iPhone screen
The HomePod’s firmware apparently contains information on how the iPhone 8’s virtual home button works. Reuters/Phil Noble

While the tech industry is getting closer to finally meeting Apple’s iPhone 8, there are still a lot of things about the handset that are shrouded in mystery. Case in point is how the new virtual home button of the upcoming flagship works. Very little is known about this feature until this week.

On Wednesday, iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith — the same person who outed several specs and features of the iPhone 8 and Apple’s HomePod smart speaker last week — took to Twitter to share his latest discovery in the HomePod’s firmware. According to him, there are codes in the firmware that speak of the behavior of the iPhone 8’s digital home button.

As what earlier reports stated, Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone will come with an all-screen, bezel-less design. Because the front of the handset will leave no room for a physical home button, Apple has come up with a technology that incorporates the physical home button’s functions into the handset’s display. This is what the digital home button is all about.

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Previous leaks claim that the digital home button will be displayed at the bottom part of the iPhone 8’s screen. Needless to say, it would still feel like there’s a physical home button on the device underneath the screen real estate that’s dedicated to the user interface. While this was made clear by earlier reports and leaks, details on how the virtual home button behaves or works were left out.

Fortunately, Troughton-Smith has found codes that could explain the behavior of the virtual home button. Per the developer, the digital home button appears to have the capacity to expand or minimize and even show or hide itself from view. Another detail suggests that the digital home button will have high-contrast colors to make it stand out from the various backgrounds users could assign to the screen, as per Apple Insider.

Troughton-Smith also learned that the virtual home button will be automatically minimized when a video is being watched in full screen mode. This would mean that the video content will span the entire OLED screen of the device. As such, fullscreen video will be rendered at a wide aspect ratio to cover the entire 5.8-inch display of the iPhone 8.

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It’s a different story when talking about apps. MacRumors says there’s no evidence to indicate that the home button area disappears when an app is launched. Instead, the digital home button will remain while the apps’ tab bars will be shown above it. Therefore, the home button’s function area will not accommodate any piece of app UI.

Although all of these things are based on the codes found in the HomePod’s firmware that was briefly made available to developers early last week, it’s still possible for Apple to make some changes to the digital home button prior the official launch of the iPhone 8. Speaking of the flagship phone’s launch, a new report is claiming that Apple will unveil the device in November instead of the usual September launch date for the company’s new iPhones.