I never really cared much for push-to-talk calling — at least until I discovered the Apple Watch’s best hidden feature, its walkie-talkie app, which I accidentally uncovered while scrolling through the smartwatch's many watch faces. With rumors about the iPhone 15 Pro gaining an Action button becoming more real, we could see the upcoming phone steal a feature that I’ve come to rely on more often than not. And I couldn’t be anymore excited for this possibility.
While this major iPhone 15 Pro design change may be controversial given how users have become accustomed to the physical mute switch on current models, a rumored action button opens up a flood gate of potentially new iPhone functions. Most people are probably excited for other changes to expect, like a new periscope camera and a more durable titanium frame with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but it would really be cool to effectively get a walkie-talkie iPhone.
We’re less than a month away until Apple’s anticipated iPhone 15 event in September, but the latest leaks showing a dummy iPhone 15 Pro unit with cutouts for a USB-C port and an Action button makes me excited about a walkie-talkie function for the iPhone. Here’s why.
Opening up custom functions
One of the practical reasons for getting an Action button similar to the one on the Apple Watch Ultra is that the new button could be a launcher for many different things. If it turns out to be a haptic, capacitive button, the Action button could very well be customized to be a push-to-talk button between iPhone users.
In the recent iOS 17 beta 4 release, uncovered code reveals various presets that could be tied to an action button — including a mute function that users will probably miss. Additionally, other shortcuts found in the code indicate how the Action button could be used to do more than act as a launcher to current iPhone functions and apps. In fact, the Shortcuts app in iOS could be leveraged in a way so that complex actions could be executed.
Theoretically, you could program the Action button to call someone, but then you’d have to wait for them to accept the call — and hopefully not go to voicemail. It would be more practical if the new button on the iPhone 15 Pro models could give us instant communication to whomever we’re trying to reach.
This needs to become a native iPhone feature
For the Action button to function perfectly like a walkie-talkie, Apple would have to natively bring the feature to iOS. Right now, it’s only accessible through watchOS. But adding support to iOS would allow older iPhones to potentially use this feature as well, whether it’s something integrated with the Phone or FaceTime apps on iPhone.
In fact, the Apple Watch’s walkie-talkie function actually leans on FaceTime for it to work. If FaceTime is disabled or deleted, you wouldn’t be able to use your watch as a walkie-talkie. Becoming a native feature on iOS would give iPhone users an alternative way of communicating with someone.
Despite running the iOS 17 public beta on my iPhone 14 Pro Max, it hasn’t yielded any sort of direct function for iPhone-to-iPhone communication. However, this could be something that Apple introduces later on.
A potentially life-saving feature
Phone calls and FaceTime serve their purpose, but I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve leaned on using my Apple Watch’s walkie-talkie feature to get in touch with someone instantly. It’s very similar to the controversial Drop-In function on many of Amazon’s Alexa devices, since the person I’m trying to reach doesn’t have to technically accept my call. It sounds creepy, but I’ve found it useful whenever my calls or texts go unanswered.
However, there’s a life-saving potential with this feature that can’t be overlooked. By having the Action button programmed to be a push-to-talk function, users could use it to get help during emergency situations when timing makes a difference.
Imagine a scenario where someone's iPhone screen isn't functional for some reason — that person would be unable to get help through conventional phone calling or text messaging. That’s how a walkie-talkie button could prove to be beneficial on an iPhone.
It won’t be long before Apple reveals its upcoming iPhone 15 models, and there’s a good incentive for the company to consider bringing the Apple Watch’s best hidden feature to the iPhone. With so many leaks indicating the Action button’s existence, it would be another way for the iPhone to make our lives easier.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.