The iPhone 15 Pro could be the end of an era — here’s why

iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

There are a lot of rumored changes coming to the iPhone 15 Pro, but one of those changes could spell the end of a feature that’s been part of the iPhone experience since day one. I am talking about the mute switch, a toggle that lets you easily switch your iPhone’s ringer on or off.

According to a growing number of rumors, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are set to remove the mute switch and replace it with a new solid-state “action button”. It’s been claimed that this button will still be able to toggle the ringer on and off, though users will also be able to program the button to do various other useful features.

The mute switch isn’t completely dead, since rumors have only applied to iPhone 15 Pro so far, but this is the end of an era for all smartphones — not just the iPhone. An era that I’m quite sad to see go.

I’m going to miss the physical toggle

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

I’m quite a big fan of physical buttons and toggles where it’s possible. The mechanical keyboard connected to my desktop is much more efficient and satisfying to use than the keyboard on my laptop, for instance. And buttons and dials in the car make a heck of a lot more sense than packing everything into a smooth, glossy touchscreen.

Physical objects offer a tactile experience, and it means you can tell what the situation is by touch alone. The volume of a phone is one of those things that can be an absolute nightmare in the wrong place and time. A physical toggle is an easy way to switch the volume off quickly and silently, while also being able to subtly check its position should the need arise.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Android phones, and the various volume sliders in the software itself are really annoying to use. You could try and rely on the volume buttons alone, but considering there are five separate volume sliders in Android right now, there’s no guarantee that it’ll make any difference to the right volume level if you’re not looking at the screen.

Granted, Apple’s mute switch doesn’t silent every single noise. If you want to silent all volume, including alarms and media, you need to switch on Do Not Disturb in the Control Center. If I had my way I’d add a third setting to the toggle, much like OnePlus did with its Alert Slider, that lets you silence all noise. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to be the case with the new Action Button on iPhone 15 Pro. Because a solid-state button is exactly as the name suggests. No physical movement means it’s going to feel exactly the same regardless of what phase your phone is in at any given time.

Action button: At least we're getting something in return

An alleged iPhone 15 Pro case, showing off a new button on its left side

(Image credit: Majin Bu/X)

I can’t blame Apple for replacing the mute switch with something a little more modern, and frankly it’s surprising that it’s taken this long to do. Many of the toggle’s contemporaries were scrapped years ago, whether you’re talking about the old 30-pin charger, the headphone jack or even the home button. The only things that can claim the same level of longevity are the power and volume buttons, and that’s because they’re essential parts more than anything else.

The fact the action button can be programmed to do other stuff, be it activate the flashlight, record voice memos, activate a shortcut or something totally customizable, means that the former mute switch will have a lot more use than before.

Moving parts have a habit of wearing down over time, and the mute switch’s main job is moving from one position to another. No matter how much or little you use that toggle there’s always a chance that it will, eventually, wear down and break. A solid state button has no such issues, because it’s, well, solid.

It’s also worth noting that we have heard rumors about iPhones replacing all their buttons with solid-state alternatives. Rumors that it would happen to the iPhone 15 Pro have been refuted several times, but there has been word that Apple could make the switch next year with the iPhone 16 Pro. In a way you could see the launch of the action button as a baby step towards that upgrade, which in turn could lead to a portless, seamless iPhone in the near future.

And in Apple’s defense, if the rumors are true then it sounds like Apple isn’t taking a feature away. We’ve heard a bunch about what the Action Button could do, and one of its main purposes is to put the phone into silent mode. In other words, it’s still a mute switch of sorts — even if there’s no actual switch to speak of. Not like OnePlus, who just removed the alert slider and used the old “we needed that space” excuse.

The fact the action button can be programmed to do other stuff, be it activate the flashlight, record voice memos, activate a shortcut, or something totally customizable, means that the former mute switch has a lot more use than before. Plus, it gives users more choice on how their phone works, which is something Apple’s only realized is a good thing over the past few years.

Still, a solid-state mute button won’t be nearly as satisfying as the physical mute switch. Not just because you can flick it on and off, but also because you always know what position it’s in — even if you aren’t looking at it. An immovable button doesn’t quite have that same appeal.


I understand what Apple is rumored to be doing here, and I can’t fault the logic behind swapping the mute switch for an action button. It does the same thing as before, but does it in a way that offers more if users want it that way. I’ve long argued that phone makers should give people more opportunities to choose, rather than dictating how their products be used, and the action button rumors are the perfect example of that in action.

But I can’t help feeling a little sad. The mute switch was there back in June 2007, when the very first iPhone landed in our hands, and it’s endured for the past 14 years. Since the action button is expected to be a Pro-exclusive feature we may still see the mute switch stick around for another year or two. But the writing seems to be on the wall, and it seems like the toggle is on its way out in the very near future.

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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.