iPhone 15 Pro could ditch volume buttons for solid-state 'rocker'

iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

How different will the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max be, compared to the entry-level iPhone 15? Rumors suggest that Apple will do more to differentiate the various models, and the latest suggests that’ll involve swapping physical buttons for a solid-state alternative.

It’s a rumor we’ve heard a few times before, but the change may not be quite what you were expecting. According to YouTuber ZoneofTech, Apple may introduce a single capacitive volume rocker rather than two distinct buttons. Presumably, it will work as you’d expect, pressing the top ramps up the volume and pressing the bottom decreases it again.

Apparently the proof is in iPhone 15 Pro CAD files, which features two hardware pins where the volume button should be. Normally iPhones need four of those pins, two for each separate button. Half the pins means, in theory, half the buttons.

ZoneOfTech also claims that the iPhone’s mute switch will also be swapped out for a capacitive button — one that would switch silent mode on and off at the push of a button. It’s claimed that Apple will be adding at least two more Taptic Engines to the phone, in an attempt to mimic the feel of an ordinary button.

A switch to solid state buttons with haptics, instead of mechanical buttons, could have a bunch of benefits. Fewer components means fewer points of failure, and a haptic engine won’t wear out over time the same way a mechanical switch might. 

Ditching buttons for a more seamless frame might also prove beneficial for durability. Not having a break or gap in the frame will stop water or dust getting inside the phone, and could minimize weak spots in the process. 

Of course, there may be some problems with opting for this new design too. For starters, the iPhone’s volume and power buttons can be used together to force a faulty phone to restart or go into recovery mode. Apple’s going to have to devise an alternative, which means people are going to have to relearn how to do a hard reset. Much like when the screenshot action changed after the iPhone X ditched the home button.

Another possible problem may well depend on the sensitivity of the new solid-state buttons, and how easily they can be activated by mistake. You don’t want to put your phone in your pocket or a bag and have the phone unmuted because it knocked against something without you realizing it. 

While rumors of the iPhone 15 Ultra’s hyper-durability may make protective cases seem unnecessary, it’s unlikely that cases will go away completely. So it’ll also be interesting to see how case-makers would adapt to these rumored changes, particularly the ones that offer heavy-duty protection.

This is all rumored for the time being, and there’s no guarantee that this is what Apple is planning. While this rumor has come up more than once, we’re going to have to wait and see what the iPhone 15 Pro range has in store for us. If Apple follows its usual schedule we’re likely to see the phones arrive sometime in September. 

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.