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Future iPhones could be buttonless

Future iPhones could be buttonless
(Image credit: Unbox Therapy)

The iPhone 13 could be button-free, according to rumours sparked by a newly released patent that suggests Apple is keen to remove buttons, keys and sliders from all future smartphones. 

The patent, which was spotted by AppleInsider and carries the pretty unambiguous title "Disappearing Button or Slider", seems to confirms that Apple wants to switch to "capacitive sensing input devices".

These "devices" are said to be touch-sensitive surfaces hidden within the metal frame of the iPhone and visible only when illuminated. The concept sounds reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3's under-display camera, which is concealed by a layer of pixels.

Although the iPhone doesn't have a physical keyboard, it does have an on-off button, volume controls and a slider to mute the ringer. Switching to slick, invisible controls that would disappear when not in use certainly sounds like a very "Apple" thing to do.  

"Besides the obvious aesthetic advantages of having a seamless design, a seamless design may have improved functionality and/or durability," reads the patent. "For example, a traditional mechanical key pad can wear out over time and/or be ruined by dirt or moisture entering into the openings in the device housing. These openings are necessary to accommodate the traditional keys and buttons."

Question is, will the iPhone be going buttonless in 2021, 2022, or beyond? Apple certainly isn't shy when it comes to making bold design decisions. Cupertino killed off the 3.5mm headphone jack in 2015, followed by the physical 'Home' button in 2017, so it's not impossible that it could go buttonless this year.

That said, rumours suggest that Apple will remove the lightning port and go totally wireless before deleting the few remaining buttons. Either way, we'll keep you up to date with all the latest iPhone 13 leaks and rumours ahead of the rumoured mid-September launch.

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Tom has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Men's Health, ShortList, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include mobile tech, electric cars and video streaming.