With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple replaced the traditional click-mechanism home button with a pressure-sensitive one that uses haptic feedback to mimic the clicks. The new home button has no moving parts, and it made the devices more waterproof. The Taptic Engine that powers the new home button is so deeply integrated with the iOS 10 that the operating system offers you a temporary workaround when it senses that the home button is malfunctioning.
When the diagnostic software in iOS 10 detects something is not right, it will inform you that your device needs to be serviced. But you can keep using your iPhone, thanks to an alternative onscreen home button, while you wait for a Genius Bar appointment. Apple wants you to be able to keep using the device even when the haptic sensor system in the home button breaks completely.
MacRumors forum member iwayne shared a picture of his iPhone 7 display after the haptic engine started misfiring. The phone unexpectedly turned itself off while charging. Upon restart, a dialog prompt warned that the home button needed to be serviced. An onscreen home button appeared for temporary use until iwayne turned the device in to Apple for servicing.
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It’s unclear whether the new home button’s failure rate is lower than the physical home button. The on-screen home button is a welcome feature for people with defective handsets. It may help increase customer satisfaction in the long-run. It also indicates what Apple has in store for the future. The 2017 iPhone 8 is said to ditch the home button entirely. It is rumored to have the home functionality and fingerprint sensor embedded in the display itself.
It’s worth pointing out that the new pressure-sensitive home button in iPhone 7 and 7 Plus does not work without skin contact. It means you cannot use the iPhone 7 if you are wearing touch-screen compatible gloves because the iOS 10 doesn’t let users move past the lock screen without using the home button.
Fortunately, there is a way around it. You can use your chin, nose, elbow, knee, or any other area of exposed skin to activate the home button. It brings up the passcode screen.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sales have been impressive. Despite the lack of new design, the iPhone 7 is selling better than most analysts were expecting. Discontinuation of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note 7 is expected to boost demand for the new iPhones during the crucial holiday shopping season. However, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that the iPhone 7 shipments won’t be strong enough to revive Apple’s flagging sales.