Mechanical buttons are usually reliable. In addition, they provide a natural response – the user feels that they have been pressed, even through the case.
However, they don’t allow you to regulate clicks. In addition, they occupy a certain amount of space in the housing. Apple posted interesting patentwhich contains a potential solution to these problems.
Apple can bet on electromagnetic buttons
Traditional buttons need about 200 micrometers (0.2 mm) to work. In turn, the Apple button from the patent requires only 10 micrometres (0.01 mm). Thanks to this, it is possible to reduce its dimensions compared to traditional solutions.
Apple has proposed not to use contact plates for switch operation. Deep inside the subassembly is located pressure sensor, which is responsible for detecting not only the press itself, but also his strength.
So it would work in this respect similar to the virtual buttons with vivo NEX 3S or Touch ID found in iPhones. However, they have a disadvantage – they need an additional component responsible for the characteristic “kick” to simulate a few clicks.
The electromagnetic button is a 2 in 1 design
The electromagnetic button from Apple’s patent does not need it because … itself is a vibration motor. A permanent magnet surrounded by a coil was installed inside. With the flow of current, it repels (or attracts) the magnet, which allows you to create a click. Due to the operating principle, it resembles a loudspeaker.
The magnet only moves by 0.01 millimetersHowever, it looks like that’s enough to simulate a click. Interestingly, the mechanism can potentially also be used in switches, e.g. silent mode and even … a keyboard.
An electromagnetic switch would not only allow for reducing the physical size of the buttons, but also the ability to control both by vibration and the power of just a few clicks. This opens new possibilities. Apple could, for example, use it for two-stage shutter button simulation – lightly pressing the button halfway would activate the autofocus, while a stronger photo would be taken.
Unfortunately, the electromagnetic button only exists in the form of a patent and it is not known if Apple will ever materialize the idea. However, I hope that this will happen because it is really interesting.