The iPhone 15 Pro Action button is ingenious — there's just one problem

iPhone 15 Pro Max Action button settings
(Image credit: Future)

The ringer switch is dead. And I'm mostly glad. The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max both have a new Action button that lets you do all sorts of things with a long press. The possibilities are pretty much endless — and frustratingly limited at the same time.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves let me explain what the Action button is and what it can do. The iPhone 15 Pro Action button sits on the left side of the handset above the volume controls, and it uses haptic feedback to let you know when it's been long pressed. A short press lets you quickly check the ringer status (on or muted), which is clever.

Even better, if you were worried that the Action button didn't let you know what the ringer status was while it's in your pocket, it does just that via vibrations. So you really give up nothing with the Action button. And Apple adds a lot of functionality here.

Using an intuitive interface in the Settings menu, you can swipe through the various options for mapping functions to the Action button. You can launch the camera, flashlight, voice memo, magnifier and more. And within these menus you can set a specific shortcut via a drop-down, such as launching directly into taking a selfie, for example. 

So far, so good. But I have one issue. 

iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

The Action button limits you to just a single action at any given time. So you can't map more than one thing to the button. For example, why shouldn't I be able to double press the action button to launch the camera and triple press it to launch the voice recorder?

Why shouldn't I be able to double press the action button to launch the camera and triple press it to launch the voice recorder?

I get it. Apple is just rolling out this feature for the first time, and it wants to keep things simple. The whole reason the Action button requires a long press as opposed to a number of specific presses is to make things easy on users. The current Action button setup also prevents iPhone 15 Pro owners from accidentally activating a shortcut they didn't intend to trigger.

But for power users like me, I feel like I could remember what two presses do versus three presses or even four. For instance, maybe I could start a text message thread with a favorite contact with one action and activate a focus mode with another. As of right now, you need to decide the one and only action the button can perform, which is restrictive.

The bottom line is this. The Action button is a smart reimagining of the ringer switch. But it doesn't go far enough. Over time, though, I see Apple opening up more options as users get acclimated to this new way of interacting with our iPhones. 

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Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • hayley3
    I hate any device that needs a short press, a long press, 2 presses to turn on, 3 presses to turn off, 4 presses to make a phone call..etc..etc..etc...
    I don't want to have to remember such a thing.