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Unique All-New Design Promised In New Report

When Apple releases its next iPhones, the iPhone 16 series, it could have a different design, with physical buttons replaced by capacitive ones, a new report has said.

April 24 update below. This post was first published on April 22, 2024.

The claim comes from the Economic Daily News, and it could make for in iPhone that’s subtly unlike any models that have come before. Instead of power and volume buttons that move in and out as you touch them, as now, there would be capacitive buttons which sense pressure and respond with haptic feedback. That feedback makes the button feel like it’s moving when it’s not.

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Apple has form here: later versions of the Touch ID home button on the iPhone used capacitive buttons—the iPhone SE still does. It really feels like the button is responding to a press by moving, but as is proved by pressing when the iPhone is turned off, it’s actually fixed in position.

The result is a phone with fewer moving parts. But Apple has never done this with a power button on the iPhone before. The report says the capacitive elements will be on both sides of the phone, with volume switches on one side, presumably with the Action button as well. The other side of the iPhone currently only has one button, the Side Button, which is used to turn the phone on and off.

Could Apple make this a capacitive element or would it save this feature for the predicted new Capture button? I’m puzzled as to how the power button could become a capacitive type, but I am excited by the possibility.

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The report is emphatic that the change will “cancel the physical volume buttons and power buttons on both sides of the fuselage and replace them with capacitive touch buttons,” and that it will lead to “the goal of the physical button disappearing on the iPhone’s external body.”

The report also says something which casts doubt on one thing: are the capacitive button components really for the iPhone 16 series? It says, “it is expected to enter the release stage of volume shipment in the third quarter.”

That, of course, is the quarter that starts on July 1, and seems preposterously late for Apple’s needs, given that the iPhone is expected to launch in September. If this part of the rumor is accurate, it seems more likely that the buttons are being readied for the iPhone 17 series, not iPhone 16.

It’s worth adding that most other iPhone 16 leaks have pointed to mechanical buttons, so, again, it could be accurate on component detail but not the year. Stay tuned.

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April 24 update. Another big change is coming to the iPhone this year, it seems, and we’ll know about it in just a few weeks’ time. That’s because it’s going to be built into the software that Apple will announce at WWDC on June 10.

We think that AI is going to play a part in the new software that’s announced. But it now looks like Apple will introduce a different kind of AI from rival companies. Apple always has privacy front-and-center, and a few months ago, CEO Tim Cook told me the company would never change from this, saying, “We think privacy is more important today than it was ten years ago. It’s one of the most profound issues of the century. We’re not backing off.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that Apple’s generative AI is likely going to be deployed on the iPhone, not in the cloud. As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said in his latest Power On newsletter, “All indications suggest that it will be entirely on-device. That means the technology is powered by the processor inside the iPhone, rather than in the cloud.”

This might not be as powerful but, as Gurman says, “the approach will make response times far quicker. And it will be easier for Apple to maintain privacy.”

We’ll know the full details in less than two months.



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