I’m a big proponent of any gadget that has the potential to save lives. While smartphones continue to be the driving force behind our daily routines, phone companies have continually overlooked how their handsets could be used to potentially save lives. With this month's iPhone 15 launch event nearing, this could be the moment where we see the debut of Apple’s greatest life saving device ever.
To Apple’s credit, we saw how the company introduced crash detection with the Apple Watch — which subsequently got trickled down to the iPhone. Just last year, Apple introduced Emergency SOS via satellite that allows users to text emergency services even when there’s no cell phone coverage.
While all of these features show how Apple’s devices have the potential to save lives, the iPhone 15 Pro series could take another significant leap. It all boils down to one of the new features rumored for the Pro models — the Action button — and how it could be the key to expanding access to emergency services. Here’s why.
Programmable to get in touch with people
Rumors based on the code uncovered from the iOS 17 beta 4 hint that this capacitive button — one that’s believed to replace the mute switch in current iPhones — could be programmable. It could act as a preset button of sorts, the kind that could be assigned to turn on the phone's flashlight, launch the camera app, function as a mute switch, and much more with the help of the built-in Shortcuts app on the iPhone.
That’s an important tidbit because it means that the Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro could essentially launch complex tasks. For example, you could program the Action button to send a text message your emergency contacts that you’re in need of assistance — your message might even include your iPhone’s GPS location.
Discreet way of getting help
Sometimes emergency situations could happen suddenly and without notice. That’s why for those situations when you can’t react fast enough — say like you're caught in the middle of a hold up or a stranger appears in your home — the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button could be used to get help in a discreet manner.
By setting everything up with the Shortcuts app, the Action button could be programmed to instantly call 911 and start recording audio with the microphone — all without alerting the perpetrator. More importantly, these tasks could be all done very quickly, which is critical because timing can make all the difference.
There have been countless stories of how the Apple Watch saved lives by contacting emergency services for help thanks to its crash detection feature. However, if you’ve ever tried to access Emergency SOS on the iPhone, you’re still required to long press a combination of buttons before the menu pops up for it — and then you still need to physically swipe on the screen to activate the feature.
Those are precious seconds that some people may not be afforded, which is why a programmable Action button could prove to be even more helpful.
Simple to access, quick to execute commands
This brings me to my final point of why the iPhone 15 Pro could be Apple’s greatest life-saving device ever: it’s simple to access. I imagine that the Action button will be able to tell the difference between short and long presses, so that it could be programmed with up to four actions. They would consist of single, double, and triple taps, along with a long press.
I would imagine that people might set up preset commands for other things, but I really hope that Apple will advise users to at least reserve one of those actions for its Emergency SOS service. Regardless of which one they end up using, it’s the simplicity of activating a command that gives the iPhone 15 Pro series the extra leg up over what Apple has previously offered.
Action button outlook
The Action button may be placed lower on the totem pole for some people, but I cannot tell you how it could be its most underrated feature on the upcoming phone. Sure, it may get overlooked by other prized things the iPhone 15 Pro line is expected to offer, like a faster A17 Bionic chip under the hood and upgraded camera sensors, but I think people will eventually realize this underappreciated quality about the Action button.
We often forget that we tap into only a fraction of our phones’ potential. Life saving isn’t always in our purview when buying a phone, but I firmly feel that Apple has an opportunity here to make the iPhone 15 Pro its greatest life-saving gadget ever. We often don’t think about those worst case scenarios, but when they do happen, you could count on the iPhone even more to help out with the situation.