The Future of iPhone Buttons: A Look at Apple's Plan for a Buttonless iPhone

Russell Kidson
Feb 20, 2023

The Future of iPhone Buttons: A Look at Apple's Plan for a Buttonless iPhone

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.

The Future of iPhone Buttons: A Look at Apple's Plan for a Buttonless iPhone

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.

Exploring Apple's Plan for a Buttonless iPhone 15


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  1. David said on February 22, 2023 at 2:54 pm

    Wow. I have enough problems with the goddamned side buttons as it is, my main complaint taking a screenshot when all I want is to lock the iPhone (because to press one button on the right you have to apply countervailing force on the left, which also has a button). If you’ve ever used an Apple TV+ controller, it’s the same thing: the side button on the right switches you out of your streamed content into some alternate reality. Putting a ton of haptic buttons on the sides for gamers is only going to add to my aggravations. I have had a love-hate relationship with Apple for the last 3-4 years. Last year it tipped to outright hate, but unfortunately I still own the devices I previously purchased so I’m stuck with them for a while.

  2. John G. said on February 20, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    I beg your pardon, I celebrate the 22 articles published here on February 20th. However for my lack of time due to some exams coming soon, I will have a breathe on comments. I would like to comment every article and follow the discussions, but I really have not much free time currently. Thanks for the article! :[

  3. Tachy said on February 20, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    This shift to everything “touch screen” is stupid. We need stuff we can feel with our fingers and operate without looking at.

    1. David said on February 22, 2023 at 2:56 pm

      If it’s anything like many other unusable devices, on black phones the images will probably be embossed so that in the dark you won’t be able to see a damned thing. But it will look pretty in the light.

    2. Jek Porkins said on February 20, 2023 at 7:55 pm

      Maybe it can have slight bumps so you can feel where they are.

  4. basingstoke said on February 20, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    You gotta give it to Apple, they have a vision, and they strive towards it no matter the weather – and literally no other manufacturers out there have the balls to go into a different direction. Not sure if that says more about Apple or about all the other manufacturers, but it’s not a great thing for end users…

    1. Jason said on February 20, 2023 at 9:00 pm

      At this point, their vision seems to be change for change’s sake. I’m sure there’s some small minority of Apple enthusiasts that will love anything Apple does, but the majority love the phones they have and don’t need anything new.

      1. basingstoke said on February 21, 2023 at 10:50 am

        My point is more that, whatever apple do, the entire industry follows out of fear of being left behind – one of the latest examples is “air pods”. Apple doesn’t follow the “next big thing”, it creates the “next big thing”, which is essentially a super-power.

        I had an idea for wireless earphones back in 2012, when I was in school – (no dangling wires makes earphones much easier to conceal, you basically just need to have some hair on your head and make tactical use of it). And my friends said things like “but what about battery life?” or “what if you lose one”? I said “yeah, you’re right, there’s a lot of ways this could go wrong”.

        And so now that it’s a huge thing I laugh at that fact. Apple can do whatever they want and have it be revered, idolised, respected. What other companies have that ability?

        …And i’m writing this as someone that doesn’t like Apple, at all !

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