The case for and against removing the iPad 3 Home button

The case for and against removing the iPad 3 Home button

Summary: Do you think Apple will phase out the iconic Home button?

TOPICS: iPad, Apple, Mobility

Remember the press invitation Apple sent out for the upcoming March 7 media event?

It showed what appeared to be an iPad-like device featuring a retina display screen, but no physical Home button. Could Apple be getting ready to do away with that physical Home button on its iDevices? I'm going to try to make the case both for and against the removal of this physical button.

First, a reminder of the image Apple sent out:

Image credit: Apple

The case for removing the physical Home button on the iPad 3

I can come up with a number of good reasons why Apple should eliminate the physical Home button on the iPad 3:
  • A minimalist design becomes even more minimalist, giving the iPad 3 a more monolithic look and feel.
  • Removing the physical button would save space inside the device; though not such a big deal on the iPad, but it would certainly help on the iPhone.
  • A touch sensor based Home button could be customized far more than a physical button can be.
  • Removing the physical button could allow the iPad to be used in any orientation (the only feature that would dictate the ‘top' would be the camera).
  • The physical button is both a failure point, and by replacing it with a component that has no moving parts would result in a more reliable iPad.

The case against removing the physical Home button on the iPad 3

I can also come up with quite a number of good reasons why Apple should keep the physical Home button on the iPad 3:
  • It's possible to make a design too minimalist by removing features that aid usability.
  • The Home button is an iconic feature of the iPhone and iPad.
  • That Home button is handy for orienting the iPad when picking it up.
  • A physical button offers an easier target for users than a touch sensitive patch on the screen.
  • It's harder to accidentally press a physical button by than a touch sensor.
  • A physical button offers tactile feedback when it's used, giving it a positive feel.
  • I've had the touchscreen freeze on my iPad many times. How would I reboot the device without a physical button?

So, will Apple remove the physical Home button?

I've got to be honest and say I don't know. Before seeing that press invite photo I would have said no, but then a picture really is worth a thousand words. That said, photos are regularly doctored and cleaned up, so you can't take any photo you see on face value.

Maybe the Home button didn't look right in the original shot and someone airbrushed it out? Or maybe someone at Apple is just playing with us and removed the button to stir up the tech media? Another possibility - a long shot, but we should still consider it - is that the image isn't of an iPad 3 but instead of some other as yet unknown device, like a new Apple TV perhaps.

That seems like a long shot to me though.

What do you think?

[poll id="758"]


Topics: iPad, Apple, Mobility

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  • Probably not....

    Even if they don't it's still going to sell more than iPad and iPad 2 combined...if they remove it great, they can increase the real estate the screen covers then.
  • Yes

    They're all about ripping off those Android Tablet Features like the unified notification bar.
  • Simple possibility missed.

    One possibility that this post left out as to why there is no home button is that the device in the photo is in landscape mode and the home button is off the screen to the left.
  • Where's the "who gives a crap" choice

    When someone figures out an use for an iPad, I'll start caring about what they do to the button.
    x I'm tc
    • The obvious use is clear

      To torment you. Other than that, it's a mobile device and therefore inherently evil.
    • You do

      or you wouldn't keep reading and commenting on these blogs.
    • Typical Adrian

      AHK's blog have become so worthless and devoid of any usefulness than now he resorts to blog about crap like "W8 sucks because I cannot find the shutdown option easily", or "will the iPad have a home button", or "I hate Android because Google doesn't pay me to blog"
  • I doubt it

    How many times has Apple really changed their hardware designs?
    Michael Alan Goff
  • Elsewhere on the web

    People are commenting on the size of the icon vs. the finger (in the picture). My pinkie finger is barely contained within the confines of the current iPad icons. If the hand in picture is similar to mine in size, then the icon has about four times the area of a standard iPad icon.
  • Orientation

    The reason the home button is not seen could simply be that the device is oriented with the home button at the top... The home button would have been visually distracting in this shot (and the photographer probably had to press the home button to get the device 'lit up' which would have left a finger print on / near the button) so the device was oriented home-button-up.

    This doesn't prove the device still has a home button of course. But sometimes, the simplest explanation deserves at least passing consideration.
  • Orientation or CHANGE

    I agree with z2217 just because you don't see it doesn't mean it is removed. Apple may have moved the button to the top or on the side. Apple has moved buttons around before. Apple IIc keyboard vs Apple IIe keyboard.
  • No button is needed

    I think you must have forgotten that the home button was made obsolete with the multitasking gestures added in IOS 5. You can now pinch to the home screen and swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar. This button is simply not needed. So, why not save the expense of the button and the associated circuitry to utilize it. And it also makes a lot of sense to remove the one major point of failure on the device. I do recall reading about the iPhone button being failure prone.
    • because software fails constantly

      because software fails constantly. I have seen cases when that doesn't work.
  • iOS freezes a lot.

    iOS crashes a lot or goes in stupid more, if it wasn't for the home button I would be screwed. If a program freezes, what can I do to get out of the program. And why the hell would I want to give up some screen space for constant buttons? Android does this on some buttons.

    Also I take a lot of screen shots, so thew power button and home button are useful.

    Also removing the home button would take something unique away from iOS, and it would be copying Android and RIM. But we all know how Apple likes to steel others ideas then call its own ;)

    If anything iOS devices needs a picture button, so I can take a snapshot quick. Better yet an button to launch the gps while driving !
  • Why isn't the Apple on the home button?

    Seems like a great idea to a short back and forth email conversation with Steve Jobs, I asked him about this. He never responded to that query although he was quite friendly otherwise.
    Travis P Dungan
  • The pic is misleading

    Perhaps the iPad in the picture is turned on it's side so the home button is on the left or right side of device depending on the orientation. Landscape as opposed to portrait view.

    Personally I do not think Apple will ditch the home button because it is too integral of a part to be replaced by a touch sensor - for instance a simultaneous and consistent press of that home button and the power button is required to reboot the device AFAIK (It's that way on the iPhone and I see no logical reason why it would be different on an iPad) if needed.
  • Can't get rid of physical butons on any device period...

    Ipads need physical buttons. How will you reset a frozen iphone or ipad if there are no physical buttons to press and hold? How would you root an android device with out buttons. You can't. Gorilla glass body to give ipad 3 ruggedness it's younger siblings did not have. Possibly water proof coating. 2MP cameras for better facetime video quality. I am sceptical of retina display but apple may bump up res to 1600x1200 which is prety high for a 10" screen.
  • No but they should.

    No but they should.

    It looks ridiculous in landscape mode and becomes very unintuitive too. Replace it with touch sensors, as they should have originally. There could be a circular colour around it.

    Incidentally this would be further copying of the Android brand, Google did this over a year ago.

    p.s - Just because the button is used to reboot a crashed iPad today it doesn't mean it has to be that way. Hell they could programme it so the volume button reboots it if they wanted to.
  • Minus the button: Choose another one to hold down while it resets

    Easy. It needs to stay, unless now you SIRI it and tell it to reset itself.

    If the screen freezes WTF can you do? Can you take the battery out? No, I can't touch that... or you need to refresh the system [after an up or downgrade].

    It needs to stay!