If you’ve just bought an iPhone 7, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the Home Button feels a little different. The iPhone 7’s Home Button isn’t like any that have come before: it isn’t even a real button.
The Problem With the Old Home Button
The Home Button was always one of the iPhone’s weak points. As long as you didn’t drop your phone and smash the screen, it was often the first component to fail. You could work around the problem, but it was hardly an ideal solution.
The Home Button also caused another problem: it was a way for water to get into your phone. That’s not great when the mortal enemy of all technology is water, or even worse, coffee.
What’s Changed With the New Home Button
For the iPhone 7, Apple has replaced the actual Home Button with a circular touch and force sensitive area with a built-in fingerprint scanner. It looks identical to the Home Buttons that came before it, but feels completely different.
The new Home Button no longer physically moves. When you tap it, you’re actually just touching it. But thanks to the Taptic Engine, it feels like it depresses. It’s weird and hard to explain, but the sensation is uncanny. The Taptic Engine is literally vibrating the phone in a way that makes it feel similar to the old button. It’s easy to forget that anything has changed.
This, however, is only true when you tap the button with the conductive part of your finger. If you press the Home Button with something that won’t register as a touch, such as your fingernail, nothing happens. This was especially difficult for me to get used to because I used to use my fingernail to turn on the screen without unlocking my phone. It’s the same if your battery is dead or the phone’s powered off; tapping the home button does nothing.
While the new sensation takes a little getting used to, it does have a couple of advantages. First, the Home Button is now a lot harder to break. There’re no moving parts to fail. The days of having to use an on-screen Home Button are numbered.
Second, the iPhone 7 is now water-resistant; it has an IP67 rating. This means it’s completely sealed to dust (hello, Burning Man!) and can survive up to 30 minutes at a water depth of 1 meter. In theory, it could possibly survive far longer or in deeper water, it just hasn’t been tested for it.
Love or hate the feel of the new Home Button, it’s here to stay (at least until Apple does away with the Home Button entirely). It might not have the same satisfying mechanical click of the button on an older iPhone, but the extra durability and waterproofing make up for it.