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Why the iPhone has to go buttonless

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Front

We’ve heard not once but twice that the iPhone 15 Pro models will not feature physical power and volume buttons. That’s not to say there won’t be any buttons on the sides, as the power and volume buttons will still be around. But Apple might start using solid-state buttons on the iPhone, beginning with the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max (Ultra). The feature should make its way to all iPhones after that.

While it might seem insignificant, as the power and volume buttons work perfectly with the current design, moving to a buttonless iPhone is one of the final stepping stones toward creating the perfect iPhone.

We’ve discussed the perfect iPhone design in the past, a design that Apple has been aiming for since it started making smartphones. That’s a buttonless and portless iPhone that could have a perfectly symmetrical design and feature a perfect all-screen display.

Apple still has to deal with various compromises until it can deliver that perfect iPhone design, and the iPhone 15 Pro might help it get rid of one: Physical buttons.

In the future, Apple will ditch the USB-C port. That’s also expected to come with the iPhone 15 series. Then, it’ll remove the display notch, whether a traditional one or the Dynamic Island, by moving the cameras and sensors under the screen. And the SIM card slot will disappear from all iPhones as more carriers embrace eSIM-only mobile experiences.

iPhone with wraparound display from Apple patent.
iPhone with wraparound display from Apple patent. Image source: Apple Inc. via USPTO

Such a perfect iPhone would be waterproof, as there would be no points of water ingress. As it is, the iPhone is water resistant. And it does a great job surviving water immersion, even prolonged sessions. But cutouts in the metal frame for the physical buttons, SIM slot, and port are entry points for liquids.

Moreover, manufacturing the metal chassis of future iPhones, which might be titanium, could be easier if you don’t have to worry about cutting holes to accommodate the buttons. In the grander scheme of Apple’s complex operations, this might be a big win for the company.

Furthermore, the buttonless iPhone technology could make its way to iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods. And Apple already uses solid-state button tech on the MacBook, where taptic engines make you feel like you’re depressing the trackpad. But the huge metal button doesn’t move.

Not to mention the elegant AR glasses of the future that Apple is reportedly working on. Those might benefit from solid-state buttons as well.

iPhone-12-Flip
Concept image of a foldable iPhone with a clamshell design. Image source: ConceptsiPhone/YouTube

Let’s also remember that Apple has patents for iPhone devices with wraparound screens. These could very well benefit from solid-state volume buttons. That’s not to say iPhone 15 Pro successors will feature such designs. After all, curving displays can increase the likelihood of accidental damage after drops.

Finally, whenever the foldable iPhone comes, it’ll need a new button experience. You’ll have to power the device and manage the volume in folded and unfolded states. Solid-state buttons would let Apple move those buttons along the sides depending on whether the iPhone is open or closed.

All of this is speculation. But the iPhone 15 Pro getting solid-state buttons won’t be a gimmick to differentiate it from the cheaper models. It’ll be a stepping stone for future Apple hardware. And a feature that other vendors might implement for their iPhone rivals.


More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

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 closely follows the events in 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.