Concept: Touch Bar on the iPhone

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

This is out there, but indulge me for a minute.

We can all agree the Touch Bar is going to be on more Macs than just the MacBook Pros that just came out. It will likely be a staple of all Macs from 2017 on, but what if Apple's aspirations for the Touch Bar are more far-reaching than just the Mac? What if Apple is bringing this to iOS as well?

There are rumors out there that the new iPhone in 2017 is going to be basically all screen and drop the home button. The company still has a circle on the front of the iPhone 7, but they've taken the button part of it away already. In it's place is a force-sensitive touch pad. Some have suggested if there is no home "button" on the new iPhone, the whole bottom of the new iPhone will be able to be pressed to go "home".

But what if Apple doesn't want to just have blank space at the bottom of the phone? What if they could fit screen down there? A version of the Touch Bar could be an interesting new UI element for iOS.

The general concept would be similar to the existing Control Center which you activate by pulling up from the bottom of the screen. Basic, commonly used features are there now, but some would be nice to have accessible even more quickly. Media playback controls, Siri, timers, and flashlight are all things I can imagine wanting immediately at times. Having them on screen all the time would be convenient.

Going a little further, Apple would benefit from making a framework for this so developers can add their own apps to this UI. I'm sure third parties would love to have this prime real estate. Uber could show you how far away your ride is. Overcast could show a media scrubber to move though episodes faster. Drafts could make a "new note" button which I know nerds would love. CNN could show new headlines.

There's a ton of other things I can't even think of, so it would make sense to be able to have multiple pages of actions in your Touch Bar. Simply swipe left or right to move to the next one.

This would still have to be able to use this space as a home button, so 3D Touch wouldn't work on these buttons. A tap would activate the digital button, and a deep press would take you to the home screen.

The beauty of the home button as it's been since 2007 is that it's a brilliantly simple concept. No matter what I'm doing at the moment can be stopped immediately and I'm brought back to the home screen. Easy. Over the years, Apple has added more functionality to the button. Siri, multitasking, Touch ID, and Reachability are all a part of the button now, but it has retained it's simplicity in general. This adds a lot of complexity, and that's not ideal.

Ultimately, this feels more like a jailbreak tweak than something Apple would actually do. If they did decide to do this, I imagine it would an optional feature that you decide whether you want in the new phone set up process. If you don't want it then some sort of digital home button may appear, or maybe they'll let the entire main screen stretch all the way down.

What do you think? Is this something you would want Apple to add or is it just plain crazy? I really think it's crazy, but think it would be a really interesting addition to iOS.