Per MacRumors, Texas-based semiconductor manufacturer Cirrus Logic has hinted that it will build haptic inputs for the next iPhone, doing away with the need for physical power buttons. We’ve already done an in-depth explainer on haptic input and feedback, but the short version is that haptics are tactile information provided by a designer that isn’t the direct result of a physical process.
Think of starting a car. When you turn the key and feel the engine kick, that’s physical feedback. When you start a car’s engine in a video game and the button vibrates and the screen shakes, no engine required, that’s haptic feedback. One happens because an engine has actually started moving. The other happens because a programmer has instructed it to.
Haptics are not automatically better or worse than physical inputs. Physical inputs give the user greater access to their machine, for better or worse. Many good cars have suffered because an over-excited driver rode the starter motor until it broke. Conversely, the looser connection between user and machine provided by haptics may leave the user helpless when the machine goes wrong.
In short, haptic power buttons may be a plus or a minus on the iPhone. We won’t have any idea until we get one to play with. What we know for now is that the rumor is fairly well-substantiated. Apple may well have found another button it can destroy.