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Roli's Noise virtual keyboard app for iPhone uses 3D Touch to give feedback

Of all the iPhone 6S new features, 3D Touch is perhaps the most difficult to demonstrate. Beyond most of Apple’s native apps (e.g., Mail, Maps, and Music), a comparatively small number of iPhone apps take advantage of the new “peek” and “pop” quick actions enabled by the new “taptic” engine, and even fewer feature thoughtful implementations. But British portable keyboard company Roli has come up with a novel use for 3D Touch: a tiny, pressure-sensitive keyboard app called Noise.

Noise, unlike the company’s $2,000 Seaboard keyboard, is free, but very much shares its physical counterpart’s aesthetic. The controls above the adjustable virtual keyboard shift gradually across a gradient color spectrum, and the keys themselves are distinctively wide, and shaded in such a way as to convey dimension. Some of the Seaboard’s functionality, too, makes the jump — you can create vibratos with a swipe gesture, for example, and adjust reverb and the speed of looping sequences of notes with dedicated modulation controls.

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But Noise’s 3D Touch support is the real standout. Roli may not be the first to market with a 3D Touch-touting music app, but Noise is the most robust by far. You can strike keys with a variable amount of pressure and they’ll respond appropriately — tap a note harder and it’ll sound louder, lift your finger lightly and the sound will linger, or push and hold to modify the sound’s characteristics.

Those with older iPhones aren’t necessarily left in the cold, though. Noise’s other gestures work on iOS devices that lack 3D Touch, and all of its other features are hardware-independent. It’ll interface with MIDI devices via Bluetooth, and you can buy sounds, instruments, and synths to expand upon the base 25-sound library.

Ultimately, no app is a true replacement for good ol’ physical keys. With an impressive range of features and excellent use of haptic feedback, though, Roli’s Noise will absolutely do in a pinch.