iOS 5 beta 3 has a new gesture control panel, is this the beginning of the end for hardware button?

iOS 5 features: Accessibility adds new gesture control panel, no hardware buttons needed

iOS 5 beta 3 has an interesting new addition -- Accessibility has been augmented with a gesture based control panel inside “AssistiveTouch” that can reproduce all the functionality of the existing hardware buttons, and much more.

Once turned on in Settings, the control panel can be activated by tapping the overlay on screen. It pops up with a menu containing Gestures, Favorites, Devices, and Home. Gestures has a sub menu for 2, 3, 4, and 5 finger gestures, and once you choose a quantity, blue circles in the appropriate amount appear on screen. Favorites contains defaults like Pinch and Swipe, and any custom gestures you've created. Device replicates the hardware features such as Rotate Screen, Lock Screen, Mute/Unmute, Volume Up/Volume Up, and Shake.

While some may think this heralds Apple ditching hardware buttons, remember, you would still need a way to reset your device if it locks up, to turn off the ringer or change volume if it's in your pocket or purse, and to keep iOS accessible for children and people form whom complex UI and gestures are a barrier to entry.

Still, this could turn out to be a very interesting addition to iOS 5, especially for advanced users who want to have a software-based interface. Most importantly, it shows that Apple -- who is already incredibly far ahead of the competition when it comes to accessibility -- is not slowing down.

[Thanks @kyledziekan]

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UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Reader comments

iOS 5 beta 3 has a new gesture control panel, is this the beginning of the end for hardware button?


...and iPad 1 owners still don't appear to have the previously-availble-to-iOS4 beta users, 4 finger pinch to home screen :(

sure you do... you just hafta have a Mac and download xcode. it was def worth the $5 for me. i love the multitasking gestures! oh and it's 5 finger pinch... 4 is for the multitask tray and swiping through the open apps

This would be SICK if they release it to the general public! I love having multitasking gestures on my iPad, and I would definitely welcome it on my iPhone. I like how they have given you the option to select how many fingers you would like to use to activate a specific action; the one problem I could see with multitasking gestures on the iPhone was that it would feel unnatural to use four and five fingers on the much smaller screen.

Not all hardware buttons are going away - The Lock and volume buttons will stay.
BUT... This certainly heralds that Apple is planning on getting rid of the HOME button.

Actually I was always hoping that this would be the way for Apple to introduce fast access to network settings -- touch the top of the screen, a bezel appears and allows you to quickly toggle Bluetooth, WiFi, Airplane Mode etc.
And now they've wasted that idea on this…?! Meh…

you can jailbreak and use sbsettings if you want. that's exactly what it was created for. but i suppose not all people wanna JB their phones

Thanks, I know about SBSettings of course and it's pretty much the only thing tempting me to jailbreak -- but not enough to actually go through the hassle…! ;)
Also, I always imagined this approach (the bezel on the top screen) a very nice and elegant way for Apple to do it, so I'm kinda bummed that they chose not to…

I would love to see this, as the home button definitely was not built for the kind of use it gets post-iOS 4. Fortunately, Apple replaced my first iphone 4,, but now the second one is going.

I'm surprised that I've become the same way since I got the iPhone 4. I used to toggle the radios on and off all the time on my iPhone 3G to save battery life, but I've found I can leave all the radios on with the iPhone 4 and still have ridiculous amounts of battery left after a day.

well i was reading your post and i was hoping youd say i use activator, activator requires less hassle.

This is great news, I have a physical disability and was getting worried about the complex gestures that are starting to appear like swipe with 3 or 4 fingers that could render iOS unusable for me.
Thanks Apple.