Apple, please don’t remove the iPhone’s buttons

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sometimes, there's a phone rumor so persistent, it surfaces every time a new device is about to come out. Such is the case with the iPhone and the oft-repeated claim that Apple plans to remove physical buttons from its handset.

We're still months away from the iPhone 16, but the buttonless Apple phone rumor has already emerged, just like we heard about it leading up to last fall's iPhone 15 too. Go back to 2021, in fact, and you'll find reports that the iPhone buttons' days are numbered.

The idea of Apple removing buttons is just one of those ideas that seemingly sticks around. To me, though, it's a terrible suggestion.

The newest report promises an end to mechanical buttons on the iPhone 16, as Apple switches to solid-state buttons that wouldn't physically press down. When I first heard this rumor, I decided to look at some of the pluses and negatives of removing buttons from iPhones, including how it might affect the phones physically. 

Yes, there's an argument to be made for removing the buttons, but overall the negatives outweigh the positives. Take a look at the pros and cons and you'll see what I mean.

iPhone buttons: What are the positives?

iPhone 16 prototypes

(Image credit: MacRumors)

There are a few benefits to removing the physical buttons from iPhones, and one of the most obvious is how seamless it makes the device look. While Apple reportedly could address some design flaws on the iPhone 16 by introducing a better-looking camera array, the buttons are still garish.

A bigger issue with buttons is that they are very susceptible to breaking since they're moving parts. The faults that can occur can be down to user error, or wear and tear, but button faults are common. Buttons can get stuck or wear out over time; they also have small gaps between them and the chassis that allow dust and grit to enter the phone. 

Finally, certain minor annoyances could disappear with the removal of buttons. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who has managed to take an accidental photo of the inside of my pocket or hit the sleep button when trying to take a picture.

iPhone buttons: What are the negatives?

iPhone 16 Pro render blue bg

(Image credit: @MajinBuOfficial)

Still, i maintain that the cons of removing the iPhone's buttons outweigh those pros. A complete lack of buttons would require some other form of control for tasks like raising and lowering the volume, like a dedicated widget on the phone's display.  This is also true for things like multi-purpose buttons, for instance, the power button.

Buttons make it easy to access features without having to look at your phone. For instance, if I want to lower or raise my phone's volume during a call while on headphones I only have to reach into my pocket and press the button. If there are no buttons, then I need to look at my phone to be able to operator it.

But what about turning to capacitive buttons for power and volume as the latest rumor suggests? They don't have any moving parts to them and instead use haptic feedback and reactive touch to function. This inclusion would remove the risk of damage, and remove the aforementioned small gap too. 

However, capacitive buttons are also pretty complex. Reportedly, Apple was going to use them for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max but found it too difficult to integrate different haptic engines for each button. It's unclear if Apple has had enough time to resolve those issues.


iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

The belief that Apple will completely remove buttons will likely continue once iPhone 17 rumors start picking up and beyond. However, in my mind, the complete removal of buttons would be a massive mistake that Apple would be foolish to make. However, using capacitive or solid-state buttons is an interesting one and could arguably be the middle ground we really need — assuming Apple has resolved the technical issues that seemingly scuttled this change in the past.

We won't know what Apple's plans are until the eventual release of the iPhone 16, which won't be until later this year. However, you can check our hubs for the iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Ultra for any news and rumors as we hear them.

Why not tell me what you think: do you think the day of visible buttons has come and gone and you long for a completely smooth phone, or do you think they are a fundamental part of phone design and need to stay?

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.