With the next iPhone likely to make an appearance next month at an official launch event, fans of Apple’s handset range will be buzzing in anticipation of its arrival. All signs point to the launch of a device called the iPhone 5S, sitting alongside a cheaper model titled the iPhone 5C.
As with the earlier S-branded Apple phones, this will indicate that the handset is an incremental update to the range rather than something completely revolutionary. With that in mind, a number of concept designs have emerged in recent weeks showing what we can expect from the iPhone 6, which should be the successor to the as-yet unannounced iPhone 5S. Most sources expect the Apple iPhone 6 screen size to exceed that of its predecessors, if only because it will need to get a boost if it is to keep pace with its big-screen rivals.
To achieve the integration of a larger iPhone 6 screen size without also making the phone longer, wider and heavier, one designer suggests that Apple will do away with the Home button, which has been a constant feature of the range since it first made its debut back in 2007. Then, with the iPhone home button out of the way, it could be possible for Apple to dedicate much more of the front of the handset to the screen.
Google has already come out in favour of this approach which removes physical or capacitive buttons and instead focuses on context-sensitive interactions to control apps and menus. But how will this work with the iPhone 6 screen size and will the iOS 7 features be adequate enough to justify the removal of the home button, or will fans have to wait for the next generation of Apple’s platform before this dream becomes a reality?
For the 5S it is anticipated that an iPhone fingerprint scanner will be built into the home button itself, with a convex rather than a concave design marking it out from its predecessors.
If Apple is to completely ditch the home button then it will need to keep this fingerprint scanning ability on the iPhone 6 via other means. Perhaps an area of the screen will be designated as having this function, or even the entire display might be thus endowed. The purpose of the fingerprint scanner is to improve security while also making it easier to unlock your phone without having to remember a PIN number. If the entire display can scan fingerprints, then the iPhone 6 could be a particularly safe smartphone to use.
Without a home button, the iPhone 6 would also need to put the focus on enabling users to jump in and out of apps via other means, perhaps through interface cues, gestures or other software-oriented interactions.
Its removal would also need to fundamentally change the way that Siri, the voice-controlled assistant, operates. Perhaps it would be suitable for an always-on approach to be adopted, so that iPhone 6 users could speak to their phone at any point and have it respond. This is something that Microsoft has been attempting with its Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360, which can respond to the user’s voice commands whenever they are made.
There would obviously be concerns over the privacy of such an approach, as well as fans who would not be pleased to see the death of the home button, even if it means a bigger iPhone 6 screen size. But since the iPhone 6 concept designs tend to be fanciful and far from close to the finished product, you need to take such speculation with a degree of scepticism.