The new iPhone 15 Pro lineup offers the typical array of new features designed to persuade customers to upgrade: They’re increasingly thinner than last year’s crop. The new cameras are professional grade and switching to USB-C charging will make your life easier.
But one new feature easily stands out: the action button.
Apple has repurposed its physical mute button on the side of its high-end models into a more customizable tool, allowing users to perform a handful of commands, from recording a voice memo to taking a photo. by switching on the flashlight. The button can also be programmed to launch any app or shortcut, essentially turning it into a remote control or launchpad for quickly accessing something you want on demand.
Since Apple’s iPhone 15 event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, I’ve used it to load a variety of apps with a single press, including CNN, Amazon, and Instagram. It’s certain that the action button will become a viable resource for anyone revisiting an app repeatedly throughout the day.
But it also has the potential to become an even more powerful tool; you can program it to play your favorite playlist, turn on the smart lights in your living room, or use it to open the garage door. You could even turn it into a dedicated button to call mom. It is based on iOS existing offering of ready-made or custom shortcuts, and Apple encourages developers to create more unique shortcuts than other users could activate on the action button.
The change is subtle but it’s one of the few notable tweaks to the iPhone design this year. The action button is about the same size as the existing button and users always hold it down to toggle between muting and unmuting the ringtone. Commands are accompanied by visual feedback from the Dynamic Island bar — Home alerts and notifications to the top of the screen.
The Action Button update, along with changes to the phone’s charging and camera systems, comes as Apple looks to give consumers more reasons to upgrade their iPhone. Last month, Apple’s sales fell for the third consecutive quarter. iPhone revenue was $39.7 billion for the quarter, down about 2% year over year as users updated their devices less often.
Another selling point for splurging on the iPhone 15 Pro ($1,099) or iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,199): The phones come with a titanium body – the same alloy used to build the Mars Rover – making them what Apple calls the thinnest and lightest Pro models yet. Apple’s entry-level iPhones, the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, cost $799 and $899, respectively. The full line begins shipping Friday.
To program the action button, iPhone 15 Pro users can visit the button section in Settings, scroll through, and select from a series of features, such as a flashlight or camera. However, by choosing the shortcuts option, users can navigate through their list of previously established apps or commands.
Once set, there is a slight learning curve after years of being used to using the physical button to turn the volume on and off. For this reason, it might take some iPhone loyalists a while to change the way they use the device.
The action button isn’t entirely new; the company revealed it last year on the Apple Watch Ultra. Apple told CNN that it was inspired to make it part of the iPhone after hearing anecdotes from users saying they routinely left their phones on silent, rendering the button essentially useless. Given that iPhone usage has changed a lot since its debut 16 years ago, revisiting a signature feature like the mute button was only a matter of time, according to the company.
Ramon Llamas, director of market research firm IDC, believes last week’s announcement is just the first step toward a more dynamic action button. “I’d like to think the action button could be a little more expansive, like one click would take you to a feature; two clicks take you to another, and three clicks take you to something else,” Llamas said. “But I think that would be it. Beyond that, you risk launching the wrong app, like Wordle, at the wrong time (when you need your camera the most),” he said.
According to Llamas, it’s also a strategic way for Apple to make the most of the already limited space on the device. Annette Zimmerman, vice president analyst at market research firm Gartner, agrees, noting that “having just one button to do exactly one thing isn’t exactly progressive in an age where everything is multifunctional and can be program “.
Although it is unclear whether the action button will be available on more devices in the future, Apple continues its efforts to create a uniform ecosystem for its consumers. Likewise, Apple is adding a Double Tap feature that lets users use a finger function to control the Apple Watch, just months after showing off a similar gesture on its upcoming Vision Pro mixed reality headset.
For now, iPhone 15 Pro users will enjoy playing with the new action button. While this feature alone isn’t worth the upgrade to the iPhone 15, the move to universal charging, a faster processor, and advanced camera capabilities make it a solid package, especially if you don’t have carried out upgrades in recent years.