Could the Apple iPhone 13 be completely button-less?
Since Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) and the unveiling of iOS 15, anticipation for the upcoming iPhone 13 has only grown. Adding to the rumors about the device is a fresh patent Apple has applied for. The Cupertino-based giant has applied for patenting "capacitive sensing input devices," leading to speculation that the upcoming device may not feature any physical buttons. Here are more details.
Capacitive sensors that blend with phone's body could replace buttons
A patent application spotted by AppleInsider suggests that buttons on the device would be replaced by capacitive sensors that react to physical deflection. Capacitive sensors have famously been used in the Google Pixel phones' Active Edge feature. Apple's implementation could be similar. The filing says that the "invisible" sensor would be made of the same material as its housing.
Capacitive regions would illuminate when pressed, resemble phone's body otherwise
Deflection in the frame of the device caused by a squeeze or a firm press would change the capacitance in the sensor, subsequently triggering an action on the smartphone. Apple describes these button replacements as "invisible backlit holes" that would illuminate and become visible when touched, but be indistinguishable from the phone's body otherwise, just like the notification light on the present-day iPhones.
Capacitive sensor could detect three levels of touch intensities
Additionally, the patent lays claim to a capacitive sensor that detects "at least three levels of change in capacitance" suggesting that just like Apple's on-screen 3D Touch feature, the hardware equivalent could also perform different actions for different touch intensities. Moreover, the filing with numerous mentions of a "laptop computer" suggests that Apple could be patenting a physical button replacement for the MacBook, too.
Patents do not guarantee the concept's implementation
That said, a patent application this close to launch usually implies that the technology may not feature in the upcoming iPhone 13, but possibly in a device slated for launch at a later date. Not to mention, large technology companies often patent concepts and ideas just to own them and prevent competitors from using them. Patents don't guarantee that features would be implemented.
Rumors suggest iPhone 13 could feature LTPO display, smaller notch
Apple's newest generation of smartphones is expected to break cover sometime in September. We will have to wait until then to discover which rumors about the upcoming device are actually true. So far, the iPhone 13 has been speculated to feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, a smaller notch, a magnetic charging connector (replacing the lightning port), an LTPO display, and reverse wireless charging.