Even as purists complain about the rise of the capacitive i.e. “invisible” button, it seems Apple may be taking steps to remove them in further updates to iOS. Alongside the ability to drop apps anywhere on the screen – instead of just on a grid pattern – the new iOS Beta includes some accessibility functions that make it easier for folks with handicaps to access various phone functions. This includes the ability to add a virtual home button right on the screen.
Does this mean the next iPads and iPhones will eschew buttons entirely? Probably not. The button will be hard UI conceit to pry from the cold, clammy fingers of the average iOS user and, I suspect, we’ll see more of this in smaller, PMP devices rather than on full-bore devices like the iPad. Without a physical cue, no matter how innocuous, it’s actually quite hard to get around a flat touchscreen. Imagine whipping out your phone and not being able to tell if it was upside-down immediately. While this matters little on the software side, it matters a great deal for telephony.
Ultimately, all of these beta leaks are, at best, examples of what we can expect to see – and then probably not use – in the new iOS. Core functionality really won’t change, but it’s nice to catch a glimpse of what could be coming down the pike.