Why the iPhone never had a back button

Unlike Android smartphones, the iPhone has only had one home button so far.

Introduced by Steve Jobs in 2007, the iPhone was a small revolution in many ways. Its multi-touch screen, a multifunction device, its home button … While most mobile phones of the time had three buttons at the bottom of the screen, namely a function button, a home button and a back button, the iPhone goes for sobriety with one single button, the legendary home button.

If there will be a new feature with fingerprint recognition, Touch ID, in 2013, since it disappears with the iPhone X in 2017, the home button used to only be used to return to the home screen, and that’s all. Apple never wanted to add more buttons to the left and right of Home without anyone knowing why.

The other smartphones, which were developed and sold by other brands at the time, had other buttons in addition to the home button. Apple then emerges as an indomitable Gaul 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 topics, was keen to add a back button to his iPhone to make navigating menus and apps easier. But adding a home button definitely didn’t appeal to Imran Chaudhri, a user interface designer who had worked at Apple for 19 years and in whom Jobs had complete confidence. According to him, adding more buttons would break the trust between the iPhone and the user. Introducing a back button would then make navigation unreliable and complicated.

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

Many uses for this button that Chaudhri said would cause a lot of confusion for the Apple customer. He then favors a software solution, in 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, he only has to press the home button twice in a row. Finally, a single press would be equivalent to returning to the home page. Manipulations that, in his opinion, the user would get used to very quickly.

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