You don’t need to be following the Apple rumor mill too closely to know that there are big changes coming with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. One of those changes is the removal of real, clicky buttons in favor of something new. But just how new will Apple go?
We’ve been hearing rumors about Apple ditching clicky volume buttons for months now, going back to 2022. Recent leaks show CAD images that appear to depict the changes well — Apple will remove the two volume buttons and replace them with a single touch-sensitive button instead.
But there’s something else. Another button. One that looks set to replace the mute switch. But what else can it do and could Apple take a cue from one of its more recent releases, the Apple Watch Ultra?
Muted mute button
First, a recap.
Apple’s iPhones have had a mute switch since the get-go. The OG iPhone had a mute switch way back in 2007 and it’s been one of the many things Android owners wished their own devices would have. A quick way to stop the iPhone from making noise, perfect for going into a meeting for example.
Now, it looks like the switch is going away. There’s a button in its place, according to these CAD images, which suggests to anyone paying attention that pressing the button will mute the phone come iPhone 15 Pro time. Press it again, and the phone’s back to making noise.
More cads images The buttons! Source in video pic.twitter.com/sxy9GaNCreMarch 20, 2023
That’s less than ideal for one key reason — there will be no hardware visualization to show whether the phone is muted or not. That isn’t great, and I have been known to put my hand in my pocket to feel which position the mute switch is in. I won’t be doing that anymore.
But that’s OK so long as Apple does one thing — turns that faux mute switch into an Action button, just like Apple Watch Ultra.
Faux Action button
The Apple Watch Ultra is the best Apple Watch for a variety of reasons, but one of those reasons is the addition of an extra button that can be programmed to do just about anything. By default, it can start a workout and whatnot, but with Shortcuts support it can then be configured to do all kinds of things. Want to press a button and have a new task created in OmniFocus? No problem. Run some sort of smart home automation? Sure, why not?
The same can be said for anything else that the Shortcuts app supports on the Apple Watch. So how cool would it be if Apple brought the same capabilities to its best iPhone?
Sure, you could still have that button behave like a mute switch if you wanted to. But what if pressing that same button could start a navigation for work, or show you the latest bus times, or when your flight will land, or… you get the idea. It could even open a menu created in Shortcuts that then branches out into all of the things you most often use your iPhone for.
The sky really is the limit here, but it’ll all only work if Apple lets it. There’s no suggestion that there will be any extra buttons on the iPhones this time around, so a dedicated bright orange Action button isn’t happening. But being able to repurpose the mute button would be the next best thing and it’s something I’m absolutely here for.
Unfortunately, none of this would come to the iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Plus because they aren’t going to get the same titanium refresh and button delete, but maybe next time? For now, the Action button could be another key differentiator as Apple seeks to show people why they should go Pro this time around.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.