Button of the month: the Palm pre home button
Physical home buttons are all but extinct on modern smartphones, and the Palm Pre ended them.
It’s not hard to notice that smartphones have steadily shed their buttons throughout the years: keyboards, numpads, call and hang up buttons, directional navigation keys, and more have all fallen to the wayside in favor of more versatile touchscreens.
In 2007, the iPhone — with its then-revolutionary 3.5-inch multitouch display — helped to push that trend along by reducing navigation down to a single home button. But even as touchscreen sizes grew and buttons fell away, the humble home button stubbornly stuck around. (Apple wouldn’t ditch the button for over a decade, when the iPhone X arrived in 2017.)
But it was the palm pre, and its largely unnecessary center button, that show home button could be remove for good.
The original Pre, launched in 2009, may not have seemed like the harbinger of home button doom. After all, the Pre had a home button, at least for its first iteration. But crucially, the Pre’s home button was effectively a vestigial organ — an appendix that evolution hadn’t quite managed to weed out just yet.
THE FIRST DEVICE TO PROVE THAT GESTURE NAVIGATION COULD WORK
Pressing the Pre’s home button did exactly one thing: brought up webOS’s “UFABET” app switcher, something that could also be accomplished with a swipe gesture.
The home button itself served more as training wheels for users used to seeing one on other touchscreen devices, rather than a necessary part of the user.