The iPhone’s home button is getting a lot more interactive, and a lot less button-like.
Apple announced at today’s keynote address in San Francisco that the iPhone 7 comes with a new home button that is force sensitive, customizable, and capable of providing taptic feedback when iPhone 7 owners do things with their device.
That feedback is enabled with a new Taptic Engine included in the iPhone 7. This engine creates unique vibrations when people receive text messages, get email notifications, or perform “quick actions” by using the pressure sensitive Force Touch displays introduced with the iPhone 6s and included with the new iPhone.
“This taptic engine is more responsive, and it puts out a wide arrange of frequencies” Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller said during today’s event. He added that the engine is “so useful we use it throughout the user experience. So if you do a quick action like moving the widget, it provides some feedback.”
Schiller compared these changes to the home button to the iPod’s shift from a click wheel to more responsive input methods. And, in a surprise twist, Apple is going to let developers take advantage of this new Taptic Engine with an API that should make it easy for them to send good vibrations through the iPhone 7.
This new feature could go a long way towards making up for the fact that Apple now relies wholly on the home button to unlock iOS devices instead of using the “Swipe to unlock” setup that was popularized with the first iPhone.
And, while it might not be as exciting as Pokémon Go heading to the Apple Watch or Mario coming to the App Store, this new Taptic Engine is likely to change the way iPhone 7 owners interact with their devices every day.