This is going to get interesting.

Rumors about Apple removing a physical home button on the next iPhone--to debut next week during a reveal event at the new campus--seem too bad to be untrue.

Here's how these things usually work.

Lately, during a keynote session for new Apple devices like an iPhone, a MacBook, or a new iPad, we all sit and check items off a list that were already rumored. New OLED display, check. Name for the new model being the iPhone Pro or iPhone X, gotcha. Wireless charging like the Samsung Galaxy has done for years, done.

Yet, the move to "more screen, fewer buttons" has me a little concerned. Here's why.

Take a quick look at the foot pedals on your car the next time you drive. Your brain goes into an automatic mode with those. It's actually a little scary, because you barely think. You slip behind the wheel and start driving. The automatic mode kicks in, something scientists have known about for years. There's a part of your brain that assumes command of those functions so you can talk to a passenger, think about French toast for breakfast, listen to the radio, or maybe ponder the nature of all reality as you drive.

Over the past ten years, I've barely thought about the Home button, but that's a good thing. It means I'm in an automatic mode, similar to what happens when I drive. It's what we use to login to the phone and approve an app download. It's how we navigate to the home screen. It's how many of us activate Siri. It's second nature, like riding a bike.

What happens if that physical button goes away to make more room for the screen, filling the edges of the bezel like your home television? Well, nothing good.

It's a bit like taking the gas pedal and moving it to the left of the brakes. (OK, that's an exaggeration--but it will be disconcerting.) No more automatic mode. This is what you might call The Law of Too Much Exposure to Technology. We have a certain amount of bandwidth for new advances. Every new device we own, every digital keypad we use to get into the office and every drone we try to fly on the weekends suddenly fills up our thought processes and we have to put up a hand and say: "No more, that's enough."

Many of us who cover tech and enjoy tech have realized there are some things we should just leave alone. I'd love to be long-pressing on a Home button to activate a digital assistant in 2030. I'd love to be using a physical button on cars and phones then.

What really needs to change and improve? The services themselves. If the Home button becomes a software feature or we have to activate Siri by long-pressing the power button but the features remain roughly the same with a few tweaks, we might all rebel. We want the software to change. The brakes and gas pedals? Keep them where they are.

When that happens, at least we have some anchors. At least we don't have to re-learn a few things about our devices. I believe this is what has made Facebook last so long as the dominant social network. It's familiar. We get it. The software changes, but the basics stay the same--sort of like any long-term relationship. We trust them.

I'm curious if you agree. Is it not a big deal at all? If you use an iPhone every day, post your thoughts on my Twitter feed about whether changing a physical home button is a problem. State your reasons for one side or the other. I'll do a follow-up with your viewpoints.

Published on: Sep 8, 2017
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