Apple has a lot of signature branding — rainbow fruit, flowing curves in case design, the occasional reality distortion field (via Business Insider) — but perhaps no quality distinguishes the House of Cupertino’s products more clearly than its adamant dislike of buttons.
Although, except for quantum computing, every computer system is a bank of switches (per FutureLearn). Apple began removing clicky physical buttons from its products as soon as it was technologically workable. It’s never stopped. Apple’s design philosophy has consistently allowed the graceful design to overlay the guts of its machines, resulting in computational ecosystems that work with little user access to what programmers refer to as the device’s bare metal (via Techopedia).
The iPhone, which is smooth, easy to use, and almost entirely devoid of external features, is both Apple’s most successful product (according to Business of Apps, 52% of Apple’s revenue will come from iPhone sales alone in 2022) and the best example of its design philosophy. In keeping with that, supposedly, one of the iPhone’s final physical components will become extinct as of iPhone 15.
Cirrus Logic, a Texas-based semiconductor manufacturer, has hinted that it will build haptic inputs for the next iPhone, eliminating the need for physical power buttons, according to MacRumors. We’ve already written an in-depth explanation of haptic input and feedback, but the short version is that haptics is tactile information provided by a designer that isn’t the direct result of a user’s interaction.
Consider starting a car. Physical feedback occurs when you turn the key and feel the engine kick. Haptic feedback occurs when you start a car’s engine in a video game and the button vibrates and the screen shakes without the use of an engine. One occurs because an engine has moved. The other occurs because of a programmer’s instruction.
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Haptics is neither better nor worse than physical inputs. Physical inputs give the user more control over their machine. It has damaged many good cars because an overly enthusiastic driver rode the starter motor until it broke. In contrast, haptics’ looser connection between the user and machine may leave the user helpless when the machine fails.
In summary, haptic power buttons on the iPhone may be a plus or a minus. We won’t know until we have one to play with. For the time being, we can say that the rumor is fairly well-founded. Apple may have discovered another button to destroy.