When Apple introduces new features to Pro iPhones, it’s usually only a matter of time before these filter through to the cheaper models in the range. Sometimes, this can happen in just a year, as was the case with Dynamic Island’s arrival on the iPhone 15 after debuting on the 14 Pro, and it looks like the Action button is going to be a similarly brief exclusive.
MacRumors has seen what it calls “extensive evidence” from its sources that the Action button will be coming to the entire iPhone 16 range. And the early documentation suggests it might become a capacitive button with pressure sensitivity, potentially unlocking more flexible usage.
To recap, the Action button was introduced on the iPhone 15 Pro on the left-hand side. It replaced the much-loved mute switch, but combined that functionality with several other options, including enabling the flashlight, quick launching the camera and, with iOS 17.2, on-the-fly translations. Early rumors pointed to it being a capacitive sensor, but when it eventually emerged it was a physical, tactile button.
It sounds like whatever problems forced Apple away from capacitive sensors last time have been resolved. MacRumors says the new Action button — codenamed “Atlas” — will “function similarly to the Touch ID Home button on older iPhone models, or the Force Touch trackpad” on Macs.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean Touch ID itself is coming back — that’s reportedly dead in the water — this is just a way of thinking about how it will feel and function. Internal documentation adds that the new part will feature a force sensor to detect pressure changes as well as “tact-switching functionality”.
What does that mean? Even MacRumors doesn’t know — it’s “unclear” what that entails, the report says. It could be a typo for ‘task switching’, but that’s total speculation on our part.
Interestingly, the site says this is set to appear alongside the new rumored “Capture” button for the camera rather than in place of it, which could make the design a bit more crowded than we’re used to. The Capture button, the report says, will “include the same functionality as the improved Action button”.
It’s early days for the iPhone 16, and MacRumors caveats its reporting by noting that we’re still many months away from mass production and that this is pre-production information. That means it’s potentially subject to change, even if that “remains unlikely”.
Indeed, the Action button’s wider adoption sounds extremely likely to us. Not only does it make life easier for Apple and its third-party app makers if the controls are uniform across devices, but we’ve already heard that the Action button will be making its way to the iPhone SE 4 in 2025. For it to make the journey to Apple’s cheapest handset, it seems certain that it will have appeared on the mid-range options first.
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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.