Ever since it introduced a pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen on the iPhone 6S, Apple has been asking developers to adopt a new system of Quick Actions to surface shortcuts to functions within apps on the home screen. Give a compatible app’s icon a hard press and you’ll be presented with a set of the most commonly used options to help accelerate whatever you want to do. It’s great in theory, but we’re now close to a year into this endeavor and the results have so far been underwhelming.
Sonos is one of the late arrivals, having joined the 3D Touch party with version 6.3 of its iOS Controller app last month, but it’s only serving to illustrate the limitations of the system. The new Sonos app can now be 3D Touched to reveal three handy options: play or pause the current track in your play queue, jump to your favorites, or search your music library. All good so far, if limited, but here’s the big pain point: you can’t start or stop playback without launching the app. That turns what should have been an instant control shortcut into an instantly annoying feature.
Here’s the process for pausing a playing song on Sonos via 3D Touch: hard press, hit pause, launch app, close app. Here it is again, without 3D Touch: launch app, hit pause, close app. My immediate displeasure was directed at Sonos itself, but then I tried Apple’s own Music app and that was worse. Apple Music Quick Actions allow me to start the last song I had playing, but not pause it, and instead of favorites, the second option is to play Beats 1 Radio (again no Quick Action to pause or stop). SoundCloud and Tidal, my two other favored music services, haven’t adopted 3D Touch yet — and judging from the quality of what’s available right now, I don’t blame them.
Music apps are well suited to using instant controls because the things you’d want to do with them are so predictable. But Apple’s implementation of 3D Touch on the home screen — where everything is just a shortcut to something inside the app instead of serving as a more functional widget — seems to be standing in the way. I know 3D Touch has plenty of potential to be used in new and innovative ways, creating the opportunity for new types of apps and interaction, but as far as the home screen is concerned, it’s been a major disappointment.