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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > Rumor: next iPhone to replace home button with 'touch' surface

Rumor: next iPhone to replace home button with 'touch' surface
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May 14, 2013, 12:35 PM
 
Rumors that Apple was going to incorporate a fingerprint sensor in the home button of the next iPhone still have no evidence to support them behind Apple's acquisition of Authentec in 2012. A new rumor has thus appeared, saying that Apple plans to do away with the physical push-style home button entirely in the next iPhone release, replacing it with a capacitive touch area that would perform the same functions. The new "button" will be covered in sapphire glass to prevent scratches.

The sapphire glass portion of the rumor, which comes from a Taiwanese tech site, would have Apple using the same kind of highly scratch-resistant glass coating on the alleged capacitive touch area as is currently found in the company's iPhone 5 camera. The home button as it exists is still prone to failure after years of routine or rough use. The move, if true, might be similar to the way Apple replaced the mechanical scrolling wheel in the early iPods with touch-sensitive areas on later models.

The claim appears to be incompatible with the competing "fingerprint sensor as home button" idea that had been floated previously. It's not known if a scratch-resistant shield would make the touch-based home button able to incorporate the sensors needed to have it double as fingerprint authentication, an idea Apple has show interest in developing.

The fingerprint-sensor rumor had the company combining the physical button with a fingerprint sensor, heightening device security by making the controls isomorphic to the user. Without the owner's fingerprint, the screen wouldn't unlock, and the user would never had to worry about setting a password.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; May 16, 2013 at 01:38 AM. )
     
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May 14, 2013, 01:37 PM
 
I so hope this comes true. Having a mechanical switch is so...1990s. It's also a persistent source of issues. The one on my iPodTouch is getting quite balky. I have to Press it really hard any more to get it to register. Looking around the web I see a lot of similer complaints from iPT/iPhone/iPad users after a couple years. The switches wear and get full of crud.
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May 14, 2013, 01:53 PM
 
I hope this DOESN'T come true. It seems that people who propose this change don't realize the usefulness of the physical button for many people. Because of its dimple, I can orient the device in my hands without having to look at it! This may not sound like a big deal, but it makes answering a phone call or giving Siri a voice command a whole lot safer while driving a car. I briefly "switched sides" when the Samsung Galaxy S2 came out and my iPhone 3GS had met a premature death involving a bath tub. I really hated its touch screen buttons. Not only did I always have to look at the device when fishing it out of my pocket, I also couldn't help but think how wasteful it was to light up those buttons (there were 4).

Although I don't doubt some people have trouble with the physical button eventually malfunctioning, I haven't experienced it on any of our iOS devices, including a 6 year old iPod Touch. None of my friends have had trouble with it either - so it can't be that common (but this may be a function of me and my friends leading pretty sedate life styles :-)
     
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May 14, 2013, 02:19 PM
 
It would also seem to be a lot more difficult to accidentally depress the physical home button, as opposed to a touchscreen button. I haven't used a touchscreen "home" button, so I could be wrong...
     
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May 14, 2013, 02:23 PM
 
I call bullshit.

The mechanical button is the single most important feature of the iPhone and iPad, almost before even the touch screen.

Having a "panic" button that will ALWAYS kick you back home, regardless of what is happening, is absolutely crucial to these devices, and it is vital that you know you've pushed it.

If Apple incorporates a fingerprint sensor into the button, I'm pretty sure they'll find a way to still have it be a mechanical push-button.
     
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May 14, 2013, 02:51 PM
 
I agreew ith Spheric. A "feelable" Home button is an important part of what makes the UI what it is.
     
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May 14, 2013, 03:34 PM
 
There's no reason that a touch home button could not be 'feelable'. A low ridge around the parameter. Slightly dish the button surface. Recess the button a few thousandths of an inch. All would accomplish the same thing without the need for an actual mechanical switch.
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May 14, 2013, 04:01 PM
 
Doesn't Google have a patent on that? Or is that Samsung??

Bigger screens, capacitive home buttons. More and more like an Android phone everyday.
What's next? "Revolutionary" home screen widgets??
     
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May 14, 2013, 04:02 PM
 
The mechanical button has many advantages over touch buttons, although many could be addressed in other ways. The feedback of pressing the button could be simulated by vibrating the phone, or a click, or whatever.

However, what will be more difficult is making a touch button that can be operated without touch. With the current mechanical button, you can hit the home button with gloves on. Can't do that if it's a touch button.

The other issue with touch buttons is accidental input. Having used a phone with touch navigation buttons results in far more accidental selection while the phone is in your pocket. The button on the iPhone is perfect in the fact that it's difficult.
     
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May 14, 2013, 04:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by wrenchy View Post
Doesn't Google have a patent on that? Or is that Samsung??

Bigger screens, capacitive home buttons. More and more like an Android phone everyday.
What's next? "Revolutionary" home screen widgets??
You put it in a nutshell.

All these people asking for the iPhone to be more like Android at every iteration, and all these rumours pointing at Apple turning it into a ****ing Android phone, and yet - Apple keeps just making iPhones, as if to spite them.

And then they're all disappointed, the poor folks.
     
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May 15, 2013, 12:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
All these people asking for the iPhone to be more like Android at every iteration,
And then they're all disappointed, the poor folks.
Who are "All these people"?
And when does Apple ever listen to "All these people".

If Apple allegedly gets everything "Just Right", why is the iPhone looking more and more like an Android Phone as time goes by?
     
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May 15, 2013, 12:26 PM
 
It is?

That's a rather startling assertion.

Not surprising, but...interesting.
     
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May 15, 2013, 04:46 PM
 
In what way is the iPhone "getting more like an Android phone?" There hasn't been a new iPhone model in quite some time, and that one is nothing like an Android phone ... so what imaginary Android-like iPhone are you talking about? Oh, I see, the one you made up based on rumours. Well, yes, that imaginary iPhone is sounding a lot like some Android phones. Luckily, it doesn't actually exist.
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