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iPhone 15 Pro could kill physical buttons for haptics — here’s what we know

Tom's Guide 27/11/2022 Alan Martin
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Last month, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would abandon physical buttons for “two high-end iPhones”, increasing the divide between Pro and non-Pro handsets in 2023. Now a second source backs up the report — albeit with a little reading between the lines to reach the same conclusion.

This time, it’s analysts from Barclays analysts, who base their prediction on comments made by Cirrus Logic both in a letter to shareholders and then on a recent earnings call. For context: Cirrus Logic is responsible for much of the haptic technology currently powering iPhones, which would presumably be necessary for a buttonless iPhone 15 Pro to function.

As spotted by MacRumors, the letter stated that the company aims to “bring a new HPMS component to market in smartphones next year”. HPMS stands for “high-performance mixed signal”, and the company’s existing components include haptic drivers powering the iPhone’s Taptic Engine.

“Next year” is a big window, however, and the earnings call narrowed it down to the “back half of next year”. Notably, this lines up with the usual September release date for Apple iPhones, and it’s when we fully expect the iPhone 15 family to emerge.   

These two data points have been jumped on by Barclays’ Blayne Curtis and Tom O’Malley. While conceding that “the company hasn’t said much here”, the analysts nonetheless conclude that this component will likely be part of the Taptic Engines on iPhone 15 Pro haptic buttons. 

“When looking at potential use cases, the largest change in new iPhone models next year is the removal of the buttons, which would require additional drivers for the haptics engine, making it the most likely use case for new content,” the analysts write.

The case for haptics

While, personally, I’m a big fan of physical buttons and their tactile clickiness, there are undoubtedly a couple of advantages to fully embracing haptics. Fewer moving parts means wear and tear is less of an issue, and more importantly, it makes devices less at risk from water damage by reducing the number of vulnerable spots.

But if Apple is only considering this for the iPhone 15 Pro, as suggested both here and by Ming-Chi Kuo, then we can probably consider it more in terms of aesthetics. Just as Dynamic Island — an iPhone 14 Pro exclusive feature — is neat looking, but doesn’t offer much in terms of practical advantages, I suspect haptic buttons will be a similar way of showing off ownership of the more desirable iPhone 15 Pro. 

Not that there won’t be more practical reasons to go Pro. We’re fully expecting other advantages such as the faster chipset, 120Hz screen and better camera system to persist in 2023. But for some, having the top iPhone is as much a fashion statement as it is about the specs, and haptic buttons will make that statement all the more obvious.

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