Apple patents a way to make buttons thinner while providing programmable feedback

Peter, 30 June 2020

Apple has a grudge against physical buttons, especially the ones that take up too much space. The company has filed a patent that describes the design of a “compact pivoting input device”, which will significantly reduce the internal volume that a button takes.

It’s not just space saving, though, this mechanism can offer programmable feedback. Such buttons can be provide different haptic feedback, configured by software, and will also be force-sensitive.

The patent gives the iPhone power button as an example, so that’s likely the first use case, but it these devices can find other uses as well. Instead of just buttons, this can be used for toggles as well (and the iPhone has one of those on its side as well). There are many more potential uses too, say a super thin keyboard cover for the iPad.

Apple patents a way to make buttons thinner while providing programmable feedback

The patent goes into excruciating detail of the operation, but basically the mechanism is similar to a speaker – an electric coil surrounds a permanent magnet. When power is applied, it moves the magnet, providing haptic feedback.

The magnet itself doesn’t move much – just 10 microns or 0.01 mm – but that’s enough. Also, there’s a pressure sensor at the bottom to register presses (and the force of the press as well).

Apple already transformed the Home button on the iPhone into a fixed capacitive sensor that relies on the Taptic Engine to provide the “click” sensation. Same for the touchpads on MacBooks. Those are fixed though, while these new mechanisms will move however slightly, which may have a major impact on the realism of the “click”.

Source | Via


Reader comments

Not sure what reviewers would compare the force touch feature from an iPhone with laptops' touchpad since those aren't even remotely in the same category of input mechanism. Also no reviewer is talking about force touch now or at least sinc...

  • Dr dre

Don’t know what’s taking them so long to get rid of all buttons and use sensors at least that would increase the water Rez capability thus enabling phones last long under h20. Even the wireless chargi should be the only option which will enable ppl ...

no bro, both my p30 pro and s10+ unlock by just picking the phone up and touching the OSD fingerprint icon. exceptions: 1. when s10+ decides to periodically require a passcode for higher protection, u need to wake the display with the hw but...

Popular articles


Popular devices