Synaptics' Clearforce technology to bring 3D Touch-style screens to Android

Your next Android phone’s screen might be more like a giant pressure-sensitive button. 

That’s because Synaptics is pushing a new capability for smartphones called ClearForce. Much like Apple’s 3D Touch, you’ll be able to “press” on the screen and get a popup menu or another type of contextual action.

This would allow for different types of interaction with your screen beyond the standard touch, press-and-hold, or pinch-to-zoom. Synaptics is a big player with touch sensors. By backing new tech like this, there’s a good chance you’ll start to see it in a bunch of new phones over the coming year.

However, Synaptics is at work on more than just menus. Synaptics says the new sensor technology will allow for variable speed scrolling, new ways to pan and zoom over pictures, and additional contextual menus depending on how much pressure is applied to the screen.

This isn’t the first time a pressure-sensitive screen has popped up in the world of Android. The Huawei Mate S screen can be hard pressed to zoom in to particular parts of an image or even act as a scale. 

New screen tech is getting a kick in the rear because of Apple’s new iPhone 6S and 6S+, which apply pressure-sensitive interface interactions to several parts of the operating system.

Just like with the advent of fingerprint scanners, the rollout of new technology on Android devices varies widely by manufacturer and model. But a future where your glass screen can do a lot more than act as a giant slab of glass and metal is clearly on the horizon.

Why this matters: While Apple follows Android in a lot of areas, 3D Touch is one place where Cupertino has been a leader. The new iPhones let you give a firm press for a popup menu, or explore images, email, and messages quickly with the “peek and pop” feature. Android and iOS often end up mirroring one another with their hottest new tricks, so expect a lot of new phones next year to come with some type of pressure-sensitive screen.


Derek Walter

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