Boy Genius Report have caused a little bit of a stir on the inter-webs today with an “exclusive” Apple leak which claims that iOS devices that do not have a Home Button (specifically next gen. iPads and the iPhones) are being tested on Apple’s Cupertino campus, for a launch as early as this year.
We have exclusively been told that the reason Apple just added multitouch gestures for the iPad in the latest iOS 4.3 beta is because the iPad will be losing the home button. Yes, we are told that Apple, at some point in time, will remove the home button from the iPad’s design. Instead of button taps, you will use new multitouch gestures to navigate to the home screen and also to launch the app switcher.
It is no secret that Steve jobs hates buttons. It took a good many years of infighting both inside Apple and among the Mac faithful to get us anywhere near a mouse that had more than one button. A long standing joke about Macs amongst many people. That obsession with losing buttons is still in full force inside Apple, as even though Apple mice have multiple buttons now, they are not physical. Nor are the “buttons” on Apple Trackpads for that matter.
It is also said that Jobs was against having a Home Button on the original iPhone.
There are many questions that remain to be answered about this rumour though; how will iOS devices be hard reset, is one.
How will people without all their fingers complete the four finger swipe that is the equivalent of pressing the Home Button when using multi-touch gestures, is another.
Moving the home button up by the power button is unlikely, but perhaps making the power button into a multi function button which includes an “emergency” Home Button feature is a possibility. It is very doubtful however that Apple would remove a button, only to replace it with another new one elsewhere. Having different functionality for a single button is something that Apple already offers for the Home Button itself. And they have shown that they are willing to do optional functions with the rotation lock / mute button on the iPad in iOS 4.3.
None of the problems suggested about a device without a home button are insurmountable. And there are advantages. Screen size could be increased slightly over more of the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad’s faces. This could mean more resolution, but could also simply mean an easier to read and more accurate to touch Retina display, which also looks nicer as it goes closer to all the edges of the device.
Another possibility is that Apple would work on some similar gestures to those found on RIM’s Blackberry Playbook tablet; where the actual bezel of the device is also part of the multi-touch surface, and provides specialised inputs from select gestures in specific locations. But that would be fraught with patent lawsuit risks for Apple.
In any case we’re not against the idea, whilst maintaining a suitably sceptical view on the veracity of the rumour until it is fleshed out a bit more by more information from other sources.
What do you think? Good idea or not? Would you like an iPhone without a Home Button? Have your say in the comments?