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How the iPhone 15 Pro Action button works, and how it could be even better

Published Sep 12th, 2023 6:51PM EDT
The iPhone 15 Pros have an Action button instead of the old mute switch.
Image: Apple Inc.

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During its iPhone 15 launch event on Tuesday, Apple confirmed nearly every iPhone 15 and Apple Watch rumor that we saw before the show. The new iPhone series features Apple’s first titanium iPhones, both of which have a new button instead of the old mute switch. Apple calls it an Action button, like on the Apple Watch Ultra.

As expected, the Action button supports various shortcuts, and you can choose from 9 initially. However, this unique iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max trick isn’t as capable as I expected. Still, I have high hopes that future iOS updates will improve its functionality.

Mute is still the default action

By default, the new Action button will let you silence the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max. Just tap the button to toggle between Ring and Silent mode. The iPhone will vibrate to indicate it registered the action. Also, the iPhone’s Dynamic Island will show an animation of the action the button has performed.

The iPhone 15 Pro's new Action button comes with various gestures.
The iPhone 15 Pro’s new Action button comes with various gestures. Image source: Apple Inc.

But Apple has eight other options for the Action button. If you set a different shortcut, then the mute switch will be available from the Control Center. You can also use Focus modes to auto-set your iPhone 15 Pro to silent.

This behavior also indicates that iOS 17 will have new settings for the Action button to let you customize it.

Here are all the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max Action button shortcuts

You’ll notice that each shortcut has a different Dynamic Island shortcut, and some of them might generate additional content on the screen.

Silent mode

Action mode: Silent mode.
Action mode: Silent mode. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Focus.
Action mode: Focus. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Camera.
Action mode: Camera. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Flashlight.
Action mode: Flashlight. Image source: Apple Inc.

Voice Memo

Action mode: Voice Memo.
Action mode: Voice Memo. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Translate.
Action mode: Translate. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Magnifier.
Action mode: Magnifier. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Shortcut.
Action mode: Shortcut. Image source: Apple Inc.


Action mode: Accessibility.
Action mode: Accessibility. Image source: Apple Inc.

What I’d like to see from Action mode in the future

This is a great start for the Action mode. When I upgrade to an iPhone with an Action button, I’ll want to take advantage of a few of these shortcuts. The Voice Memo, Translate, Shortcut, and Accessibility options are my top choices. Accessibility specifically looks like the most exciting, as it can open the door to even more functionality attached to the Action button.

But I would have liked the button to support any setting or app you choose. I also envisioned multiple gestures attached to the Action button that would trigger additional shortcuts. You can double-tap or long-press capacitive buttons. Not the Action button. Not yet, at least.

A close-up of the iPhone 15 Pro's Action button.
A close-up of the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button. Image source: Apple Inc.

Finally, what I really want is a way to associate the Action button with the current Focus mode. Say I set Focus to Travel mode, which could include silencing the iPhone. I’d want the Action button to turn into an instant translator automatically. Or I might be working, and I need Voice Memos handy when the Work Focus mode silences the handset.

Also, I might make use of smart home shortcuts when I’m at home, so that’s what I’d want the Action button to do. I wouldn’t necessarily want to have my iPhone silenced while I’m sitting around at home, and the Focus mode would handle that.

The good news is that Apple can always tweak the Action button to offer more advanced functionality in the future, which I hope it does sooner than later.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.