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Why New Phones Don't Have Home Buttons

Why New Phones Don't Have Home Buttons - The average person spends more than 3 hours a day looking at their phone. Might not sound like a lot, but that’s more than a month and a half out of every year! With all that time spent staring at it, you might’ve noticed your new phone is missing a button or two?

It’s not your imagination – the home button is disappearing, and it might not be the only one! Smartphones have been shedding buttons for years, so it's no big surprise that companies like HTC and Samsung are trying to do without. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the BlackBerry Electron, the first smartphone to take off in a big way.

Tremble before it's full keyboard and dedicated call and hang up buttons! Since the screen was so small, it couldn’t show every function at once. Using the BlackBerry meant sorting through menus to find what you need. Instead of a touchscreen, many of the models used arrow keys or a tiny trackball.

While it hasn't aged well, the BlackBerry was cutting edge for its time. Early Android phones were similar-looking. The specifics varied, but most featured dedicated home,back, menu, call, and hang-up buttons just like the BlackBerry. All that changed in 2007 when Apple released the iPhone.

Why New Phones Don't Have Home Buttons

As hard as it is to believe now,not many people took the iPhone seriously at first. Even Apple’s founder Steve Jobs wasn't 100% on board with their new product. Still, it was only a matter of time before people realized the iPhone’s strengths. Getting rid of the keyboard allowed the screen to more than double in size. 

This was handy because it meant that your favorite apps were never more than a click away. The main buttons stuck around for a few years, but their days were numbered. It didn’t take long for the call and end-call buttons to disappear. Still, the mostly useless direction buttons managed to survive for several more years. 

Since menus weren't as important as they used to be, there wasn't as much of a need for a dedicated back or menu button either. They still served a purpose, but it wasn't anything that couldn’t be done using the touchscreen. Sure, getting rid of 2 or 3 buttons isn’t going to free up that much space,but every little bit helps.

This only leaves the home button, and its future isn't looking too bright either. A lot of people still like the home button. In fact, it used to be one of the reasons many customers preferred Apple to Android. Unfortunately for button fans, companies can't resist that extra half-inch of space.

Removing the home key also makes the phone’s surface smoother, giving it a sleeker, more seamless look. Some manufacturers will tell you that doing away with buttons is also a practical decision, and they don’t plan to stop with ditching the home key.  If they get their way, the power and volume buttons might be next! HTC’s U12 replaces its buttons with touch sensors, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 got rid of the power button completely. 

You can still change the settings so that the voice assistant button works as the power button, but that stops you from using the voice assistant. The argument goes that since fewer buttons mean fewer moving parts, there aren’t as many pieces that can randomly break from wear and tear. 

Unfortunately for HTC, there's noreal evidence to back this up. There’s also the fact that some customers found their buttonless “buttons” difficult to use. And we still haven't talked about the biggest problem with button-free phones. Most people simply don't like them. 

Without physical feedback, it can be hard to tell if you pushed a button right. Not to mention that there's just something satisfying about the click of a real-life button. This is what people are talking about when they use the phrase “haptic feedback”. Many devices vibrate to simulate the effect of pressing a real button, but it’s just not the same thing.

That’s why more than a few people think buttonless phones are just a fad, but I want to hear your opinion. Are flat surfaces the way of the future, or is the home button what makes it feel like home? Sound off down in the comments! If it is just a passing trend, it wouldn’t be the first one that didn’t quite work as intended. 

For example, look at the Sony Experia, which comes with a slide-out game controller. The Experia isn’t necessarily a bad phone, but how many people were asking for one that was also a PSP? Customers were promised a phone that could double as a portable gaming console.  That might’ve been a good idea in theory, but very few game developers believed in Sony’s new product. 

It’s a pretty big problem if you’re trying to sell a phone for gaming, but no one is interested in making games for it! Sony isn’t the only company to struggle with a new idea. Take a look at Samsung’s Smart Scroll, Air View, and Galaxy Beam. They all looked great in the ads and would’ve been fantastic had they worked as intended. But that just wasn’t the case…

Smart Scroll was a feature included in the Samsung Galaxy X 4 that allowed your phone to scroll up and down automatically. It worked by using the phone's face camera to track the movement of your head. That was the idea, but it went to market before the engineers were able to iron out all the kinks. 

You sometimes had to move your head really far to get it working. Too many customers lost patience with what they thought was an unnecessary feature. Some people felt the same way about the Air View. This was the feature that allowed Samsung users to preview notifications without having to touch the screen. 

You did this by hovering your finger over the app in question. Air View was usually alright at figuring out what you were pointing at, but it only worked with a handful of apps. As with the Sony Experia, developers wanted nothing to do with it. The Air View feature still lurks in the settings menu of many Samsung phones. 

But the company has stopped actively promoting it, so many people don’t realize it’s even still there. As for the Galaxy Beam? Samsung’s Galaxy Beam and Beam 2 were the only phones that came with a built-in projector. Now, even I can admit that's kind of cool. It cost more than other Samsung phones at the time but still might’ve been successful if not fora few issues with the projector itself. 

The main problem was that it drained the battery too quickly, which discouraged people from using the Beam’s signature feature. Motorola tried something similar with one of their Moto Mod phone attachments. It had most of the same problems as Samsung’s, but the fact that it was an optional attachment helped to soften the blow.

Now, I have to mention the brand that got the ball rolling: the BlackBerry Storm. It was BlackBerry's first touch screen phone, and the company knew they needed something big to stand out from the crowd. How were they going to make it click with consumers? By making it click! The screen featured a system called SurePress that was designed to mimic the sound and feel of a physical keyboard.

BlackBerry was on the right track with this idea. Remember that term I used earlier, haptic feedback? People really like it when devices give them a physical response. Part of what made the original Play Station popular was that it was the first console to include a vibrating controller as part of the standard package. 

In theory, the same idea should apply to typing on a phone. Unfortunately, BlackBerry might’ve flown a little too close to the sun when they tried to simulate the exact feeling of a keyboard. Their SurePress mostly accomplished what it had set out to do, but it came with the side effect of slowing down people’s typing.

On its own, this might not have been too big a deal. The real problem was that it used time and money that could’ve otherwise been spent fixing the issues with the Storm’s performance. A realistic keyboard is nice to have, but not if it gets in the way of a phone being a phone.

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