Will Apple remove the home button from the next-gen iPad and iPhone?

Steve Jobs is notoriously frugal when it comes to buttons so the latest rumor emanating out of Cupertino might not come as a huge surprise. Apple is reportedly planning to do away with the home button on the next-gen iPad and iPhone and replace its functionality with multitouch gestures. And as luck would have it, the newly seeded iOS 4.3 includes support for new multitouch gestures, one of which is the ability to use a four or five finger pinch to go back to the homescreen.

Steve Jobs is notoriously frugal when it comes to buttons so the latest rumor emanating out of Cupertino might not come as a huge surprise. Citing one of their trusty Apple sources, BGR is reporting that Apple is planning to do away with the home button on the iPad and replace its functionality with multitouch gestures. And as luck would have it, the newly seeded iOS 4.3 includes support for new multitouch gestures, one of which is the ability to use a four or five finger pinch to go back to the homescreen.

BGR's source explained that Apple is already testing buttonless iPads on campus and that the next-gen iPhone may also do away with the ever so useful home button.

So is this a good idea? 

At first glance, it seems wholly unnecessary. The home button on the iPhone and iPad is conspicuous yet blends seamlessly into the device. More importantly, its functionality extends beyond that of a portal used solely when one wants to jet back to a device's homescreen. Take multitasking, for example.

The video above, however, reveals a multi-finger swipe up gesture which works to bring up the multitasking pane. So while iOS 4.3 may have a gesture in place to account for every possible home button function, why change something that users are already so familiar with? Multitouch gestures are great, but the home button provides a visible way for new users to navigate and use their iOS devices without first having to learn non-obvious gestures that, truth be told, only the geeks among us are familiar with right off the bat.

Of course, Apple is never one to stick with the status-quo for too long but at the end of the day, the company is all about usability and it's really hard to craft an argument as to why a button-less iPad or iPhone really makes things easier on users. If anything, it has the opposite effect.

And just as one Apple rumor comes to an end (read: the iPhone hitting Verizon) another one begins.

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