The iPhone 7 from Apple not only can detect when the new stable state Home Button is not working, but also offers a software based replacement, in the form of a small onscreen Home Button.
The new, nonmechanical implementation for the iPhone 7’s Home Button is theoretically much less fragile than its mechanical predecessors, as it is no longer a moving part that can break because of the natural wear and tear during use. Previously, each button press would wear the mechanism until it would eventually stop responding or even break off the phone.
However, the solid state button could still fail, but Apple had enough foresight and care to take note of this possibility, especially since just how resistant the new, nonmechanical buttons are in the long run remains to be seen.
The software workaround
Once the solid state Home Button fails, iOS 10 immediately takes notice, alerting the user that their home button might need repairs, it also offers a software alternative in the meantime.
iOS 10 is the operating system running on the latest iPhone 7, and where the programming controlling the Taptic Engine which controls the new Home Button’s feedback is deeply integrated,
This previously unknown behavior was noticed by a user of the MacRumors forums, who goes by the username of “iwayne.” He shared a picture of his iPhone 7 displaying the warning — “The Home Button May Need Service. In the meantime, you can use the onscreen Home Button below,” — and software home button, after his solid state button failed for unknown reasons.
The user says the warning appeared after his device suddenly powered off while charging. It first appeared when plugged, and even restarting the device did not fix it — the signal would eventually come back.
He also reported that the Taptic Engine would fire about three or four times in a row after pressing the button, and another reboot returned it to its previous non-working state.
The failure is likely related to the new Taptic Engine, which as the site MacRumors had previously reported, could stop working and become unresponsive should the operating system crash or freeze. This led to Apple changing the iPhone 7’s reset process to avoid this problem.
Goodbye, Home Button…?
There are rumors that next year’s iPhone — hypothetically, the “iPhone 8” — will ditch the Home Button concept in its entirety, replacing it with a button built directly into an edge-to-edge screen.
It has also been rumored that the main reason for changing the traditional mechanic button for the new solid state one in the iPhone 7 is to ease users into these changes.
Nothing official has been confirmed yet, however, the way the software replacement appears when the hardware button fails could be a clue to future implementations of the Home Button.