It has been reported for some time that Apple is planning to replace the physical buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro with solid-state ‘taptic’ buttons. Recently published renders of the iPhone 15 by 9to5Mac seem to confirm this development. It appears that the physical volume rocker and power switch may be absent on certain upcoming models.
Although Apple’s plan to eliminate physical buttons may seem innovative, it is important to note that HTC introduced the first phone without buttons in 2018, the HTC U12+. While the concept was intriguing, it failed to gain traction in the market. Therefore, it will be fascinating to observe how Apple executes its vision, and whether other smartphone manufacturers will follow suit. Undoubtedly, with Apple’s considerable R&D budget, engineering acumen, and Tim Cook’s innovative spirit, the company has the potential to succeed in this endeavor.
The HTC U12+ and Google’s Pixel 2 implemented pressure-sensitive sensors on the smartphone’s edge to replace traditional physical buttons. While these devices allowed for pressure-sensitive volume and power controls, they also featured a pressure-sensitive sensor that enabled the phone’s frame to detect the force of a squeeze. To use these features, users had to squeeze their phones.
It remains to be seen how the iPhone 15 will implement its buttonless design. It could feature a combination of pressure-sensitive buttons and touch-sensitive controls similar to those seen on AirPods, or it could incorporate a touch-sensitive system exclusively.
Apple has an array of possibilities to explore for its buttonless design. The company has previously implemented ‘fake buttons’ in its devices, such as the pressure-sensitive home button on the iPhone 7 and the trackpad on the MacBook. Moreover, as previously mentioned, the AirPods force sensors also function as pressure-sensitive buttons. These existing examples highlight Apple’s prior experience with pressure-sensitive technology, which could inform the company’s approach to implementing the feature in the iPhone 15.
Apple has several options to enhance the functionality of pressure-sensitive buttons in the iPhone 15. The pressure-sensitive buttons could potentially replace music controls on the display, freeing up space for other features. Additionally, the buttons could support various gestures, such as launching the camera without unlocking the iPhone 15, or initiating Siri, similar to Samsung’s Bixby button. Another potential use for the pressure-sensitive buttons could be as triggers in games, providing a new level of tactile feedback for gamers.
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