A new report from Bloomberg provides an in-depth look at the user interface changes that will likely accompany the buttonless “iPhone 8” expected to make its debut next month. With Apple expected to eliminate the concept of a home button entirely and effectively turn its flagship iPhone into one big screen, many of the classic iPhone user interactions will have to change along with it. The iconic home button has been a key component of the iPhone’s design since it launched in 2007, providing a single an intuitive control that users can click to return to their home screen. While later iOS updates added more functions to the home button accessed via press-and-hold and double and triple-click gestures, the main function of the button has remained the same for the past decade.
However, recent reports suggest that Apple’s newest high-end iPhone will retire the home button, not merely replacing the physical home button with a digital version, but phasing out the very idea of a home button in favour of new gesture controls. Sources indicate that a thin, software bar will appear across the bottom of the screen in lieu of the home button, which users can drag up to the middle of the screen to open the phone. A similar gesture can be used inside of an app to start multitasking, and users can continue to flick upwards to close the app and return to the home screen. The multitasking interface has also reportedly been redesign to appear as a series of standalone cards that can be swiped through, as opposed to the stack layout used on current iPhones.
Bloomberg News also claims to have seen images of the new flagship iPhone, reporting a design that will be similar in size to that of the iPhone 7, but featuring an OLED screen that is slightly larger than the one found on the iPhone 7 Plus, according to people familiar with the product. The new iPhone is expected to have a taller screen with rounded corners and a cutout at the top of the display for the camera and sensors, and new antenna locations. Symmetrical, slim bezels will be used around the entirety of the screen, with the area below the screen that used to house the home button and the area above the screen for the earpiece having been removed. The earpiece, FaceTime camera, and new facial recognition sensors will be contained in a cutout of “notch” at the top of the screen. Sources also indicate that the screen is taller than the iPhone 7 Plus screen, meaning it could show more of a web page, or additional text messages; however the new screen will still only show six vertical rows of apps, plus the dock.
The sensor notch area at the top of the screen is also apparently not hidden, meaning that a definitive cutout will be visible at the top of app with non-black backgrounds, noticeable during app usage in the middle of the very top of the screen where the status bar would normally be placed; the status bar will now reportedly be split into left and right sides, with the left side showing the time and the right side showing cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity and remaining battery life, although sources familiar with the testing suggest that the status bar could change based on the task at hand. Due to the OLED screen’s colour reproduction, however, when the display is black the sensor notch will blend in “nearly perfectly” with the iPhone display, presenting a seamless look. Sources also note that, contrary to rumours of a curved OLED screen, the new screen will be flat like prior iPhone models.