Rather than the mechanical switches used now, these buttons would detect touches and respond with haptic feedback — much like the touchpad on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Sadly, there are now reports claiming this won’t be the case.
According to analysts Jeff Pu and Ming Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), the iPhone 15 Pro series may not get solid-state buttons after all. Pu claims this is due to the complexities of the design, and the fact the phones would require three new haptic engines. So to give Apple time to build the necessary parts, this hardware may not make its debut before 2024 — and the launch of the iPhone 16 Pro.
Kuo corroborated Pu’s claims, noting the iPhone 15 Pro is still in the “Engineer Validation Test” (EVT) stage. That means Apple still has time to change the final design without delaying the iPhone 15’s launch. Kuo notes that switching to traditional mechanical buttons will “simplify the development and testing process” — though he makes no mention of when solid-state buttons might eventually appear.
It’s worth mentioning that Kuo previously asserted that solid-state buttons were coming. Now that he’s recanted that claim, it suggests that they may not be happening after all. We won’t know for sure until the iPhone 15 launch event — which is currently expected to take place this fall.
Solid-state buttons would have a number of benefits, particularly where durability and water resistance are concerned. The lack of moving parts means there are fewer points of failure, and less opportunity for components to wear out over extended periods.
It also means Apple wouldn’t need to cut out space for the buttons in the iPhone’s frame. That means one less point for potential incursions of dust and water, as well as fewer points of weakness in the frame itself.
No solid-state buttons, but what about the mute switch?
9to5Mac notes that it isn’t clear what will happen to the new iPhone 15 mute button, which would have replaced the iPhone 15 Pro’s mute switch. Rumor is the switch was supposed to be replaced by another solid-state "action button" button, one which could also be customized to do other things.
Dummy units have popped up online showing what appears to be a new action button, rather than a physical switch. The dummy units also feature a much larger volume rocker, which GSMArena speculates could be to make it easier to alter the volume in the absence of physical buttons.
Judging from Kuo’s latest report, Apple has been considering the possibility of adding solid-state buttons to the iPhone 15 Pro. So whether this dummy unit is meant to showcase a device with solid-state or mechanical buttons isn’t entirely clear.
Interestingly the dummy unit also appears to feature a SIM tray. We’re expecting U.S. iPhone 15 variants to be eSIM-only, much like the iPhone 14, but that’s not to say there may not be international models that continue to use physical cards. It’s not clear which regions will still be able to use physical SIM cards, since we’ve heard rumors that Europe and other regions could adopt the eSIM-only approach.
iPhone 15 Pro — what else to expect
Whether we get solid-state buttons or not, we’ve been hearing a great many rumors about the other upgrades the iPhone 15 Pro series will include. The main one is a switch from Lightning to USB-C, meaning you won’t need to recharge using Apple’s proprietary cable — though charging speed may be throttled if you use a cable that isn’t Apple approved.
Word is that the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max may offer a new titanium chassis, which would improve its strength while lowering the overall weight. Other rumors include a new periscope telephoto lens for the Pro Max only, which should offer better optical zoom, the new ultra-powerful A17 Bionic chipset, and super-thin bezels around the display.
The standard iPhone 15 is also said to come with a Dynamic Island, which all four models will arrive running iOS 17 right out of the box — along with all the new features the new software has to offer. We won’t be hearing much about what those are until WWDC 2023 in June, though.