Why the iPhone Never Had a Back Button

Unlike Android smartphones, the iPhone has only ever had a home button.

Introduced in 2007 by Steve Jobs, the iPhone was a small revolution in many ways. Its multi-touch screen, a multifunction device, its Home button… In fact, while most mobile phones at the time had three buttons at the bottom of the screen, namely a function button, a Home button and one button back, the iPhone bets on sobriety with a single button, the iconic Home button.

S’il aura une nouvelle fonction en 2013 avec a detector d’empreintes digitales, Touch ID, puisqu’il disparaitra in 2017 avec l’iPhone X, le bouton Home ne servait autrefois qu’à revenir à l’écran d’accueil, and that’s it. Apple never wanted to integrate other buttons to the right and left of Home, without anyone knowing why.

At that time, the other smartphones developed and marketed by other brands had other buttons next to the home button. Apple then acts like the indomitable Gauls against competing companies. But this is not anecdotal, and has a very specific reason.

Let’s go back to 2007, when the first iPhone was still in development. Steve Jobs, who had strong ideas on many subjects, desperately wanted to include a back button on his iPhone to make it easier to navigate through menus and applications. But including a home button was definitely not to the liking of Imran Chaudhri, a user interface designer who had worked at Apple for 19 years and whom Jobs had full confidence in. According to him, adding more buttons would break the trust between the iPhone and the user. The introduction of a back button would make navigation unreliable and cumbersome.

In fact, the back button on Android smartphones has several functions. If you are in an application and have navigated between different menus, the Back button allows you to return to the previous screen. If you have switched from one application to another, it allows you to return to the previous application. Finally, it allows you to exit everything and return to the home screen.

Lots of uses for this button which Chaudhri said would cause a lot of confusion for the Apple customer. Then you prefer a software solution, on iOS, with a small arrow at the top left to go back to the previous menu. If the user wants to switch between open apps, they just need to press the Home button twice in a row. Finally, pressing it once would be synonymous with returning to the home page. Manipulations to which the user would adapt very quickly, according to him.

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