Apple patent hints at Force Touch volume rocker on a future iPhone

It looks like Apple is continuing to wage its war on physical buttons. The company has already removed function keys from the keyboard on the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, as well as eliminated the Home button from the iPhone. Now, it could be the volume rocker’s turn — Apple has filed a patent for a touch-sensitive rocker switch that could ultimately find its way to the iPhone and perhaps even the Apple Watch.

The patent itself is a continuation of a patent that was filed in 2016, and highlights the use of multiple force sensors and a capacitive sensing surface in place of a rocker switch like the volume rocker on an iPhone. This could make for a much more aesthetically pleasing look for the iPhone, while limiting the number of physical, breakable buttons on the device.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has used its Force Touch tech. Not only do laptops employ the tech in the touchpad, but current iPhones also use it under the display as a way to interact with some aspects of the software. On the iPhone, the tech is called 3D Touch. Ultimately, the tech could be more appropriate on the Apple Watch. Apple is increasingly working on making the Apple Watch more of a fitness tracker, which means it will need to make it more rugged too. Currently, the device has a Digital Crown and a button on the side — but if those physical controls could be replaced with a Force Touch button, it could make the device a little less likely to break or suffer water damage. The images in the patent show both iPhones and Apple Watches.

Of course, this particular patent relates specifically to rocker switches, like the volume rocker on the iPhone. If Apple does end up using Force Touch controls on the iPhone instead of the volume rocker, the device could look a little sleeker and minimalist.

Ultimately, this just a patent — so it’s entirely possible that the tech will never end up being used in volume rockers. Apple routinely files patents for tech it doesn’t end up using.

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