It looks like the rumor cycle for the iPhone 5 (or, more likely, "the new iPhone") has just hit a major milestone: the first component leak. Chinese website specializing in replacement parts for various kinds of gadgets briefly put up a listing for replacement home buttons for the iPhone 5. If genuine, the buttons tell us a few things about what the next iPhone will look like.
The buttons were originally listed on TVC-Mall.com, and look a lot like the home buttons found on current-generation iOS devices. In fact, they're externally identical - circular, with a rounded square in the middle.
Nevertheless, they do offer a few hints about what the new iPhone will look like. First, and most obviously, we know two things: the new iPhone will come in black and white, and will, in fact, have a home button. While it may sound silly to confirm that the iPhone will have a home button, the fact is that the home buttons on iOS devices have been a matter of intense speculation for some years. Ever since the first Android smartphone appeared without a home button, rumors that the iPhone would eventually go button-less have circulated. If these home buttons are genuine, then that means that the home button will be around for at least one more generation of iPhone.
The other major thing these home buttons suggest is that the next iPhone will be getting an external redesign. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are basically identical from the outside. As such, their home buttons look the same on the inside. This home button looks slightly different, which suggests that the internal components of the iPhone will be shuffled around at least a little bit. Considering the fact that the iPhone is due a redesign anyway - and with rumors of a redesigned touchscreen and metal casing - the redesign of the iPhone home button, however slight, appears to be a confirmation that the iPhone will be getting a redesign.
This isn't the first time that leaked home buttons have provided a clue about a new Apple product. Back in December the home buttons for the new iPad leaked, and their redesign appeared to confirm rumors that the iPad would be getting a bit thicker, as it ultimately did.
That said, most of this is still speculation. To paraphrase Freud, a home button is still just a home button, and doesn't actually tell us a whole lot. Nevertheless, it does offer some tantalizing hints about what's to come. And since real details about the next iPhone are still a bit thin on the ground, tantalizing hints are pretty much all we've got to go on at this point.