Latest Apple patent suggests big plans for the iPhone's home button

iPhone 6S hands on
Jeff Van Camp/Digital Trends
The iPhone’s home button has evolved greatly over the years. From a simple way to wake the phone or return to the home screen, it can now read your fingerprint through Touch ID. Now it appears that Apple has even bigger plans for the home button, which could bring the coolest functionality yet.

A new patent discovered by Apple Insider called, “Force-sensitive fingerprint sensing input,” would bring 3D touch-like capabilities to the home button.

The patent is long and complicated, but in a nutshell, Apple proposes inserting two electrodes, each consisting of tines or plates, under the home button. These electrodes can measure the force applied to the button based on the interlacing of the electrodes. In the illustrations below, 140 is the resistive element, while 150a and 150b are the electrodes.


This would be very similar to 3D Touch, which is available on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. 3D Touch gives you more control by sensing if you’re giving the display a lighter or harder touch. For example, a light touch could let you see some of the content of an email, which can be followed up with a harder touch to open the email. At present, 3D Touch is only available on the display of the phone, not on the home button.

Adding pressure sensitivity to the home button might not seem like a major change at first, but Apple has some interesting plans. One example presented in the document is the ability to have different responses for soft and hard touches. For example, when waking your phone, a soft touch might bring you to the home screen, while a harder touch might open directly to a particular application.

The second example is even cooler. Different effects could be presented based on the analog measure of the applied force. This means the home button could act like a dial or wheel, or even a joystick. This could make for some pretty amazing interaction with games.

It also needs to be noted that Apple might utilize this patent beyond the home button of the iPhone or iPad. The document specifically says that this technology could be incorporated into a number of input devices and elements. Such other devices could be the keys of a keyboard, a mouse surface, track pad, joystick, stylus, and more.

Of course, some patents never come to fruition, so we have no idea if Apple will ever implement this technology. However, we are hopeful that our favorite Cupertino company will show off this cool new tech very soon.

Smart Home

The C By GE Smart LED Bulbs Work Seamlessly With Google Home

The Smart Light Starter Kit contains a smart lightbulb and a Google Home Mini. For those seeking to try out smart lights in their home, it's a great option and is currently on sale for just $35 through Google.

Amazon slashes price of 2018 iPad to under $250 in time for Christmas

Whether you love Apple or prefer Android, this 2018 iPad 32GB tablet deal is rather tempting. If you're still on the hunt for gifts, then this deep discount from Amazon makes now an excellent time to pick one up.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.

Apple iPad Pro 11 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: Which top-tier tablet reigns supreme?

If you're in the market for a new tablet and you want something that can double up as a laptop in a pinch, then you owe it to yourself to check out the 11-inch Apple iPad Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. We compare the two here.

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.

Apple is spending $1 billion to hire up to 15,000 new employees in Austin

Apple has announced a series of expansions across the U.S. -- including a massive expansion to the company's Austin campus that will see it spending $1 billion to accommodate for up to 15,000 new employees.

Google Maps makes it easier than ever to find a Lime bike or scooter

Google Maps has added a new feature that helps you find a Lime bike or scooter in just a few taps. The feature currently works in 11 U.S. cities served by Lime, with more coming next year.

Quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed

Looking for a few accoutrements to make your smartphone even better? If you, or someone you know, is a sucker for accessories, you'll want to check out our collection of quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed.

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.