We might be saying goodbye to the iPhone's home button
When the iPhone 7 killed off the headphone jack, some Apple fans were up in arms. If the rumors about the features of 2017's iPhone X (or whatever Apple winds up calling it) are true, the flagship phone will be losing another long-standard feature: the home button.
Don't be too sad about its passing, though — everyone will likely be too excited about what's replacing it to even notice that it's gone.
MacRumors reports that KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has been a reliable source for iPhone leaks in the past, released a research report today hinting at Apple's plans to remove the device's physical home button in favor of a thumbprint sensor embedded in the screen — the first step toward a new biometric sensor system.
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It's not a new rumor — the home button would need to go for the bezel-free, edge-to-edge screen design that has been discussed so much — but today's information gives some more insight into the tech Apple may be developing to replace its current Touch ID system and improve its touchscreen design as it shifts to an OLED display.
According to Kuo, Apple's current "under glass" capacitive fingerprint recognition tech won't cut it if the phone has the full-screen, button-free design. Instead, the ID reader will need to shift to an "under panel" setup, which would require optical ID tech. That might get tricky, because the optical sensors will need to be compatible with flexible OLED panels. That means new, custom solutions from the panel makers to make that system work — but Kuo believes Apple has the clout to get the system it needs.
Along with the new optical sensor, Kuo seems to expect that the rumored facial tracking sensors will be included in the device, which could be used to scan users' faces as a means to verify identification.
Kuo guesses the fingerprint ID tech will "ultimately be replaced by a facial recognition system" in an effort to make the iPhone's security even more stable. "However, if the technical challenges cannot be overcome, we believe a combination of fingerprint and facial recognition is another possible solution," he writes in the report. Once the tech is developed in future models, he predicts that transactions made on future iPhones will be verified using "a combination of the two steps of bio-recognition."
In addition to the home button overhaul, the next iPhone's 3D Touch tech might be getting a makeover. Kuo claims Apple may switch to a new, more sensitive film sensor for its touchscreen from the current FPCB sensor in the iPhone 7. This is another area where Apple will have to work around the new OLED display, so Kuo predicts a metal structural part will be implemented under the film sensor for more support.
If this year's iPhone actually arrives with a new display, new sensors and a stronger backbone, the home button's loss will be taken in stride. Just don't mention the headphone jack.