There have been long-standing rumors that Apple is moving toward a Home button embedded in the display of future iPhones, enabling the screen to fill almost the entire front of the device. More recent reports from Bloomberg and the WSJ have specifically suggested that the company will make this move in 2017.
The New York Times is now corroborating these reports with a small paragraph tucked away near the end of its iPhone 7 review …
Apple is likely to continue making iPhones without headphone jacks, and next year’s iPhone will have a full-screen face with the virtual button built directly into the screen, according to two people at the company who spoke on condition of anonymity because the product details are private.
It’s believed that the touch-sensitive Home button used in the iPhone 7 is a stepping-stone toward a version that can be embedded in the display itself. While this interim version has come in for some flack, reviewers stating that the taptic motor doesn’t convincingly replicate a click, it’s likely most would consider that a price worth paying to lose the bottom bezel.
An embedded Home button would also need to incorporate Touch ID, but Apple has already applied for a patent which would allow it to achieve this via ultrasonic imaging – something that should be even more reliable than the existing sensor.
An embedded button wouldn’t be the only change needed to lose the bezels altogether, of course: the top one houses both the front-facing camera and the speaker. There has been far more speculative discussion of possible approaches here, but there has been no indication of firm plans by Apple.
One other display change that seems to be on the cards for next year’s iPhone is a switch to Apple Watch-style OLED displays, which provide deeper blacks and greater power-efficiency, though there have been conflicting reports about whether these will make it to both models.
While the limited external design changes to this year’s iPhone have led to speculation that Apple may be moving to a three-year refresh cycle, others are suggesting that Apple may simply be wanting to make a real splash with a 10th anniversary iPhone next year.