Word on the proverbial streets says Apple is doing away with a few items on iPhone 7 that many of use us all the time. First to go? The headphone jack. Instead, we’ll be able to listen to music through a Lightning connector and cord (or, use an adapter for older non-Lightning capable headphones). Actually, it’s becoming a wireless world and I suspect Apple will push us in that direction with iPhone 7 sans the headphone jack. Wireless earbuds? Of course. With the Beats logo? Of course.
Second to go is the physical Home button, arguably the one piece of an iPhone that breaks more often than anything else other than the screen when dropped onto concrete. Apple’s Touch ID and 3D Touch (and Force Touch on the Mac) work so well these days that the Home button can be integrated into the screen. Touch the right spot, and everything normal happens; Touch ID, 3D Touch, et al.
This trend then begs the question, “Why do we need buttons, anyway?”
That leaves a few relics from the past ready to be dismissed as we move to the future. There’s the Lightning port at the bottom, the On/Off Sleep/Wake button on the upper right side, the Ring/Silent button on the left, and the Volume Up/Down buttons below that. That’s four movable buttons and a handful of open ports– Lightning, speaker, and microphones.
We know the future is wireless, and wireless charging already exists in some Samsung smartphones and others, so why do we need a Lightning connector? I know, I know; there’s backups and external devices, out we’re looking ahead here to a world with wireless earbuds, wireless headphones, wireless charging, wireless, wireless, wireless.
If the Home button can be moved to the screen and function the way 3D Touch works, then why not the same for the Ring/Silent and Volume Up/Down buttons? Make them all 3D Touch buttons. Even better, make their locations on the iPhone’s screen user configurable (I assume the Home button with Touch ID will need a stationary position). That leaves the On/Off Sleep/Wake button, which powers on and powers off the iPhone. I’m pretty certain that the On/Off switch could be replaced with a pressure sensitive activator within the case, so there’s that.
That leaves a few holes beyond the Lightning connector and those are not going anywhere. You need speakers and microphones but these days even those can be fully waterproofed. Without any way for water or moisture or dust to get into an iPhone’s case, wouldn’t the device be fully waterproof at that point? Fewer buttons also means less opportunity for a physical problem. You can’t have a broken button if there is no button.
In the end, maybe in iPhone 8s or iPhone 12, or somewhere down the road, we’ll see an iPhone that is nearly indestructible, impervious to water leaks, sans all the buttons we take for granted today.