The iconic home button has been a mainstay of Apple design ever since the first iPhone debuted in 2007. Even the buttons on the elevators at Apple Park are said to resemble it. The button's tactile circularity promises an escape route to familiarity should users get lost or apps go wrong. However, its delicate components converge upon a recess in the phone's bezel, an area that could otherwise provide extra space to fit a larger display within the same handset profile.

Rumors that the "iPhone 8" will replace the home button as we know it with an entirely virtual one can be traced back to April 2016. More recently, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple will introduce a functionally distinct area below the screen exclusively for displaying virtual buttons, with a rumor over the weekend seeming to suggest that such a "function bar" is the reason behind conflicting reports over the display size of an upcoming OLED iPhone.

kuoiphone8size
Before the "function bar" rumor first surfaced, MacRumors forum member deuxani shared concept images, reproduced below, that offer some context for imagining how the bar might work.

Framed within a 4.7-inch handset with minimal bezels, the virtual home button sits below the dock on the home screen in a separate dynamic space. Assuming Kuo's claims that the 5.8-inch OLED display includes a function bar, the remaining 5.15-inch primary display area allows existing apps to run fullscreen in their existing 16:9 aspect ratio.

iphone function bar 2 e1488718350803
In the above example, only the home button is shown in the function area, but Apple could theoretically move the dock down with it, or add options for additional virtual icons like Bluetooth, App Switcher, Camera, or Siri. The shot on the right shows how the adoption of OLED screen technology might also enable the home button and indeed other screen elements to remain visible when the rest of the display is turned off.

As with the Touch Bar on the 2016 MacBook Pro, native apps could be augmented with contextually adaptive virtual buttons, while third-party developers could code for additional UI elements alongside the home button, or bring frequently accessed functions into closer proximity with the user's thumb, as these concept designs for Instagram and Twitter envision.

iphone function bar e1488718289772
Other possibilities for virtual buttons could potentially include: Moving the back button from the top-left of the status bar to the bottom-left of the screen, alongside the home button; a scrollable strip to access additional buttons; media playback and video scrubbing controls; in-app navigation buttons; or perhaps additional space for game controls.

"Soft" buttons on a smartphone are nothing new, but a "function area" on an iPhone could offer more flexibility by taking cues from the MacBook Pro's OLED Touch Bar. Patents show Apple has explored extending Touch Bar functionality to other devices, while Jony Ive has said the interface is "just the beginning of a very interesting direction" for the company. However, adapting the technology for an iPhone display likely presents distinct challenges, such as how to integrate the various functions the home button has inherited over the years (Siri, Reachability, exit Lock Screen, and so on), and how to avoid the presence of "dead space" where the Touch ID sensor would usually be located.

iphone8conceptthadeubrandao

iPhone 8 concept by Thadeu Brandão

Indeed, ultimately the fate of a home button and "function bar" on an OLED iPhone may rest on Apple's ability to integrate fingerprint recognition technology into the display itself. A report earlier this week suggests Apple has solved this problem, but questions still remain. Will the display have a recess for Touch ID? Will new fingerprint recognition technology function across a larger screen area? And what other bio-recognition features might Apple include that could help solve the authentication issue? Facial recognition, iris scanning, and ultrasound methods have all been proposed.

Rumors conflict over whether Apple will ramp up production earlier than usual for this year's OLED iPhone, but we may see part leaks that shed light on the design fairly soon. Other rumored features for the "10th anniversary edition" device include an edge-to-edge display, a glass body, some form of wireless charging, and extended battery life. The "iPhone 8" is expected to launch this September, alongside two more traditional "S" cycle iPhones with LCD displays.

Top Rated Comments

adamneer Avatar
60 months ago
The iPhone already has a function bar. Its called the display.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jack Delgado Avatar
60 months ago
Let's not forget the Apple Remote UI...

Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rainshadow Avatar
60 months ago
As with many new concepts, it will come down to how Apple implements it. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I think there is potential here.

One of my favorite things about iPhone 7 is the non-mechanical home button. I've let friends use my phone as guinea pigs and not one of them have noticed that it was not a button until I tell them.

And no, they aren't idiots.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
subjonas Avatar
60 months ago
One of the main reasons I moved away from Android to iPhone many years ago was that I was fed up with always accidentally hitting the soft buttons on the bezel, and always having to look down at the bezel to press home. Jumping onto the iPhone with its one physical home button was like... coming home. Simple design at its absolute best. Apple, please don't sacrifice something classic and great for something new and kinda cool.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avieshek Avatar
60 months ago
Wish 17" MacBook Pro could be offered in a 15" form factor similarly. I don't understand, a MacBook is rather a display without a touchscreen making it easier than an iPhone 8 with integrated fingerprint scanner as well to have zero bezels.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
odedia Avatar
60 months ago
So it's basically a touch bar for the iPhone. Makes sense given how apple likes to use the same concepts across their products.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple california streaming event

Apple Event Announced: 'California Streaming' on September 14 With iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7 Expected

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple today announced that it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. The event will take place at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with WWDC and last year's fall events, this new event will be held digitally with no members of the media invited to attend in person. Apple will likely provide pre-taped segments for...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived in October 2020 in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone...
it home ecommerce app iphone 13

iPhone 13 to Launch on September 17, AirPods 3 on September 30, Claims Report

Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:42 am PDT by
Apple may be planning to launch the iPhone 13 on Friday, September 17 and third-generation AirPods on Thursday, September 30, according to an image of an e-commerce app discovered by Chinese language site IT Home. The screenshot, originally posted by Weibo account @PandaIsBald, suggests all four iPhone 13 models will go on sale on September 17, followed by the AirPods 3 on September 30....
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
maroon5memories

Apple Collaborates With Maroon 5 to Add 'Memories' Song to Photos App

Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:02 pm PDT by
Apple has teamed up with Maroon 5 to add the group's new song "Memories" to the Memories feature in the Photos app, allowing it to be used for photo slide show creations, reports Billboard. "Memories" will be available as a soundtrack option for a limited time and it is available to iPhone and iPad users running the latest iOS 13 and iPadOS software. Memories in the Photos app are created ...
ulysses Blog Publishing

Ulysses 22 Brings New Blogging Options and Visual Customizations

Monday March 22, 2021 5:24 am PDT by
Popular writing app Ulysses today received its 22nd major release, introducing new publishing features and additional options for users to customize the visual appearance of their writing environment. As well as providing a focused writing environment, Ulysses offers ways to publish texts from within the app to various blogging platforms. Version 22 adds the ability to publish to Micro.blog, ...
affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...