Apple Inc. iPhone 7 Home Button Frustrating Some Users (AAPL)

iPhone 7 - Apple Inc. iPhone 7 Home Button Frustrating Some Users (AAPL)

Source: via Apple

If there was an iPhone 7 “feature” that was going to be a PR headache for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), most people would have picked the decision to ax the headphone jack. While that move has been far from popular, it’s now being overshadowed by complaints that the new iPhone’s home button doesn’t work with gloves — even the special ones made for use with touchscreen devices.

Apple Inc. iPhone 7 Home Button Angering Some Users (AAPL)

Source: Apple

It also won’t work with many waterproof and full-screen protective cases.

Why the iPhone 7 Home Button is a Problem

AAPL made a big change with the iPhone 7 home button. It left the button there and it looks the same as before, but the physical mechanism is gone. Instead, the iPhone 7 home button is solid state. There’s no click, it acts like a touchscreen and responds with haptic feedback.

Immediately after Apple’s launch announcement, there was grumbling about that feedback being unnatural. However, it wasn’t until the new iPhone got into the wild that people starting picking up on the fact that the new home button appears to only work with direct skin contact. Many gloves and full-screen, protective/waterproof cases won’t work with it.

So who cares if the iPhone 7 is essentially incompatible with many waterproof cases? After all, water resistance is one of the big selling points of AAPL’s new iPhone.

There’s a difference between water resistant and waterproof, however. A waterproof case lets you spend time underwater with a smartphone while water resistance provides protection to survive an accidental dunk.

There are also specialized cases that offer full-device protection, including a touch-compatible film over the home button. These are especially popular with outdoors enthusiasts, people who work in physically demanding jobs and kids.

Some iPhone users are going to be put out and case manufacturers will be scrambling to figure a way around this technical curveball.

The bigger problem for most people may be the incompatibility with gloves.

On the surface, this sounds like a minor issue, and if you live in a temperate climate it may be. But if you live anywhere that it gets cold in the winter — like a large swath of North America — it’s much more than that. An entire industry has grown up around gloves that can be used with touchscreens. They were the missing link as smartphones exploded in popularity and consumers discovered they couldn’t use their new apps or even make a phone call without removing their gloves and exposing their bare hands to the freezing temperatures.

The development of touchscreen-friendly gloves, with fingertips coated with a capacitive material, was a big win for those living in northern climes. Reports that many of these gloves don’t work with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus aren’t going over well.

AAPL iOS 10 Changes Make the Problem Worse

A longtime iOS feature was ditched in iOS 10, making the home button problem even worse. A side swipe of the iPhone screen traditionally brings up the pass-code entry screen to unlock the device, bypassing Touch ID.

If that were still the case, iPhone 7 users would be safe even in the winter. Their touchscreen gloves would still let them swipe, enter their passcode as usual and carry on. But in iOS 10, Apple ditched this feature, relying on a home button click to either unlock using Touch ID or bring up the passcode screen.

Since the iPhone 7 home button won’t work with most gloves and many waterproof cases, owners can’t even get to the passcode screen.

Is There a Solution?

Using the iPhone’s AssistiveTouch mode can be a workaround, although it’s kludgey. Apple may also release an iOS 10 update if the outcry gets bad enough.

Also, because some capacitive gloves apparently do work with the iPhone 7 home button, glove designers will likely be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t to produce new iPhone 7-friendly versions. However, that would mean new gloves for a lot of people and will take time.

Then again, after ditching the iPhone headphone jack, AAPL clearly doesn’t have a big issue with nudging people into upgrading their accessories.

As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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