Did you see this war coming from afar? Did you notice the battles for space on our ever increasingly smaller electronic gadgets? Yes, Apple is conducting a war against buttons and switches on iPhone and iPad.
Wars are won after numerous battles against enemy forces, and one by one, Apple has won battles and set the stage to win the war on space with a device that may not have any physical buttons or switches at all. Crazy? No. We’re getting there, thanks to iPhone X.
TrueDepth True Dat
The basics should be obvious. Switches and connectors take up space, valuable space; space which could be used for additional sensors, memory, storage, battery, or functionality we don’t even know about. Yet. The headphone jack on the iPhone? It’s gone. What’s left is the Lightning connector which serves many functions from power to file transfers to headphones. A scratch of the surface shows us the world is going wireless. Wireless connectivity. Wireless charging (not really wireless, but connector free so you get the idea).
The headphone jack is gone. The Home button is gone on iPhone X. What’s next? What’s left? There’s the Mute switch on the left, audio Up and Down on the left, and the Power button on the right. For now, the Lightning connector on the bottom remains. Microphones and speakers are built into the frame. What’s left?
The Notch is the secret to the future of Apple devices without physical buttons, switches, or connectors.
Built into the Notch are a variety of sensors and functions that we take for granted. The microphone? It’s in there. The front facing Selfie camera? In the Notch. Speaker? You can’t see it but it’s there. So is the Infrared Camera, Dot Projector, Flood Illuminator– all needed for Face ID. Notch also holds the ambient light sensor and proximity sensor.
Can the capabilities built into Face ID allow Apple to remove other physical buttons? Yes.
Hey Siri. Turn on Mute.
See? No need for a physical Mute button. What else?
Hey Siri. Turn the volume Down (or, Up, or Off, or On).
See? Two more physical buttons are gone by using technology already built-in to iPhone. There are issues, of course. Using a physical Mute button is less distracting than telling Siri to turn down the volume, but the new Control Center does the same thing with no sound involved.
Technically speaking, the Lightning connector isn’t a button but it does take up valuable space inside the iPhone; both structurally and electronically. In a rapid wireless charging world with rapid wireless file transfers could we get by without a Lightning connector?
The power button. Even here Apple could rid the iPhone and iPad of another button and do so with relative ease; especially more so once wireless charging has become ubiquitous. First, the iPhone could be powered off by Siri or a software button on the screen (as we do already). But that would not power the device completely off. Specific sensors in the Notch could be used to listen continually for a command to Turn On iPhone and iPad. Hey Siri works that way now.
What happens when this futuristic iPhone without physical buttons and switches runs out of power entirely. How do you turn it on? The same way we turn it on now when it runs out of juice. Attach it to a Lightning connector? Almost. Instead, drop the device onto a wireless charger, which would activate a sensor, which, within a few minutes, power up the device.
Apple’s methodology is to slow walk new features but this is a walk where we can see forward to what’s coming to iPhone and iPad. No buttons or switches. What’s the benefit? Manufacturing and component costs drop, of course. Physical buttons are mechanical in nature and likely to break more frequently. That results in lower repair costs and support problems. Fewer buttons and switches also mean better waterproofing scores.
The battle against physical buttons and switches is ongoing and we’re likely to see fewer of each within a couple of years.