The iPhone 7 could be the last Apple handset with a physical home button, the latest reports suggest
As analysts argue about what new features we should expect from the iPhone 7, and when the new phone is likely to arrive, reports suggest that Apple is already planning a significant change to the form and function of its successor.
Tech news website AppleInsider has spoken to someone inside the company who says that future iPhones will no longer have a physical home button.
The source, “who in the past has correctly shared information about Apple’s future product plans”, says the change won’t come in time for the launch of the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7, which are expected this year and next. Instead, the buttonless phone is likely to debut in 2017, the report suggests.
Ditching the home button, which has appeared on every version of the iPhone since its arrival in 2007, would require a substantial re-engineering of the handset’s hardware and software, but would mean that the iPhone’s successors could have bigger screens, or reduce the size of the phone while maintaining the current screen sizes.
“It’s easy to see why Apple would be pursuing a buttonless bezel, as ditching the iPhone home button could allow for smaller and lighter handsets with an even more simple aesthetic,” says AppleInsider.
One challenge for the company would be where to house the Touch ID sensor, which is currently integrated into the home button. “The fingerprint reader could be integrated directly with the screen itself,” says Gizmodo, enabling users to scan their prints anywhere.”
However, not everyone would be pleased to see the demise of the home button. Writing for the Economic Times, Matt Swider speaks up in defence of the mechanical button, arguing that touchscreen buttons are harder to see, less reliably effective and sometimes confusing.
“Maybe I’m just getting old,” he says, “but my fingers like knowing what I’m pressing.”
Rather than dropping the button entirely, Swider suggests a compromise. “I really like Samsung’s approach here. It uses a thinner home button in the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, giving me a happy medium and top pick for our best phone list.”
Apple never comments on pre-launch product rumours.