This year’s iPhone will be an “S” version of the iPhone 6s, multiple reports say, with Apple moving to a three-year iPhone redesign cycle this time around rather than the typical two-year model. That means the iPhone 7 – that might not be its final name – will be very similar to the iPhone 6s. The iPhone 7 will have a few unique features of its own, including redesigned antennas, better cameras, a missing 3.5mm headphone jack and a redesigned home button.
Some of these features don’t sound terribly exciting to most people, though they should generate plenty of interest and even outrage when it comes to that standard audio port’s removal. One of them in particular will mark a major change for the iPhone, but one that likely won’t generate the excitement it deserves.
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Apple is changing the home button, an iconic design element of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that also happens to be assigned a variety of critical features. Wow, that sounds so boring, right? Not quite.
The new home button will be flush with the front side of the device, previous leaks have shown (see the image below). But Business Insider reports that analysts at Cowen and Company believe the new home button will also have “Force Touch” functionality.
The home button wakes the phone from sleep, unlocks it (via the Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded within it), invokes Siri, enables multitasking, enables one-handed operation, and is integral to hard resets. So the home button isn’t going anywhere this year.
But Apple is slowly building toward a future iPhone that will lack a home button. That glass-only device will still offer all the features mentioned above, but they will be reassigned to other parts of the handset, including the screen itself.
Before we get there, we’ll see the physical home button replaced by a capacitive one that can’t be pressed like the current one. That also means it’ll be less likely to break. But it’ll still have to provide tactile feedback to the user, to indicate that a user command has been registered.
According to Cowen’s research, the physical mechanism of the home button will be replaced by a motor that will deliver the sensation that the button has been physically depressed. That’s the kind of home button Apple needs for an iPhone that would feature an all glass design with a wraparound display. But this type of innovation will likely not be fully appreciated until next year. In fact, you can expect some people to complain that the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a physical home button anymore.
The analysts also said the iPhone 7 will lack a headphone jack, and will be waterproof, which is in line with most rumors.