Apple is working on a new iPhone design that would get rid of the physical home button, according to a new report from DigiTimes.
The report cites sources in Taiwan’s integrated circuit industry that claim Apple is developing a new kind of chip for its multitouch displays that “will also come with integrated fingerprint sensors,” so it could eliminate the home button.
Unfortunately, DigiTimes has a bumpy track record when it comes to reporting on Apple’s future iPhone plans, and while this report does make sense given past rumors of Apple’s plans to get rid of the Home button, it should also be taken with a rather large grain of salt.
The iPhone currently uses a physical home button that acts a menu button that also houses Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor. By integrating the fingerprint technology onto the same chip as the iPhone’s multitouch display, Apple could switch to a virtual home button instead — eliminating the need for bezels and allowing for a display that takes up the entire front of the iPhone.
Apple has been rumoured to be exploring the idea of getting rid of the iPhone’s physical home button since 2011. In 2014 Apple filed for a patent “Fingerprint Sensor in an Electronic Device,” which details how its Touch ID fingerprint sensor could be moved from its home underneath the home button to a new location underneath the touch screen of the iPhone or the iPad.
Armed with the ability to create a fingerprint scanner that resides beneath the iPhone’s touchscreen — but yet is still able to scan your finger through the layers of the phone’s display — Apple could finally be able to design an iPhone with an edge-to-edge screen. This is also another way that Apple could create an iPhone with larger screen that also maintains a smaller overall form factor, as there wouldn’t be any bezels enlarging the device’s dimensions.
Apple could also use its new Force Touch technology to create a virtual home button that is only activated when you push down on a specific area of the screen with enough pressure, which could remove the issue of accidental presses. Apple has already introduced Force Touch into its new MacBooks and the Apple Watch, and past reports have also said the next iPhone will include Force Touch.
Of course, there’s no indication that Apple will introduce this new rumored design in the next iteration of the iPhone, and it seems highly unlikely given that Apple has traditionally focused on software updates after releasing a new hardware design such as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
But an iPhone without a home button? That certainly sounds like a big enough hardware update to live up to the “iPhone 7″ name.