It’s that time again for speculation about the death of the physical home button, with new reports surfacing that Apple is working on implementing a virtual replacement. According to a recent report from Digitimes, Apple is currently developing an in-house touch and display driver integration (TDDI) single-chip solution for the iPhone.
The TDDI single-chip solutions will also come with integrated fingerprint sensors, said the sources. The integrated design would fit into future iPhone designs – models with ultra-thin and ultra-narrow displays, and with a whole plane design eliminating the Home button.
This isn’t the first time this rumor has surfaced. In fact, we first saw the speculation of a virtual home button in 2011, and Apple patented such an input device in 2013, according to a report from the archives of Patently Apple.
A virtual home button would definitely allow for a slimmer iPhone, if the 7.1mm thickness of the iPhone 6 is just too much for you. It would also allow for quite a bit more of the device’s vertical length to be dedicated to screen real estate, allowing for a larger display without making the iPhone itself any bigger. What changes would we see, though, in a iOS device without a physical home button?
For one thing, the process of hard resetting your device would likely have to change. If the operating system is unresponsive, holding down the virtual home button and power button simply won’t work. Also, the virtual home button would not work without power to the screen, so that could lead to a new wave of complications with battery life or a new way to wake up your iPhone.
The drawbacks aside, I’d love to see Apple do away with the physical home button. Combined with Force Touch technology, a virtual home button could be the next innovation that Apple needs to make in order to keep the iPhone fresh and groundbreaking. I doubt that we’ll see this technology in the next generation of the iPhone, but perhaps by 2016 it will be a reality.