iPhone May Ditch Buttons

John Lister's picture

The next generation of the iPhone could have no physical buttons at all. The volume and power buttons could be replaced with sensors similar to the touchscreen itself.

The news comes from leaks in the component manufacturing market that are normally reliable, though it's not certain the changes will come quickly enough for the iPhone 16's release, expected this summer. Similar rumors came before last year's iPhone 15, but Apple reportedly dropped plans because of manufacturing challenges.

The theory of the latest rumors is that the physical buttons will be replaced with capacitive input. That would be a flat area on the side of the screen that users would "press" and receive haptic feedback. That's simply a small vibration that, although it wouldn't feel like pressing a button down, would overcome the problem that the brain expects the body to feel a cause-and-effect when it performs a physical action.

Increased Resilience

If this all sounds over-engineered, there is some logic to the switch. Removing the mechanical parts of a physical button means one fewer thing that can break. It also removes the tiny gap around a physical button (letting it move in and out) that can let dust or moisture into the phone.

Less practically, some design purist prefer the sleeker look of the capacitive button for not "spoiling" the "clean lines" of the phone.

The latest rumors come from the Economic Daily News, a trade journal in Asia. It discovered a manufacturer in Taiwan won an Apple contract to supply the modules containing the new format buttons. (Source: 9to5mac.com)

Extra Button Coming

While the report appears reliable, analysts have noted the deal means large-scale production will begin in the third quarter of the year. That sounds late for the feature to be added to the iPhone 16, so it may be planned either for a premium model or even the iPhone 17. (Source: macrumors.com)

Another reason to be skeptical about an immediate change is that the iPhone 16 is heavily rumored to have a new dedicated "Capture" button for taking photos instead of tapping on the screen. This button will also control zooming and focus. This appears to be a physical button and doesn't fit with the details of the Taiwanese component order.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you have a preference either way for the type of buttons on a phone? Would it make any difference to your choice of handset? Is a dedicated "Capture" button a welcome addition?

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Comments

ehowland's picture

1. Cases will not work (unless exspensive or if modified for no protection at all in button area). 2. If it's cold weather and you have gloves on TOUGH, take them off to adjust volume up and down which can be frequent (especially during calls). Unless you toss our all your PERFECTLY GOOD gloves and replace EVERYTHING with specialty tipped "capactity" gloves (some, like snowmobile gloves, can be big bucks, talk about waste, spoken in gretta speak "how dare you"?) 3. Pocket erroneous trigger and or long hair triggered unintended issues (if in pocket, say in sleep mode, it will wake screen reducing battery life). 4. Another thing to BREAK Physical buttons tend to last the life of the handset, beyond dumb. But expect no less from cra - pple.

DavidInMississippi's picture

There have been several times over all my experiences with an iPhone that I have had to perform a HARD REBOOT of the phone, because nothing was working. This involved holding down two buttons simultaneously until the phone did a total shutdown and restart.

If these phones without any buttons get into a similar need for a hard reboot, where none of the screens or capacitative sensors are operational, how will we ever perform the HARD reboot?

That worries me.

Dennis? Any thoughts?

ehowland's picture

Yes, David is right, I did not even think of that 5th reason!

mike's picture

If Apple goes this way, it is just another good reason to not support Apple. The touchscreen if hard enough to use for almost everything but eliminating the physical bower button really takes it to a new level! I am still looking for a "smart" phone that has actual physical buttone to type on and doesn't cost more that my mortgage payment.