In just a few days, Tim Cook and co. will trot out on stage and introduce the world to the iPhone 8, arguably Apple’s most anticipated smartphone release since the first iteration went on sale 10 years ago. For as much as we already know about Apple’s next-gen iPhone — thanks in large part to inadvertent leaks from Apple itself — there are still two looming and unanswered questions surrounding the iPhone 8.
First, it remains unclear what Apple will actually call the device. Though Apple’s 2017 flagship iPhone has been unofficially dubbed the iPhone 8, there are speculative reports that it may actually be called the iPhone X.
Second, and far more important, it remains to be seen how users will take to an iPhone without a home button. As you’ve likely heard, rumor has it that the iPhone 8 will completely do away with the home button, a design that has been part of every iPhone model Apple has ever released. In its place, Apple will reportedly incorporate advanced facial recognition cameras that will be used to identify users and authorize financial transactions.
Even if the iPhone 8’s facial recognition cameras work flawlessly, that only addresses the Touch ID side of the equation. What remains to be seen is how an iPhone 8 without a home button will allow users to seamlessly and quickly go back to the homescreen. To this point, a Bloomberg report from a few weeks ago relayed that Apple is planning to add some new gestures to address this issue:
Across the bottom of the screen there’s a thin, software bar in lieu of the home button. A user can drag it up to the middle of the screen to open the phone. When inside an app, a similar gesture starts multitasking. From here, users can continue to flick upwards to close the app and go back to the home screen. An animation in testing sucks the app back into its icon. The multitasking interface has been redesigned to appear like a series of standalone cards that can be swiped through, versus the stack of cards on current iPhones, the images show.
This of course raises more questions than it answers. For starters, what about the gesture used to call Control Center into action? Second, will users find the absence of a home button frustrating even with the inclusion of new gestures?
Even if Apple’s new gestures work, they will necessarily have to work just as well as the tried and true home button for users to fully be okay with the new design. What’s more, it’s important to remember just how versatile the current incarnation of the home button is. Not only does it allow users to go back to their homescreen, it also allows users to access the multitasking pane and even activate Siri. As for Siri, there are rumors that users intending to call Siri into action on the iPhone 8 will have to rely upon the lock button.
Given how useful and versatile the home button is, removing it entirely is arguably the riskiest design decision Apple has ever made with the iPhone. Undoubtedly, it will be fascinating to see if the iPhone 8’s extra screen real estate will outweigh any potential frustrations that come along with the home button’s removal.