According to an article by Ben Sin of the South China Morning Post, haptic pressure sensors embedded in smartphones could eliminate the need for physical buttons. The technology is reportedly being developed by a Chinese company founded by a former Motorola engineer.
The use of the sensors would continue the trend in computing products to removal physical hardware parts. For instance, computer mice that used to rely on internal track balls now rely on lasers. Android phones have moved to digital on-screen buttons, and Apple moved to tactile sensor buttons starting with the iPhone7.
According to the article, in newer handsets any part of a phone can be pressed, and instead of just offering on/off functionality, these parts are pressure sensitive, essentially serving as analog force sensors. This technology is already in used on Google’s three most recent Pixel phones
RELATED: What is a pressure sensor?
Chinese smartphone makers are moving toward pressure sensors, according to the article. Vivo’s Nex 3 flagship handset allowed users to adjust volume by pressing into the side bezel; and the company’s gaming-centric iQoo phone can turn its aluminium chassis into analogue shoulder buttons for gaming. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s upcoming Mix Alpha will have no physical buttons at all; users power on the device by pressing into the side of the device, which is entirely covered by an OLED display.