsidies. For more on the other features of the handset, check out our Mate S unboxing and first look for an in-depth view of everything Huawei’s latest smartphone has to offer.
What do you think of the world’s first Force Touch display and do you plan to use the force (pun intended)? Let us know your views in the comments below guys!