A new Apple patent uncovered by the site Apple Insider hints at a 3D Touch enabled 'home button' that seems to lay the groundwork for possible use without a physical button at all. The patent, which can be seen below, shows how an additional layer that would perceive 'force' could be implemented below the 'Touch ID' layer that currently identifies fingerprints. The images seem to suggest this could be implemented not only in a physical version but in a button-less version where the 'button' would simply appear on screen and be 'pressed' by a user with varying force to emulate the function of a physical home button.
If true and if the company can perfect the technology this would open up the possibility of having a true edge to edge, top to bottom display on the iPhone where the 'button' would appear in certain scenarios such as locking and unlocking the phone or when used for certain app functions, but could also 'disappear' completely when watching a movie, web browsing or playing a game. Of course Apple files lots of patents that never make it into products but this is one that seems a sure bet to be implemented in some form in the future considering the company's push to enable 3D touch in multiple devices. US Patent OfficeAppleInsider