According to a new report from Mark Gurman, Apple will kill the iPhone's physical home button in 2017. Don't get it twisted, this isn't the iPhone we're going to see in a few weeks; it's the iPhone after that. And killing the home button is a very sad idea. Image: Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
We've heard the rumour that Apple will be ditching the home button before, but this time the news comes from Bloomberg's Gurman, who has a much better track record than most, when it comes to Apple news. Gurman reports:
Apple is already at work on a major redesign of the iPhone for 2017 that focuses more heavily on the display by removing the Home button, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Dropping the home button would be a huge change for Apple. The home button, which debuted with the original iPhone in 2007, is absolutely iconic.
I have my doubts that Apple would actually get rid of the home button functionality. It's just too big a part of iOS. I do believe that Apple could be finally ready to let the physical button disappear. After all, having it at the bottom of the iPhone takes up a ton of real estate that could be better used for the screen.
Most other phone makers have moved to virtual buttons or much smaller home buttons for this exact reason. Apple already has patents for both an all-glass phone (also rumoured for 2017) and for Touch ID sensors that live underneath the phone's display. Which is to say, just because the physical home button is disappearing doesn't mean its functionality would go away too. A virtual home button built into the display could do everything a physical button could do, but without taking up so much space.
And make no mistake, the home button does a lot of stuff. Want to call up Siri? Long press on the home button. Want to unlock your phone with Touch ID? Press the home button! Apple Pay? Again, that's what the home button is for.
It's worth pointing out that the pleasing click of a physical home button could be replaced with some sort of haptic feedback. Apple is increasingly working in haptics; Force Touch on the Apple Watch and Apple trackpads already use haptic feedback to make it feel like you are pressing on a physical button. 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S uses haptics too, although the effect amounts to more vibrations rather than recreating the feel of a button press.
Still, I can't help but be sad about the death of a physical home button. The home button is just excellent. There's something incredibly satisfying about tapping on the home button, and that click just feels good. It feels right.
Losing such an iconic part of modern tech to make way for a better screen is inevitable, however. At least we'll have the memories.