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This leaked iPhone 15 Pro feature boggles my mind

Published Mar 30th, 2023 8:38AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro CAD leak
Image: ShrimpApplePro

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All iPhone 15 Pro rumors sounded similar until earlier this week. That’s when a report revealed that the handset’s capacitive buttons would work even when the device is off, or when the battery is dead. It’s all reportedly possible thanks to a new Super Lower Energy Mode chip that will power the capacitive buttons at all times.

This boggles my mind, as I can only figure out two features that will need the iPhone 15 Pro’s capacitive buttons to work when there’s no power. And you wouldn’t need all buttons to work in such scenarios. However, the new processor will manage all of the iPhone’s buttons, and I can’t help but wonder if Apple will add extra features to them.

Apple’s current iPhones have four physical buttons. On the right, there’s the standby/power button that has various uses. You can tap it to turn the iPhone’s screen on and off. You also use the side button for Apple Pay, App Store payments, and to invoke Siri.

The left side features three buttons that are much simpler. The mute switch has just one purpose, to mute or unmute the handset. Then the volume buttons let you adjust the volume. But they also work in other cases, acting as camera shutter buttons, or working in combination with the power button to take screenshots, invoke SOS mode, or shut down the handset.

It looks like the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max will feature three capacitive buttons. The current layout will remain, but we’re not getting two volume buttons. Instead, we’re looking at a unified volume rocker that is capacitive.

Getting back to the other day’s rumor, it looks like Apple wants the iPhone’s buttons to work when the phone is turned off or the battery dies. As I said, I can see two necessary uses for that, and both concern the power button.

First of all, the power button needs energy so you can turn the phone on. Current iPhones have physical buttons, so all you need to do to turn on the handset is press the power button. The iPhone 15 Pro will need the same capability. But since the buttons are capacitive, a power button without energy will not actually let you turn on the handset. That would be a huge problem.

Secondly, the same power button can be used for Apple Pay or Wallet transactions when the iPhone battery dies. That is a great feature to have when your battery dies, but you still need to use Apple Pay. Or a digital transit card.

However, the new Super Low Energy Mode processor will control all capacitive buttons. Here’s how it’ll work, according to the report:

  • While powered on: capacitive volume, power, and action buttons
  • While powered off: capacitive volume, power, and action buttons. Drives NFC, LE Bluetooth, LE-UW chip, and possibly Taptic Engine feedback
  • While the battery is dead: capacitive volume, power, and action buttons. Apple Pay Express card. Drives NFC, LE Bluetooth, and LE-UW chips

If this information is accurate, Apple could assign actions to any of the iPhone 15 Pro’s buttons for cases when the handset is turned off or the battery is dead. That’s an exciting prospect, and I can’t help but wonder what Apple has in mind for its capacitive buttons.

Let’s remember the massive surprise Apple delivered last year, the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island that nobody saw coming. Maybe there’s similar trickery at play here for the capacitive buttons.

The mute switch could turn out to be that surprise, as the button will reportedly work like the Apple Watch Ultra’s Action button. But that’s a feature you’ll likely only use when the iPhone is turned on.

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.