iPhone 16 Capture button — here's what I'd like to see from this new feature

iPhone 16 camera pill design
(Image credit: MacRumors)

I found myself using an iPhone 15 to take photos the other day — and I mean a lot of photos for our iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 200-photo face-off. The weather proved less-than-ideal for this task, as I found myself repeatedly having to launch the camera app from my iPhone's lock screen and line up the shot, all during a steady downpour. 

"What would come in handy right now," I mused, after my second hour of rain-soaked photography is one of those capture buttons to speed things up."

I can't claim credit for coming up with the idea of an iPhone Capture button on my own. It's a rumored feature of this fall's iPhone 16 release, with all four upcoming models tipped to add this new-to-the-iPhone feature.

And if newly leaked photos of iPhone 16 dummy units are anything to go by, it sounds like I'm going to get my wish. The dummy units posted by noted leaker Sonny Dickson claim to show off all four iPhone 16 models, and on each one, there's a new button located just below the iPhone's power button. 

iPhone 16 dummy units

(Image credit: @SonnyDickson on X)

With an Action button on the other side of each model — the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus are reportedly adopting this iPhone 15 Pro feature — one assumes this mystery button added on the opposite side of the handset is the rumored Capture button.

So it would seem like a Capture button is very much in Apple's plans. Less clear, at least at this point is what task Apple plans to have that button perform.

How a Capture button could work

iPhone 15 Pro showing off buttons on its side.

(Image credit: Future)

The name being bandied about internally at Apple sort of gives away the purpose of the button. If it really is called the "capture" button, you'd imagine that it has something to do with controlling the cameras on each iPhone model. It sounds like a good guess, but that's all it can be for now, as rumors have yet to confirm what purpose the Capture button would serve.

Don't worry too much about that, though. If there's one thing today's modern tech press is prepared to do, it's fill in the details when a company the size of Apple declines to give us the scoop on any unannounced product improvements. So we can make some pretty educate guesses as to what a Capture button would bring to the iPhone 16 experience.

For starters, I don't think the Capture button should merely launch the Camera app on the iPhone. That seems like something you'd use the Action button for. Instead, the second you put your finger on the Capture button, your iPhone's camera should spring to life and be ready to take a photo as soon as you press down on the button.

That would make the Capture button a time-saving tool, one that would make the process of shooting photos more frictionless. Imagine not having to miss a shot because you're fumbling to unlock your iPhone and launch the camera app.

The Capture button should also serve double-duty, with different types of presses controlling different types of actions. You'd capture a photo with a single press of the button, for instance, while a double tap would start video capture. Press once while the video camera is active, and you get a still shot from the camera.

If Apple really wants to put some muscle behind the Capture button, it would also let you zoom in and out by pressing and holding the button. Maybe this is a feature limited to the iPhone 16 Pro models, since those are the ones with dedicated telephoto lenses, but maybe not. The point would be to bake in as many different functions into the Capture button as possible rather than take the more limited approach of the Action button.

Capture button outlook

Naturally, Apple is going to have to figure out a way to guard against inadvertent presses of the Capture button when you're grabbing for your iPhone. I have a remarkable ability to pick up my iPhone by grabbing right where the power and volume up buttons are on either side of the phone. The end result is I take a lot of screenshots of my home screen that I hever intended to. I could easily imagine the same thing happening with me pressing the Capture button while trying to grab my phone and winding up with a camera roll's worth of photos of the inside of my pocket.

Then again, it's Apple's place to fill in the blanks here, not mine, and I imagine there are a lot of qualified folks walking around the Cupertino campus who have a pretty good idea about what a Capture button should and shouldn't be able to do.

Whatever they decide, a Capture button figures to be a welcome addition to the iPhone 16, given how important camera features are when figuring out what smartphone to buy. If the Capture button can make taking photos just a little big easier, that's the kind of marginal gain that keeps future iPhones ahead of the competition in the race to build the best camera phone.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.