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Apple to replace iPhone home button with gestures
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-08-30 19:19:21

Mark Gurman has a major scoop about the next iPhone:

Apple Inc. plans to transform the way people use its next high-end iPhone by eliminating the concept of a home button and making other adjustments to a flagship device that's becoming almost all screen, according to images of the new device viewed by Bloomberg News and people familiar with the gadget.

The home button is the key to the iPhone and the design hasn't changed much since it launched in 2007. Currently, users click it to return to the starting app grid that greets them multiple times a day. They hold it down to talk to the Siri digital assistant. Double click it and you get multitasking where different apps screens can be swiped through like a carousel.

Apple is preparing three new iPhones for debut next month. One of the models, a new high-end device, packs in enough changes to make it one of the biggest iPhone updates in the product's decade-long history. With a crisper screen that takes up nearly the entire front, Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button - even a digital one - in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking, according to the people and the images.

I don't really dwell too much on iPhone rumours, but this one is an exception because one, it's about a major change to the core user interaction model of iOS and the iPhone, and two, I happen to know this rumour happens to be accurate.

The removal of the home button and replacing it with what is effectively a gesture area is probably the single-biggest user interface change in iOS since the day it was released, and it also happens to be yet another step in the enduring quest Android and iOS are on to become more like webOS. Steven-Troughton-Smith (go support his work!) showed a number of mockups to give a better idea of what it's going to look like.

Replacing the iconic home button with a gesture area is actually a pretty fundamental shift in the interaction model of iOS. It seems to indicate that Apple is confident enough that users are well-versed in touch interfaces enough to start "hiding" important, crucial interactions - like going back to the homescreen - behind gestures that are clearly less discoverable than that huge home button. Google did something similar - but far less consequential - by removing the "drawer" button in Android's dock with a swipe-up gesture.

If this trend persists, it would seem Apple's (and to a lesser extent, Google's) engineers think that the touch paradigm is old and established enough to be more abstract, which opens up a whole slew of other possibilities. Up until now, undiscoverable gestures were generally used for more power-user oriented interactions, but with this next iPhone, they will be used for basic, cornerstone iOS interactions.

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Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-26
ahhh webOS
By Kancept on 2017-08-30 19:52:53
Still got my Veer and a few Touchpads. Still a great OS even if it does take a lot to get updated to work with today's services. It is funny (and sad) to watch the slow convergence to what did work.
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Comment by sj87
By sj87 on 2017-08-30 19:58:57
I've used gesture-based Android for almost two years now. Both the app drawer button and whole navigation bar ("bottom bar") have been removed.

"Swipe up from bottom center" was my pick for bringing up the app drawer even before Google got to it with Android 7.0.

For 'multitasking' i.e. viewing open apps, I use swipe from the middle of the right edge. Back button is replaced by a swipe from either bottom corner.

Eagerly waiting to see what Apple has decided to do.
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i will miss the home button then...
By sergio on 2017-08-30 22:37:03
I like to have a physical thing to press, it gives certainty and feedback to the user, it's simple and intuitive. Removing it will be a huge mistake imho.

PS: Yeah I know iPhone7's home button is not physical and blah blah, but it works and behaves like a physical one.
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RE: i will miss the home button then...
By Carewolf on 2017-08-30 23:31:49
Well, it was a lot less intuitive after Apple has forced 6 completely different functions on to it. It was already a very abstract gesture button, by making it a touch screen button, they can now make it more reliable and discoverable again, and maybe, maybe, if you are lucky open the way for having a true back button down there next to it.
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Rest In Peace
By sakeniwefu on 2017-08-31 00:00:31
iPhone 2007-2017
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By Poseidon on 2017-08-31 01:50:50
As someone who still isn't used to force touch, I think this is a terrible idea, especially to those of us that prefer some sort of uniformity. Gestures work extremely well on their touchpad, but for smaller interfaces with screens such as my iPad and an iPhone, they're hit or miss.

I'm going to be possibly seeking an alternative. This is probably just cost saving for Apple and reducing production line times, together with costly repairs, but I would like to know how they're going to handle the security aspects of it ( having that button separate from the screen did add some security in my opinion, when touchID was enabled).
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buttonless i-anything
By MadRat on 2017-08-31 02:58:26
I'm never going back to iPhones, iPads, or anything else similar. Quite frankly tactile buttons are far easier to use without looking than on-screen bull**** controls. I'd much rather have more buttons than less. I find my phone less and less the focus of use as it turns more i-craptastic.

I owned a calculator as a teenager with a mini-joystick that was capable of only four directions, but survived a decade of abuse mashing it mercilessly as I played the built in games. Atari has paddle and joystick controllers that were literally impervious if you had the originals and not the knockoffs. And Nintendo's NES had controllers that are still functional after 25 years. But high quality vendors like Apple can't seem to fashion buttons that last more than two years of regular use using far greater manufacturing technology. So instead of fixing the buttons they opt to eliminate them.

I miss the old on-off dials for electronics where you had a distinct click for off. I'd like to see one on my phone instead of clicking a button or worse yet having to go through several menues to get it on mute. I also wouldn't mind a second dial with no limit in any one direction that could be used to scroll, like on a mouse and would double for a steering wheel with games. And I wouldn't mind a series of buttons that could be used for gaming. I've seen attachable devices that bring those functions to Android phones. Too bad they aren't built in by design. Instead of a slide out keyboard, a slight out gaming controller would rock.

But Apple in its collective wisdom wants to make gaming on iPhones and iPads even more suck by going buttonless. Their crappy interfaces already is long in the tooth and they continue to push the most suck features as the future. And their penchant to make third party adapters obsolete with every generation just insures I won't waste my time going back. Even my Windows tablet is less suck in comparison to iPad, and that says a lot.
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They could also
By th3rmite on 2017-08-31 05:24:24
They could also add four cameras to help simulate a 3D screen! I played around with an Amazon Firephone and the button less interactions were terrible.
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RE[2]: i will miss the home button then...
By sergio on 2017-08-31 06:20:38
Well... I'm a pretty advanced user and I just know 2 home button functions... btw you can use any iDevice knowing only one of of them!

So I think the home button is super intuitive and makes iOS the most user friendly OS ever created, miles ahead of Android, MacOS or Windows.

Edited 2017-08-31 06:21 UTC
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RE: Comment by swoo
By Kochise on 2017-08-31 07:29:24
This is not stupid, they have to sell new stuff every year, not just to pay their workers but also their shareholders. So they have to be "creative" and explore every alternative and modification just for the sake of it. Otherwise smartphone would have stalled to the N900.
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