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The iPhone 7 is going to be a problem when it gets cold

iPhone 7 Home Button

We’ve got a few months left until winter properly hits, but apart from global warming and Snowpocalypse 2.0, there’s another (much smaller) problem on the horizon: the iPhone 7’s fancy home button.

You see, the iPhone 7’s home button is not really a button, but rather a special capacitive area on the front of the phone. So, it needs contact with flesh to be pushed, just like your screen needs contact with a real finger (and not the inside of your pocket) to register the presses. In the depths of winter where everyone’s wearing gloves, this could be a real problem.

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The issue of smartphones and cold weather already exists, since you can’t use any recent smartphone’s touchscreen while wearing gloves. (Side note: if you’re going to try and use this opportunity to claim that we should go back to resistive touchscreens that respond to pressure, I’ll just remind you about the typing experience on a Palm Pilot.)

But at least on an iPhone 6S or newer, you can pull it out of your pocket and press the home button to check your notifications, press and hold for Siri, or double-tap to activate Apple Pay. If you’re wearing gloves because it’s below zero outside and you’re a normal human being with normal hands, none of those things will work on an iPhone 7.

Now yes, there are some software workarounds in iOS 10 that reduce these problems a little. Raise to Wake activates the screen when the iPhone detects it’s being lifted up, so in theory, that should solve the notifications problem. Hey Siri also reduces the need to press and hold the home button, and let’s be honest, Apple Pay isn’t a vitally important thing in anyone’s life just yet.

But even so, the fact remains that nothing on the iPhone 7 will work when you’re wearing gloves. Electronics and cold temperatures already don’t mix well, as most of the iPhones I’ve ever owned will shut down from the cold if you try and use them outdoors in winter. Removing the one thing that worked while I was wearing gloves feels like another slap in the face from Apple’s R&D team in always-sunny California.

And yes, I know that gloves with capacitive fingers exist and you could have bought a pair off Amazon in less time than it took to read down this far. But that doesn’t stop this from being a very valid first-world problem. The last estimate said that Americans check their phones 50 times a day, and if even 10% of the population has to wear gloves for 10% of their day, for 30% of the year, that’s still a lot of very annoyed people.