iPhone 7 button doesn't work with gloves on, really?

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Judit Llordes
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Voices are already raised against certain surprises reserved by the new iPhone 7 and its big brother iPhone 7 Plus. On the menu of the day, a problem of interaction with the central button, which, remember, is no longer mechanical.



Apple iPhone 7


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Since their release, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have necessarily been scrutinized down to the smallest detail, like any new iPhone. Each bug or possible failure is inevitably pilloried, every year, sometimes rightly so. Barely three days after their launch, the new Apple terminals are facing some ergonomic criticism. One of the noisiest would be a problem with the central button on the front panel, which no longer responds once the hand is gloved.


It is necessary to put this button in its context: until now mechanical, the famous iPhone button, always surrounded by the Touch-ID fingerprint reader, becomes with this new generation totally physically inert. It is now managed by the "Taptic Engine", this haptic engine which has been used since the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to operate 3D Touch on the touch screen and its different levels of pressure analyzed by the screen.

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Now, the engine also manages the button located under the screen. It offers 3 levels of pressure, which the user will choose, in the settings, according to his sensitivity. A technical choice which logically implies that the button is completely inactive when the iPhone is off. 


It is often possible, finally, to click on the "haptic" button of the iPhone 7, still it is necessary to put the necessary force there.

Once the finger is covered with a glove, the famous button would therefore no longer react? We wanted to check this for ourselves, both on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and it turns out that in certain textile situations, the button no longer reacts. However, it would be an exaggeration to generalize.

The button reacts when we try it with acrylic gloves, wool, a light protective coating... but not with construction gloves. Note all the same that with "compatible" textiles, you often have to press hard to obtain an interaction (we therefore advise you not to do, like us, the test at home on everything and anything for 2 hours) . Same thing with the fabric of a sweater or t-shirt, where we observe different behaviors: where linen and fine mixed materials will give access to the click, 100% cotton will block all hope. The reason seems to be not in the button itself, which ultimately only serves as a benchmark, but in the Touch-ID fingerprint reader.


Touch-ID in the viewfinder

With a bare finger, moreover, trying to press the button without touching the strapping gives absolutely nothing. It is therefore the contact with Touch-ID that triggers the action of the Taptic Engine and this, without the need to have registered a fingerprint beforehand, since it also works with a phalanx. The heat induced by the human body seemed to be a good explanation, but does not really fit with the fact that certain textiles, not necessarily thick, are permissive while others are not.  


One of the reliable hypotheses to retain for the moment is finally that the static electricity of the body is at the origin of the interaction with the fingerprint reader. Some textiles would then be more favorable to its passage than others, as were the first gloves with conductive threads dedicated to the use of an insensitive touch screen. As such, the screen of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus reacts with all the textiles and materials that we tested for the button. 

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We could then argue in favor of Apple, by simply specifying that with regard to the technical functioning of this button and the path taken by the firm with its haptic engine, the absence or the difficulty of interaction seems logical. It would still be ignoring a certain OnePlus 3, at random, which also chose a non-mechanical central button, with integrated fingerprint reader, but which reacts normally when requested by a finger covered with a textile. Quite simply because the button itself has a sensitive layer and, therefore, reactive to touch.


With a glove, from the lock screen (which turns on by itself when the phone is seized), it is still possible to access the iOS widgets and the camera. 

Finally, this limited or difficult access should not make us forget a major element: in the event of extreme cold, a user with gloves and a Touch-ID configured on his fingerprint must, whatever happens, remove his glove ( here the iris reader of a Galaxy Note 7 or a Lumia 950 XL finds its full meaning).

The interactive screen of iOS 10 and the camera remain accessible, since now the screen wakes up when the user grabs the iPhone (without pressing a button) and just slides the finger towards the left or the right to find them, from the home screen of the latest Apple OS. 

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