Apple’s iPhone 7 Home Button has a virtual alternative that turns on automatically if something goes wrong with the physical button.
A poster on the forums at Apple-tracking site MacRumors published an image of a virtual Home Button sitting at the bottom of the the iPhone 7’s screen. Above it, iOS displays a warning reading the “Home Button may need service,” adding that the “onscreen Home Button” could be used in the meantime.
“So plugged in my iPhone 7 to charge and it turned itself off,” a person using the pseudonym “iwayne” said on the forums site with the aforementioned image. “When I powered it back up this appeared on screen. Really Apple?”
Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 7 Home Button was redesigned in 2016. Rather than actually functioning as a button that can be pressed in, this year’s option is more of a sensor that can’t be pressed in, but it can recognize a fingerprint and additional pressure signifying the user wants to get to the home screen. It also vibrates when a user presses the button, so he or she know its features have been activated.
The virtual home button that “iwayne” discovered is not new and has been available through Apple’s Accessibility functions for several years. The virtual button, called Assistive Touch, is designed to help those who might have trouble pressing the Home Button to more easily access its functions with a virtual alternative.
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However, when Apple’s Home Button failed in the past, a user would need to go into the iOS settings and turn on the virtual button. For the first time, with iOS 10, when the Home Button fails or needs service, Apple displays the virtual button, taking an important step out of the equation.
So, while the feature is technically hidden from use most of the time, it can be turned on and is set to activate whenever the physical Home Button malfunctions on the iPhone 7.
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The feature could give users a glimpse at what the future of iPhone Home Buttons might look like. Speculation abounds that Apple will move its Home Button into the glass on its next iPhone, eliminating physical buttons once and for all. The virtual button isn’t an exact replica of what a new feature would offer, but might offer users some clues at what the future holds.
Those interested in trying out the virtual Home Button can turn it on by getting into the iOS settings and choosing “Assistive Touch.” The feature will then turn on and let owners use it as any other Home Button. However, it doesn’t come with fingerprint recognition for Touch ID support.