Credit: Willydoo / Twitter
While some of the earliest rumors suggested that Apple would replace the physical buttons entirely with solid-state versions, there’s a chance those will be pushed off until next year’s iPhone 16 after Apple reportedly ran into production problems, forcing it to “revert to the traditional physical button design.”
However, although the solid-state haptic buttons may not arrive this fall, that didn’t rule out another change that Apple had in store: replacing the ring/silent switch with a multipurpose “Action” button.
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The ring/silent switch has been around for as long as the iPhone has. It was a defining feature of the original iPhone, providing a quick way to mute your phone in your pocket by feel alone. A similar switch was also found on the first four generations of iPad, although on the larger tablet, it could be customized to function as either a mute switch or an orientation lock.
While the iPhone has never offered the ability to use this switch for any other purpose, Apple may now be taking a page out of those early iPad models and offering even more flexibility as it turns the switch into an action button similar to what’s found on the Apple Watch Ultra.
However, unlike the premium wearable, most reports suggest that Apple will still adopt a haptic action button for the iPhone rather than a mechanical one, despite the other buttons remaining essentially unchanged. If the supply chain rumors are true, Apple pushed off the solid-state buttons primarily due to a problem in acquiring sufficient Taptic Engines to power four buttons on each iPhone, but it may not have a problem getting enough to put one in every iPhone.
With the iOS 17 expected to land in less than a month, we’re down to the final stages of Apple’s developer betas, which means Apple is also getting iOS 17 ready to be installed on the upcoming iPhone 15 lineup. That’s left code sleuths digging for clues in the recent iOS 17 betas, and with the seventh developer beta that landed today, some new hints have been found to point to Apple’s plans for the new iPhone Action Button.
Specifically, the folks over at 9to5Mac discovered that iOS 17 beta 7 includes new haptic feedback patterns that go off when the user not only engages silent mode but also when it’s disengaged.
While this is hidden in the iOS 17 beta code and not available on any current iPhone models, 9to5Mac was able to replicate the haptic feedback for turning off silent mode and describes it as something that “feels like a single firm tap” — much as you’d expect from pressing a button, and likely similar to how Apple handles the Home Button on the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and last two generations of iPhone SE.
Of course, the whole point of the Action Button is that it won’t just be used to toggle silent mode. Instead, you’ll be able to assign a whole bunch of different things to it, depending on your preferences. According to code previously discovered in iOS 17 beta 4 by MacRumors, this will include triggering various accessibility features, actions in the Shortcuts app, and a host of other iPhone features such as opening the Camera, turning on the flashlight, activating a recording in the Voice Memos app, and much more.
With the ability to reassign the button to more than just Silent Mode, Apple will also likely drop a new button in the Control Center to toggle this manually, just as it did in the early days of the iPad when the tablet’s side switch was reassigned to orientation lock. Apple may also need to add a silent mode indicator to the status bar since there will no longer be a switch to check whether you’re in silent mode.
By most reports, the new Action Button will only be coming to the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max (which could even end up getting re-dubbed the “iPhone 15 Ultra” this year). The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will likely retain the same physical ring/silent mode switch as the current models.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]