The rumor mill for the Apple iPhone 15 has been ramping up lately, and if the whispers are true, this would be the biggest overhaul for the iPhone yet. Many of the reports have been circulating around the state of the buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, specifically that they’re rumored to have a single volume rocker and that the mute switch will be replaced with a button — all solid-state as well.
The latest rumor to come out, though, is that the iPhone 15 Pro mute switch may not be replaced with a mute button at all. Instead, it could actually be a multi-use Action Button, similar to what’s on the Apple Watch Ultra. If this is the case, then it’s going to be one of the biggest changes to iPhone hardware design, with plenty of pros to it … but also a big con.
An Action Button would benefit everyone
I actually love the idea of the iPhone 15 Pro getting a multi-use Action Button. To be honest, one of the first things I do when I get a new phone is put it on mute. I find alerts and notification sounds annoying and distracting, so I would rather not hear them at all. Sometimes I will leave the ringtone for calls on in case of emergencies, but I also have an Apple Watch, so if an important call comes in, I typically feel the vibration on my wrist or in my pocket if my phone is there.
Once I activated that mute switch on my iPhone 14 Pro, it pretty much stayed that way. I do turn it off in a movie theater, just to ensure that my phone won’t make a sound during a movie, and then back on again when it’s over, but otherwise, it remains unchanged.
When the Apple Watch Ultra was unveiled, though it took me a while to get used to the new design, I loved the idea of the customizable Action Button. By default, it was set to activate workouts, but users could customize it to do other things — including activating programmed shortcuts from the Shortcuts app.
If the iPhone 15 Pro gets an Action Button, I would use that much more than a mute switch or button. I suppose the default action could be to “mute” the phone, but there are so many more cool use cases. For example, it could be used to activate Do Not Disturb, launch the camera app, turn the flashlight on and off, lock screen rotation, capture a screenshot, toggle light/dark mode, and more.
Of all those things, can we take a minute to appreciate the convenience of a possible camera shortcut? I can’t tell you how many times the lock screen camera app shortcut fails to work properly, and I miss out on a precious moment with my daughter. If I was able to just program a button on the hardware to get to the camera app faster, it would be a godsend. But I also would love to be able to even double press the Action Button to mute the phone or turn on low power mode, for example.
While I wasn’t entirely sold on Apple removing the mute switch and replacing it with a button, I think there’s a lot of potential if it’s an Action Button, rather than just a mute button. I just mentioned what I would use it for, and I think a lot of other people would do something similar. Just being able to customize what an iPhone Action Button can do opens up an entire world of possibilities, especially if you can link it up to a Shortcut you’ve created or downloaded.
It’s not always greener on the other side
Of course, as great as an Action Button would be, it won’t be great for everyone. After having a mute switch on the iPhone since the original all the way back in 2007, plenty of folks have developed muscle memory with the placement of it, and can easily mute the iPhone in their pockets. This also eliminates the need to take the phone out and check the screen to make sure that it’s on silent, which can be annoying to do in situations like in a movie theater, during a class lecture, or in a work meeting.
Even if the rumored Action Button could be used to enable/disable a silent mode, it won’t be as convenient as the existing switch. The mute switch also made the iPhone more accessible for many people, because you could physically tell by the position of the switch if the device was muted or not. Removing such a switch and replacing it with a button makes it less accessible.
Why couldn’t Apple add a separate Action Button, if it is indeed going this route, or make it so that the side button could be programmable to things besides Siri or Voice Control?
We’ll just have to wait and see
With Apple recently announcing WWDC 2023 for June 5, the wait for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro isn’t far behind. Apple usually unveils the next generation of iPhones in September, so we’ll just have to hold on a little longer to see what it actually does.
Still, the idea of an Action Button piques my interest, and I hope Apple still makes it as easily accessible and convenient as a switch.