Shortly after the iPhone 14 was released, it was rumored that Apple would be ditching its physical buttons entirely for the next generation of iPhones.
Since then, that plan has been softened to just the mute switch purportedly being taken out, and replaced by a flexible, programmable haptic action button. What does that mean for you and the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max? Here’s everything we know about the Action button so far.
iPhone 15 Pro Action button: What is it?
Most current iPhones have four buttons: a side button, two volume buttons and a Ring/Silent switch. Apple reportedly intends to replace the last of these with a single button, which the user can program to their own liking.
In addition to giving more flexibility to iPhone 15 Pro owners, replacing the switch with a button has advantages for Apple in terms of reliability. The gap present for a physical switch not only makes water ingress more likely, but fluff and dust can build up too. If the Action button is a haptic, capacitive button, then there are no moving parts to break either.
iPhone 15 Pro Action button: What could it do?
Thanks to a recent iOS 17 beta code dive, we have a pretty good idea of the kinds of functionality that users will be able to bind to the Action button.
In the recent iOS 17 beta 4, MacRumors’ Steve Moser found a list of shortcut keywords: Accessibility, Shortcuts, Silent Mode, Camera, Flashlight, Focus, Magnifier, Translate and Voice Memos.
While this might not be an exhaustive list, it gives you a general idea about what Apple could be thinking in terms of handy shortcuts — including "Silent Mode," so that those who miss the mute switch won’t be completely out in the cold.
"Shortcuts" is especially important, as the app lets users apply complex strings of actions, which can presumably be triggered by a single press of the Action button.
iPhone 15 Pro Action button: What’s happening to the volume buttons?
Early rumors suggested that as well as eliminating the mute switch, Apple would be replacing the volume buttons with a haptic rocker to reduce moving parts and make the phone less susceptible to water ingress.
An apparent official Apple leather case for the new device, posted to Twitter/X by leaker Majin Bu seems to back up the elimination of the mute switch. Most iPhone cases tend to have a cut-out in their sides to accommodate the current mute switch, but this particular case instead uses a small button, similar to the existing power and volume keys but shorter.
However, the suggestion of a volume haptic rocker may not prove to be correct. That plan appears to have been abandoned for unspecified reasons. Initially, it was suggested that it was merely postponed to the iPhone 16 Pro, but now that’s in doubt too.
iPhone 15 Pro Action button: Outlook
As an iPhone 14 Pro user, I’m actually of two minds about this potential upgrade. On one hand, a programmable button is clearly a lot more flexible than a single-function switch, which is objectively a good thing.
But on the other, I really like the mute switch. As a regular theatergoer, I like the fact that I can instantly mute my phone via a switch if I forget to put it on Airplane mode. And while muting is one of the functions here, with a switch you know it's been actioned even if you’re doing it in your pocket, because you can feel if it's in the right position.
But I’m probably in the minority, and most people will likely welcome the added functionality. We’ll find out when the iPhone 15 Pro is revealed — probably as soon as next month at the Apple September event.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.