In the future, it's possible that Apple devices won't have proper clicky buttons on the side like they do now – but could still have controls on the edge. Instead, the devices would have “invisible backlit holes”, which sounds like a Muse song but isn’t. The virtual buttons would appear when required and would vanish when the sensor no longer detected your hand.
Spotted by AppleInsider, a newly uncovered patent suggests Apple has at least considered a buttonless phone, but like all Apple patents it’s just as likely that Apple thought about it, decided not to do it and patented the tech anyway. And I really hope so, because I don’t want a buttonless iPhone 13.
According to Apple’s patent, “Disappearing button or slider”, the idea is to make everything sleeker without losing functionality. “One challenge with these known input devices is that they may detract from the aesthetics of the device by interrupting the continuity of the device housing,” it says. “Besides the obvious aesthetic advantages of having a seamless design, a seamless design may have improved functionality and/or durability. For example, a traditional mechanical key pad can wear out over time and/or be ruined by dirt or moisture entering into the openings in the device housing. These openings are necessary to accommodate the traditional keys and buttons.”
And that’s true, but I bet none of the Apple execs use their iPhone to take photographs of their gas and electric meters in a dark cupboard like I had to do this morning. Being able to control the camera with an actual button I could find and press was exactly what I needed, and it’s exactly what I need when I want to adjust the volume of my earbuds without looking at my phone, because that’s how I’ve adjusted the volume since the 1970s and I’m as likely to start tapping earpieces or rolling the Digital Crown on my Apple Watch as I am to use words like “based” and post things on TikTok.
I’m all for sleek devices but sometimes function matters more to me than form – so while I do like my wireless earbuds I’m still annoyed at Apple for taking out the iPhone headphone jack and rendering my home headphones redundant (and yes, I know there was an adapter in the box initially but I’ve no idea where any of mine are).
So I say to Tim Cook: you may have taken our headphone jacks, Tim, but I beg you. Please don’t take our buttons.