by Jim Lynch

iOS 10: Is the Home button doomed?

Jun 17, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiOSiPhone

Apple has done some great tweaks to the Home screen in iOS 10, and these changes might be a harbinger of doom for the Home button in a future iPhone

Apple’s announcement of iOS 10 during the WWDC keynote was packed with new features and changes. And some of these included changes to how the Home screen functions.

A savvy Apple redditor noticed the changes to the Home screen in iOS 10 and thought through what they might mean when combined with other things Apple has done over the last couple of years.

I’ll share my own thoughts below, but here’s Chiddylang’s take on the future of the Home button:

Since the days of the iPhone 4/4S, way back in the day (in technology years), it has been rumored that Apple will / wants to do away with the home button eventually but roughly half a decade later and here we still are with that perfectly circular, shiny sapphire covered button at the bottom of our devices.

Now, I’m not saying iOS 10 is specifically killing the home button in the near future, some of the things I’m listing later have been implemented in earlier updates, but it is another big step in that direction.

The Home button was first introduced as a way to take you back to the home screen (obviously) from wherever you are on your phone as Steve Jobs mentioned when he introduced the OG iPhone. Another feature was the process of double clicking the home button to bring up the music controls…

…Apple released the 6S with the revolutionary new way to interact with your phone called 3D Touch. This brought the additional gestures of a harder push to normal screen touches. One of which was the new way to activate multitasking. Hard pressing the left side of your screen now activates the multitasking view and you can even just continue sliding until you’re at the previous app you had launched. Personally, I find this way a whole lot better than reaching down to the home button when I want to switch apps quickly but thats anecdotal.

Also included in the announcement of the 6S was “Hey Siri” hands free activation. No longer do you have to hold down the home button, just say “Hey Siri” and she’s listening.

And of course, yesterday Apple introduced iOS 10 at WWDC 2016. A new feature that is gaining a lot of attention is the new lock screen changes. One of which is raise to wake. The new Touch ID is partly to blame for this feature, but just lifting your phone up will make the screen come awake.

Now take a step back and think about what the home button was used for originally:

One click –> wake phone / go to home screen

Double click –> multitasking / media controls

Hold click –> activate voice assistant / Siri

And what can be achieved without it with iOS 10 on a 6S:

Wake phone –> Raise phone up to do this now

Multitasking view –> 3D Touch from left side

Media controls –> Swipe up for control center (and slide over for iOS 10)

Activate Siri –> “Hey Siri” No hands needed

This struck me as crazy when I first thought about it to be honest. Apple is actively trying to make the home button less and less useful until it can do away with it. The only thing in their way is 1) how to get back to the home screen (without using multitasking view) and 2) the need for people to update their devices to 3D Touch enabled devices. Of course Apple still needs to add it to iPads but thats a different story.

With some patents alluding to moving Touch ID to the screen, it is safe to say Apple is well on their way to ridding the iPhone of bezels, as well as forgoing a home button in 1–2 years time (not including this year). We’ve come a long way since the 2007 iPhone and it’s crazy to think about how differently we interact with our phones today compared to then.

More at Reddit

Rumors and iOS 10 indicate that the Home button is going away

I think that the Apple redditor is on the right track about the Home button. Apple is clearly laying the groundwork, slowly but surely, to get rid of it in a future version of the iPhone.

Everything Apple is doing with iOS 10 dovetails nicely with rumors about the 2017 iPhone. These rumors include a phone with an edge to edge curved display, with Touch ID built into the screen and with no Home button.

iphone 8 MacRumors

Of course it’s always wise to take Apple rumors with a huge grain of salt. Only Tim Cook and his team really know what’s coming in the 2017 iPhone, but that release also coincides with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. So it would not surprise me if Apple is pulling out all the stops to release a completely redesigned iPhone that will shatter people’s expectations.

And if we think about everything that the Apple redditor listed, along with all of the rumors, and we consider the features in iOS 10, it all seems to add up to the end of the Home button.

Good riddance to the iPhone’s Home button

I won’t shed any tears if Apple releases an iPhone (and iPads) without the Home button. I grew tired of it a while ago, and I hardly use for anything except Touch ID. The iPhone 6s Plus 3D Touch multitasking makes it faster to get to the home screen without having to press the Home button.

And if getting rid of the Home button means Apple can shrink or remove the iPhone’s bezels entirely then it will be a big step forward in shrinking the overly large footprint of the iPhone.

We’ll have to wait and see how all of this plays out, but it sure seems like Apple is quietly laying the groundwork for the end of the Home button. And, frankly, it can’t come soon enough for me.

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