Apple may be planning to introduce a Force Touch home button on the iPhone 7, according to analysts at Cowen and Company (via Business Insider). Citing supply chain "field checks," Cowen and Company predicts the iPhone 7 will do away with a physical home button, instead adopting a home button that sits flush with the phone.
Apple's Force Touch technology will reportedly be built into the home button to provide haptic feedback when pressed, much like the Force Touch trackpad on Apple's most recent MacBooks. With haptic feedback, iPhone users would still feel the sensation of pressing on the home button even without a button to actually depress.
Cowen and Company has a mixed track record, but it's worth noting that we've heard two other rumors about a redesigned home button on the iPhone 7. In April, DigiTimes said Apple was testing a touch-sensitive home button that fits flush with the phone, and a highly sketchy image of what was said to be an iPhone 7 with a touch-sensitive home button surfaced in mid-June.
Given the unreliability of each of the home button rumors, the information should be viewed with some skepticism until confirmed by a more reliable source, but when viewed alongside rumors of improved waterproofing and the removal of the headphone jack, a flush home button is not a rumor that seems entirely out of the question.
For several months, we've heard mixed rumors about the possibility of better water resistance in the iPhone 7, but it appears to be shaping up to be a potential feature. Last week, The Wall Street Journal, often a reliable source, lent credence to the rumor by suggesting the elimination of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 will improve its water resistance.
At the same time, The Wall Street Journal has said the iPhone 7 will feature only "subtle changes," a sentiment echoed by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said the iPhone 7 will be a modest update without "many attractive selling points." A revamped home button seems like more than a minor change, so we'll need to wait for additional information to resolve some of the conflicting information we're hearing about Apple's next-generation iPhones.
If the physical home button is replaced with a Force Touch home button in the iPhone 7, it will bring Apple one step closer to eliminating the home button all together, something that is rumored for the iPhone 8, coming in 2017. Apple is said to be planning on introducing an edge-to-edge display with built-in Touch ID functionality and no home button.