Apple gadgets going button-free?

One report says the company might omit the 'home' button on future versions of the iPhone and iPad.

By Kim Peterson Jan 13, 2011 4:15PM

Credit: (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Caption: Apple iPadApple (AAPL) may eliminate the home button from future versions of the iPad and iPhone, according to one report.

Apple employees are already testing button-free devices at its California headquarters, unnamed sources tell the Boy Genius Report website. If the tests are successful, then new models of the iPad and iPhone due this year may not have the button.

The report is getting some attention this week because, if true, it shows how Apple is trying to maintain its design edge over the competition. Rivals like Samsung and Research in Motion (RIMM) have developed or are working on tablets, and want to eat into the iPad's sizable lead.  

On the phone side, manufacturers are working closely with Google's Android team to develop models that some users say are better than the iPhone. Post continues after video:


These new phones and tablets already bear a remarkable resemblance to Apple's products -- a sincere form of flattery, perhaps. But that increases the pressure on Apple to stand out from the crowd in software and hardware design.

That's why a button-free approach makes sense. Instead of pressing the home button, you use new multitouch finger swipes to get to the home screen and the apps, according to the Boy Genius Report.

From a design standpoint, it's a logical next step. "It has been said that Steve Jobs didn’t want any physical buttons on the original iPhone at first, and it looks like he may soon get his wish," Jonathan Geller writes.

Time jumps in with more. Apple has given software developers some early code for future software that will end up on iPhones and iPads, the magazine reports.

The developers who have seen the code say it paves the way for new multitouch gestures, some of which involve four and five fingers. "Full-on swiping, in other words," the magazine writes.

One problem with this design is that it will require two-handed usage more than earlier models, Time writes. "If these rumors turn out to be true, let's hope that Apple keeps at least some hardware buttons on the outside edges of the phone and that it figures out an elegant solution for one-handed use," Doug Aamoth adds.

Apple isn't the only one going button-free. Google is already out there with a tablet that has no buttons at all, Time reports. The company is developing a new tablet-specific platform, code-named "Honeycomb," and has demonstrated Honeycomb tablets with no buttons. Instead, the tablets have on-screen buttons that reposition themselves depending on how the tablet is being held.



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