The curious case of the missing iPad 3 home button

Josh Lowensohn

Eagle-eyed readers have been pointing out a curious omission on the imagery of Apple's iPad-themed invite that went out this morning: there's no home button in sight. The simplest explanation here is that it's a photo of (what is presumably) an iPad 2 on its side, something that's not that much of a stretch given that the iPad's been designed to work the same no matter which end is down.

Yet it's also curious given rumors of Apple ditching the home button on the iPad, an option that came to light when the company introduced multi-touch gestures to developers in iOS 4.3, and later as a feature for users in iOS 5. One of those is a full hand pinch that brings users back to the iPad's home screen, just like what would happen if you clicked on the home button.

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Readers might be scratching their heads at the familiarity of this all, though. Two months before Apple took the wraps off the iPad 2, there was a story coming from Boy Genius Report saying that Apple's next iPad would be the first iOS gadget to ditch the home button for gestures, with others like the iPhone and iPod Touch to follow. That didn't happen though.

The case for phasing out a home button has become less clear though. It's a pivotal part of using Siri on the iPhone 4S, and if Siri makes its way to other iOS devices (including future iPads), it would be unusual to get rid of it. Apple has also kept the multi-touch gesture feature something that is optional, specifically to keep games and applications that make use of multi-finger gestures from being broken by the system.

On top of all this, there were also those mysterious iPad 3 home buttons that made the rounds late last year, alongside what was alleged to be the glass front of the device, which--yep--had a spot for the home button.

One thing's for sure. We'll know the full story next week, when Apple's event goes down.