In today's digital age, it can sometimes happen that hardware has pushed the software that drives devices into the background. Button of the Month is a column that looks at some of these buttons and turns on old and new devices to understand how we interact with our devices on a physical, tactile level.
Buttons are one of the shortest-lived parts of modern technology. A decade-long text file will still load the same, dead console games can live on in emulators, and as the saying goes, nothing really has disappeared from the Internet.
But even the best button is doomed to fail. As the only physically moving part of most modern technologies, buttons are the only element that can really wear out or break permanently.
Nothing illustrates this reality much like the home button on the iPhone, a textbook illustration that shows how this crucial mistake can affect a product and shape it over time.
As iconic buttons go, the original iPhone home button is the best known. Ask someone to draw a smartphone, and until last year, there was a good chance that a black rectangle would be displayed with a round button below. Show someone a magnified image that shows only the rounded, square icon in the center of the image, and it's immediately recognizable as an iPhone, even without any other distinguishing information.
This is the key with which the users of a smartphone were learned. The problem, however, was that the iPhone was a weak point. A mechanical failure point that degrades over time, and the ingress of water into the water's fragile interior. In some countries around the world, fears about the fragility of the Start button allegedly caused a large number of people to activate a virtual start button, with the screen option being used for the regular use of the physical button.
Ultimately, something had to change. In 2016, Apple released the iPhone 7, which replaced the home button with an immovable, solid circle that was not really a button at all. Thanks to a new haptic feedback engine, users could still "press" the home button area and feel a wrong click, but the "button" did not move. Worth doing or not, concerns about an iPhone key error had reached the point where Apple had to design a completely fake button.
However, the button also had other issues: at a time when screen size was growing, it took up a lot of room on the front of the phone, and use in a world of touch controls became increasingly inelegant. And Apple's function key was not as pleasant to operate on a tactile level as a real, moving part.
And with the iPhone X, Apple completed it in favor of a screen replacement, which eliminates any concerns about the button on the iPhone final. The home button – even the haptic-controlled, touch-sensitive fingerprint reading version Apple had achieved in its latest iteration – could still be made obsolete by technological advancements and the inherent limitations of physical hardware.  Even the best keys are still keys, and eventually every key fails.
In the case of the iPhone, it was a gradual shift that took years. But even for something as important as the home button, the victims were too big. Even the best buttons are still buttons, and at some point every button fails.
But there is a kind of silver lining. Sure, today's iPhone has no home button, but the phones are more waterproof than ever. The screen is larger and can show more information. The gestures that replaced the Home button proved to be much better for using Apple's software. Users can fly around in the OS and between apps, as the interrupted pauses never allow when pressing the keys.
Apple's home button was iconic, but its flaws eventually forced the company to design it, resulting in a better version of the product than the button itself offered.
Sometimes a button does not exist It's not always the best answer, and that's fine too.