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Apple May Remove the Home Button On the Next IPad 329

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the death-to-the-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Steve Jobs is notoriously frugal when it comes to buttons so the latest rumor emanating out of Cupertino might not come as a huge surprise. Apple is reportedly planning to do away with the home button on the next-gen iPad and iPhone and replace its functionality with multitouch gestures. And as luck would have it, the newly seeded iOS 4.3 includes support for new multitouch gestures, one of which is the ability to use a four or five finger pinch to go back to the homescreen" The attached video demonstrates the new gestures for switching applications and demonstrates how you could function without the home button.

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Apple May Remove the Home Button On the Next IPad

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  • Fun for people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:55AM (#34860722) Homepage Journal

    Great feature for those with missing fingers!

    Okay okay so I'm just being awkward. But seriously, whenever I've used an iPad or iPhone, I've wished it had the Android "back" button. So much more convenient than hunting for application specific menus to get back to where you were.

    • Being serious, (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:08AM (#34860890)
      Any massmarket device needs to be usable with one finger. Multitouch needs an alternative and accessible one-finger backup operation. What happened to accessibility?

      A "get me somewhere familiar" button should almost be mandatory on anything without a keyboard.

      • Re:Being serious, (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TOGSolid (1412915) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:00AM (#34861696)
        Apple
        Accessibility

        Bhahahahahahahahahahah
      • Re:Being serious, (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:09AM (#34861822)

        Accessibility is being sacrificed to Steve Jobs' irrational (bordering on personality disorder) dislike of buttons.

        It's almost to the level of a phobia.

        The iPhone would be FAR better with a slide keyboard. "Touchscreens" are shit-poor interfaces for trying to type on a mini-chiclet keyboard space unless you are using a stylus; sure the iPhone pops up a "larger" image of the button you are "pressing", but I can't read it past my thumbnail anyways, so it does little good.

        I've lost count of the number of times I misdialed a number simply because I was on the "edge" of the damn touchscreen dialing interface and bumped the 4 instead of 5 or 5 instead of 6. With a real touch interface, I'd have tactile feedback and I'd know which damn button I was on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Eh, I don't get the hate. As someone with ridiculously large hands and fingers, I find using iOS a lot easier than some of the teensy keyboards found on other smart phones.

          Point is: It's not black and white, and Apple's success in this field obviously means they have at least a clue what they're doing. Listening to most /. geeks, you'd think the opposite was true.
          • by Moryath (553296)

            Not really. Apple's "success" in the field is a result of:

            - being first in the field (prior to Apple, the best you had were Blackberries, which have an incredibly limited scope in app capability).

            - Piggybacking onto a large-scale carrier to be "exclusive" to that carrier, in exchange for getting the business of anyone who wanted a "smartphone" but didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to transfer their number away (AT&T are the WORST to try to keep your number from when you leave).

            - Marketing,

            • Not really.

              Not really what? You're saying they don't have a clue, then list all the ways they have a clue? I'm confused.
              • by Moryath (553296)

                They don't have a clue on interface design. Or at least not enough of one to have someone with a little common sense counteract the design flaws introduced by Steve Jobs' pathological fear of buttons.

                They had a good marketing plan, which explains their success-to-this-point (diminishing daily now that their competitors have caught up) in the field.

                That was my point, which I have now boiled down to a simpler one-sentence explanation that you may have a hope of comprehending what I said before.

                • They don't have a clue on interface design.

                  Oh, OK. You didn't pay an ounce of attention to what I wrote. As I said to your sibling, IT DOESN'T MATTER. The proof in the pudding is their amazing sales. It doesn't matter if you and the rest of the one percenters don't like or if it fails any kind of standard test, they obvioulsy figured something out.

                  Shorter: My "clue" was generalized. Your response was specific, and therefore missing my point.
        • by beh (4759) *

          The iPhone would be FAR better, if it could brew coffee on demand at any time and place...

          Yet, I think the extra weight of the coffee maker might not make the device quite as portable as it is without.

          The same goes for keyboards - I wouldn't type long texts on my iPhone or even iPad. But for most of the time when I'm out of the house, for the limited things I do when 'on the road', the onscreen keyboard helps. And it's certainly making the device lighter and with less moving-parts that could break, than if

        • by peragrin (659227)

          I hate sliding keyboards they break, the buttons hurt your fingers, they suck in general. The iphone dialing has giant buttons that even old people can use and not misdial. The on screen keyboard is better than most alternatives(swype is an execption).

          This is a phone if you need to type out 200wpm your doing something wrong. SMS are generally limited to 160 characters, and if you have more than a three sentence conversation text it call the person it will be faster.

          I can type faster on my iphone than eer

          • by Moryath (553296)

            iPhone 3GS screen size: 3.5" diagonal (2.76" wide if held sideways). That's also the keyboard width.

            Slide keyboard width on my older phone: 3.1".

            My buttons were bigger than the iOS "buttons", and I had the tactile feedback from them when typing too.

            Now please stop smoking crack.

            This is a phone if you need to type out 200wpm your doing something wrong.

            If I want to dash off a quick 48 character reply and I don't want to have 2 dozen typos in it, I want a real fucking keyboard, thank you very much.

            • by powerlord (28156)

              iPhone 3GS screen size: 3.5" diagonal (2.76" wide if held sideways). That's also the keyboard width.

              And that is exactly why SJ wants to do away with the "home" button. If you remove the home button, then you can expand the screen and utilize all the "dead" space around the Home Key. Essentially you can make a device with a larger screen, yet still fit into the same form factor.

              Personally I think it sacrifices a lot of the "pick up and use" functionality. My 70 year old aunt who has never used a computer because she sees it as too complicated, is now using Safari on an iPhone to the amazement of her frien

              • by Moryath (553296)

                Better design would be to use the "dead space" around the Home Key for a Back/HangUp button, or Enter/Confirm/Dial button...

                But then again, like I said, Steve Jobs' avoidance of buttons is pathological in nature [cbsnews.com].

        • The iPhone would be FAR better with a slide keyboard. "Touchscreens" are shit-poor interfaces for trying to type on a mini-chiclet keyboard space unless you are using a stylus;

          I used to think this, but the touch keyboard on my Droid is a lot better than I expected (though it is 5" rather than the iPhone's 4"). After a couple of weeks getting used to the touch keyboard I didn't really make any more mistakes than I was making on my physical keyboard. Also with Android 2.2 the auto-correct is pretty good at knowing what you meant to type even when you make mistakes. I don't think that feature was available in 2.1, either that or I had it turned off. So now I can type even faster and

      • While no fan of Apple, some of my family is involved in helping to educate children with special needs and they have found the iPads to be invaluable. But for kids who have trouble articulating more than one or two fingers at a time, or for people who are in fact missing fingers, adding too many multi-finger gestures as a requirement would suddenly make the device less usable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      What about people who never heard of "five finger pinch"? Are they supposed to read a manual before they can use it?

      Seriously, I can't see this 'rumor' being true. Most likely it's just some viral marketing crap to get horrified Apple fans posting the word "iPad" all over the Internet the week before it launches.

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      I would be pretty upset if I couldn't use my phone with one hand.

      I don't own an iPhone, so it may be better without home button, but I use it quite a lot on my android phone (long hold to change apps).

      And would hate to need to hands to copy text out of an email into a search box, or a name from an email into a contact.

      or to simply tap out a text and then call someone while web-browsing.

      • I would be pretty upset if I couldn't use my phone with one hand.

        I don't own an iPhone, so it may be better without home button, but I use it quite a lot on my android phone (long hold to change apps).

        And would hate to need to hands to copy text out of an email into a search box, or a name from an email into a contact.

        or to simply tap out a text and then call someone while web-browsing.

        Exactly.

        This might work well on an iPad... But I can't see it happening on the iPhone.

        You have to be able to use a cell phone one-handed.

        I routinely place calls, look up contacts, check my calendar, and check my email one-handed (on an Android phone). It's a little slower, it's a little more cumbersome... But you need to be able to do it. I don't always have two hands free. And I sure as hell can't manage a multitouch gesture one-handed.

    • Those of us with arthritis will be thrilled that we'll need to pass the iHandExercises test before we can buy a device without a Home button.

      Let's not forget that the Home button is used with the Power button to take screen shots. It's also used to access the iPod feature when the iDevice is locked (double-push the Home button and you get the quick iPod controls).
      • by MrLogic17 (233498)

        Ever see a lady with long fingernails use a touch screen? (The sound is deafing with all the clacking).

        Now envision a long fingernail 5-finger gesture. Fail.

    • by beh (4759) *

      How about a first-post button?

      The lack of which - obviously - made my post show up this late...

  • by tekgoblin (1675894) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:56AM (#34860738) Homepage
    I do not think that Apple will remove a signature button from their iOS device lineup. The button also serves other uses such as a DRM or Hard reset on the device as well as other diagnostic functions besides just returning to the home screen.
    • by Deag (250823) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:10AM (#34860928)

      I always thought the home button was a good design to make the iphone easy to use for everyone.

      It also would affect the usability of the device to remove it. No matter what you do on your iphone, you have one button that brings you back to the start. This makes it very easy to use.

      Some multitouch gesture would be the complete opposite.

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        Replacing a simple method for an often-used feature (push home button), with a complex method (move X fingers in pattern A), would be Just Plain Bad interface design. I hope that Apple UI folks realize that. It's bad enough that the "home" button has already lost some of its simplicity (originally it always took you to the same familiar place with a single click no matter where you were; now it takes a varying number of successive clicks to get back to the "home" screen, depending on whether you're in a a

    • by carou (88501) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:10AM (#34860942) Homepage Journal

      I do not think that Apple will remove a signature button from their iOS device lineup.

      I never thought they'd ditch the iconic "scroll wheel" which had been a signature design feature since the very first iPod...

       

      • I do not think that Apple will remove a signature button from their iOS device lineup.

        I never thought they'd ditch the iconic "scroll wheel" which had been a signature design feature since the very first iPod...

        touche

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I never thought they'd ditch the monochrome screen and spinning platter storage, two REAL signatures of their design savvy...

    • by initialE (758110)

      the button also breaks easily though, it's one of the first parts of an iphone to go. I know of people who jailbreak their phones to use an alternative to the button.

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        the button also breaks easily though, it's one of the first parts of an iphone to go.

        If true, it wouldn't be very difficult to just make a sturdier button.

        I know of people who jailbreak their phones to use an alternative to the button.

        I don't think that the preferences of a few ubergeeks are representative of the population at large.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      The button serves as DRM... really.

      I'd love to see how you think that a button serves as DRM.

    • by ccoder (468480)
      What about removing DFU mode, which is the current way a lot of untethered jailbreaks work?  Making it harder for unlockers/jailbreakers isn't outside of what Jobs and company would do.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:59AM (#34860784)
    ...but five fingers will work when you are in a pinch. (iPinch?)
  • Obvious play? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by emocomputerjock (1099941) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:01AM (#34860800)
    Is this because you can't patent a button but can patent multitouch gestures? Get enough people speaking your "language" and other manufacturers will have to pay to use your patented gestures.
  • What if you crash? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:02AM (#34860820)
    Not all apps are as stable as you'd like. You need something to press to exit to your home screen if your app decides it just wants to freeze...
    • Never thought of that, With the new gesture being system wide it may offer the same escape from a frozen app just like the button. However how does this work when you are zooming out of a map on Google earth? Will it close the app?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then you reboot with the five finger death punch

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Luckily, the OS is in charge of handling events, and only hands them to apps if necessary. If it captures a 5 finger goatse gesture, it needn't pass it through at all, just switch apps straight away. In the same way as your app never gets told about alt-tab, and it always works whether the app has crashed or not.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It seems like you could do this correctly by installing a sub-processor which did nothing but interpret gestures so the main CPU didn't have to. Without it, I imagine you will run into just the problem you have imagined.

  • by LordKronos (470910) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:02AM (#34860822) Homepage

    Replacing the home button with multitouch gestures? So using the device will now require you to use both hands? Great! That should be fun when the people driving around me need to not only divert their attention to controlling their iphone/ipod touch, but now must take BOTH hands off the wheel to operate it.

    • For the iPhone you have no excuse, anything you need to do while driving you can do with the headset shortcuts. Play / pause / stop / skip / go back / fast forward / rewind the music, make / finish / answer / ignore calls.

      Anything else and you shouldn't be doing while driving.
      • Multitouch means both hands? I thought it meant multiple fingers...

    • It's a matter of interpretation of what Apple's intentions are with the new gestures. Some people might think that they are providing an additional but alternative way to activate the Home button. More alarmist views are "OMG. They've removed the Home Button by providing new functionality!"
    • Are your fingers not capable of independent movement? Multitouch gestures on any mobile device have always meant multiple-fingers, one-hand.

      Where have you been? And how the hell did you get modded up for this?
      • by swillden (191260)

        Are your fingers not capable of independent movement? Multitouch gestures on any mobile device have always meant multiple-fingers, one-hand.

        It's impossible to perform multi-touch gestures with the hand holding the phone. Multi-touch inherently requires two hands -- one to hold the phone and one to perform the gesture. Well, unless you have a convenient, stable surface on which to place the phone and don't mind taking the time to put it down, perform the gesture, and pick it up again.

    • Replacing the home button with multitouch gestures? So using the device will now require you to use both hands? Great! That should be fun when the people driving around me need to not only divert their attention to controlling their iphone/ipod touch, but now must take BOTH hands off the wheel to operate it.

      You don't even have to be driving...

      Good luck carrying a coffee while using your phone. Or opening a door... Or writing down notes... Or fumbling for your wallet...

    • Relax. It's a rumor, which in Apple related stories means it has 99% certainty of being bullshit and/or linkbait.

  • I can't wait to see the marketing buzz for this:

    Changes everything.

    Magical experience.

    Revolutionary.

  • I don't have 4 fingers you insensitive clod!
  • Screen Space (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:09AM (#34860926)
    I like the idea for one reason - Maximized Screen Space. The entire front of the device will be a multitouch surface.
    • by splerdu (187709)

      +1 on that!

      Home button functionality could easily be moved to a small button on the side, in case of crashed apps.

    • Wish they did this for the iPhone too. The space could be used for game controls for example.

    • You need a border around the mutitouch surface so you can grab the device. Otherwise your thumb would be generating touch events all the time.
    • For the iPhone, having the screen fill the entire front would:
      1) Mean a change of display resolution, and not a simple doubling, but a change of the aspect ratio. or
      2) Making the phone shorter. Which would make it a very odd shape for a phone. or
      3) Make it wider, which would make it hard to hold

      For the iPad, it would mean there's no way to hold it with one hand without making unwanted touches on the screen.

      I guess what they could do in both cases though is to keep the screen size the same as now, but extend

  • by joh (27088)

    Come on, a four or five finger gesture to return to the home screen is totally undiscoverable and many younger, older or somehow disabled users won't be able to use it reliably at all.

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      My grandpa just got an iPad. He loves it. I convinced him after he kept bitching about his computer and how it "had a mind of its own". With the iPad, tech support requirements magically go away. You are correct in that removing the home button would deny an entire market of elderly folks, so I agree.

  • If Apple does this, what took 1 finger in the past would now require 5. That's an indisputable step backwards in usability. Hope it doesn't happen.
  • In an ideal Apple world, the iPad would have no buttons and would just display a feed directly from Steve all day of what he thinks the user needs to see.

  • But what about "Why"? Has Steve Jobs said *why* we should do without a home screen button?

    • by TimHunter (174406)

      Steve Jobs has not said anything about a home screen button. BGR has reported that "one of our Apple sources" said "some pretty wild information."

      ASAR (Another Stupid Apple Rumor)

  • can you say anything you want?

  • Now my mates can have a dedicated button for their "Fart app"...

  • FWIW, there's no way (afaik) to stop icons from jiggling when you're done rearranging them, other than pressing the home button. I guess they'll have to fix that one.

  • the five finger maneuver will be called "the shocker"

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:31AM (#34861254)
    Perhaps it's just because i'm not in the crowd Apple is aiming for, but i really wish my Android phone had _more_ buttons, not less, and i wish they were physical buttons rather than the damn stupid software buttons.

    It's nice that i can turn the volume up and down without waking my phone up, but if there were actual physical buttons then other functions could be mapped to those buttons for use when the screen was locked/off. I could even get by with just one working remapable button (though more would be better of course) which i would map to "next track" when using the music app and to "go back 30 seconds" when using Audible's app. Both of those are functions that i frequently want to do while driving but are made awkward by the need to wake the phone up and unlock it in order to enable the soft buttons, while keeping my eyes on the road at the same time. Switching from a dedicated mp3 player with physical buttons to a phone was definitely a case of two steps forward, one step back.
    • Switching from a dedicated mp3 player with physical buttons to a phone was definitely a case of two steps forward, one step back.

      True but the controls on my Desire (with winamp app) are still better than my damned temperamental iPod scrollwheel, only about 1/4 of which seems to respond to being touched.

  • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:31AM (#34861264) Homepage
    ...is bring up a picture of Steve Jobs, then place the back of your middle finger against the screen and move up and down. It won't do anything but it makes you feel better
  • As kellyb9 suggests, a front panel free of buttons is likely to appeal to Jobs & Co. But instead of multitouch, it'd be easy and preferable to reset using a second button on the side, like volume.

    Resetting via multifinger multitouch makes no sense, nor would simplifications like one finger pressing repeatedly, or one finger pressing and holding.

    Occasionally iPhones freeze and ignore further screen input. What then?

    A physical-button-based reset is essential on any device vulnerable to the Halting Probl

    • by dingen (958134)

      What then?

      Then you press the on/off button, which is not the home button.

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        What then?

        Then you press the on/off button, which is not the home button.

        The on/off button is not true on/off. It's sleep/wake. No amount of pressing sleep/wake will fix a software error (since sleep and wake are both software functions). You need a hardware interrupt that can restart the OS. The current method is to press sleep & home. The GP's example of pressing the sleep & volume up and/or down would work.

  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:45AM (#34861476)

    I would like to be able to disable the home button so the child with learning difficulties doesn't accidentally keep pressing it while I'm trying to get him to concentrate on the game unsupervised.

    Apart from the fatal home button flaw (in this context), the iPad is a marvelous opportunity for teaching and rehabilitation.

    • by lwsimon (724555)

      Agreed. My two-year-old loves her Dr. Seuss apps, but I have to hover over her like a hawk, or she's taking video and uploading it to Facebook.

      That's not hyperbole, either. We discovered this when she uploaded a video of my wife in her nightgown, sitting on the couch. That got a *lot* of likes.

  • by YaHooL (1745114) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:29AM (#34862140)

    On their What's new in iOS 4.3 [apple.com] page (You need an Apple ID to view link) they wrote:

    Test Multi-Touch Gestures for iPad - This beta release contains a preview of new Multi-Touch gestures for iPad. You can use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen; swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar; and swipe left or right between apps. We are providing this preview before releasing them to the public to understand how these gestures work with your apps. Test them and give us your feedback on the Apple Developer Forums.

    I attempted a 4-finger-pinch on an iPod-Touch-4th-Gen development device with the latest 4.3 iOS Beta. Beside of being a very uncomfortable thing to perform on a small screen, I didn't notice anything else happening.

  • Apple is reportedly planning to do away with the home button on the next-gen iPad and iPhone and replace its functionality with multitouch gestures. And as luck would have it, the newly seeded iOS 4.3 includes support for new multitouch gestures, one of which is the ability to use a four or five finger pinch to go back to the homescreen.

    That's nice. What about the other functions of the home button? You know, the button that's so overloaded with functions because Jobs couldn't stand to have more than one (but eventually settled on four and a switch)? It does "home", search when on "home", it opens special apps when locked, with a double click, it opens something else, with a triple click, even other things, it wakes the phone from sleep, etc. Sure, some of those functions would be nice to move to gestures since the home button is too o

  • by leamanc (961376) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:52AM (#34862522) Homepage Journal

    The latest iPod Nanos, with touchscreens, lack a home button. You press and hold (with one finger) anywhere on the screen to return to the home screen. I have gotten used to it, but would still prefer a real home button.

    And if the Nano is any indication of what Steve likes, I don't think it's fewer buttons. The top of the Nano has one volume up button, one volume down button, and a "power" button (actually more of a "sleep the screen" button). I would have gladly taken a rocker switch for the volume (or even a dial!) and traded in one of those volume buttons for a real Home button.

  • if they can't use one specific finger to control their iDevice.

  • by Tei (520358) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:01PM (#34862674) Journal

    I have used the iPad extensivelly, so I can label myself as iPad poweruser. Enough stress on the machine do result on problems, like the concurrent installation of multiple Apps, or running anything after the 2 bigger games currently (memory swapping?). For the most part, the 99.99% of the time, you will not need a "reset" button, but having one (the home) is very handy!. But theres that 0.01% time wen you *NEED* the home button.

    Removing the home button is like removing Enter, ESC and the power button, from a PC. hopping for the best... that you can always resort to the mouse for these 3 functions.

  • by mrjb (547783) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:31PM (#34864346)
    Not off-topic, bear with me. People whine about drawing with GIMP. To draw a line, all you need to do is to press the shift button while moving the mouse. The problem is, it's not *obvious* to most people that the shift key has that magical effect. One of the first thing many people want to do when using a new drawing program is to draw a line - not to dive into a manual to find out how to do it. The problem, of course, is that GIMP does not provide any visual clues that assist people in drawing a line- so in that respect it is not user friendly.

    Five finger pinch instead of a home button? Same problem. You "just need to know" but if you happen not to, you won't have a home button. If there's no visual clue to certain parts of using a GUI, it's not user friendly.

    I don't care that it's simple to press shift three times followed by caps lock twice and the computer enables its "Do what I want, not what I tell you" interface- if it's not obvious enough that people intuitively guess that key combination, it's useless.

    So Steve, just keep that home button, OK?

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