Tech: RIP, Home Button

The inevitable has happened – I have a new iPhone. My iPhone 7 Plus is/was four years old and still working quite well actually. The latest iOS 14 runs smoothly on it… but some things were beginning to get in the way.

Indispensable

It’s quite astonishing how important the phone has become – I couldn’t do the work I’m doing without it but in a funny twist, I’m not using the phone’s crazy capable, computer-aided cameras when I’m working as a photographer. More interestingly though, if it wasn’t for the business-related usage, then I’d be just fine with my four year old iPhone 7 Plus. But I have to begin thinking about how to potentially work my way around the old phone’s age-related shortcomings, so it’s not a worry-free tool anymore.

One problem is the battery – it is, just like the entire device, four years old, after all, and drains faster. That wouldn’t be a problem if I’d just use the phone only privately: I have no social media apps on the phone so at most, I use it for messaging, some reading in between, and occasionally, even to make phone calls! (if it really can’t be avoided) 😛

But when I add work related use to it and say, navigate to a house for a photo shoot, then do a Matterport 3D tour there, and navigate back home, the battery could be down to 20% already (yes, I can and will recharge the phone in the car, of course). Early in the year though, I did a job with four houses and four 3D tours in a single day (four model homes, same location in a newly developed area) and with the deteriorated battery, that would now require charging the phone with an external battery pack, in between sessions and during breaks.

I could remedy the battery problem by getting a new battery installed. I believe this costs under $100 – but is it wise to put $100 into a four year old device?

It’s not (obviously), because it wouldn’t solve the other problem: available free space. 32GB seemed like plenty at the time when I got the phone in December 2016 (after all, I was updating from an iPhone 6 with just 16GB), but of course I want to have some (more) music on it, keep some favorite photos and videos, have useful apps installed… and then suddenly there’s not much room left, and I’d have to begin deleting something to make room for another Matterport tour. Dang.

And so I have an iPhone 12 now. In order to prevent another memory problem down the road, I went with 256GB this time. That costs $100 more or, assuming it will last four years again (and I expect nothing less), $25 per year. Not exactly something worth thinking about.

It’s a nice device, but does it “wow” me, in any way, yet? Absolutely not. It’s a tool that’s supposed to do a job. I have an ultra-wide angle* camera module now, okay. I’ve lost the home button though, and Touch ID with it – in favor of Face ID. Now, both of these methods to unlock the device are flawed – identification is not authentication. They’re just more convenient than repeatedly typing in an 8-digit PIN code…

But that’s exactly what I’m doing now when I’m in public, wearing my mask, wanting to “authenticate” a contact-less payment at the grocery store, for example. Or take another peek at the items in my shopping list app. Which I do repeatedly in the grocery store, or course. Sigh.

So this introvert finally has a reason to wish that the pandemic will end soon, and it is: lazily unlocking the phone with my noble countenance. 🤪

Realizing how much of my usage patterns of/on the phone had turned into muscle memory (“wait, how the F do I get to the app switcher now?!”) I’m still trying to get used to NOT having the home button. I can’t tell you how many times I already pressed the now-devoid-of-a-home-button bottom of the phone! GHAH! I will adapt, but while I still try to do so, I can’t help but think that the home button with integrated Touch ID was indeed the better user experience.

Satisfaction

I’m sure that the folks at Apple put a lot of thought and effort into it, but still: the swiping on the models without a home button is so… noncommital. Do it slightly wrong, and that which you expect to happen doesn’t happen. It lacks the precision of the button press, and the satisfying haptic confirmation.

Because even though the haptic feedback of the home button on the iPhone 7 was just a clever vibration-thing that made you think you pressed a button (when you really just added a certain amount of pressure to the area where the fingerprint sensor was) – it was haptic feedback. You ‘pressed’ that ‘button’ and it told you: “yup, this is it” through your finger – with the equivalent of feeling a silent, capital: “D.” (onomatopoeic) 😄

Rest in peace, home button. I will always hold the memory of you dearly.

Bubbles in olive oil (iPhone 7 Plus)
Bubbles in olive oil. Completely unrelated, but photographed with the iPhone 7 Plus.

*) the standard camera of the 7 Plus is 28mm equivalent and thus, already wide angle; the “telephoto” camera on the 7 Plus with its 58mm equivalent focal length is closer to a “normal” 50mm lens than telephoto – which “traditionally” begins at 70mm. Just saying!

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