Will the iPhone 15 Pro have haptic buttons?
Many online rumours say the iPhone 15 Pro will feature a major design change. While the dynamic island cutout isn’t going away soon, leaks predict that the bezel size will shrink dramatically. Renders depict the same.
Another major design change is to the body. We might return to a human-friendly design that doesn’t leave a dent in your hand. With the iPhone 12 series, the new iPhone design language began with flat sides and a sharp design for some more internal room.
After nearly three years of using a near-identical rear design, leaks say that the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro models will finally have a rounded design. This will significantly improve iPhones’ in-hand feel and weight distribution.
Other leaks include a periscope zoom camera, a 3nm A17 chip, improvements to dynamic range performance, and more.
A final design change is allegedly the iconic mute switch. We might see Apple take a different direction on the upcoming iPhones. Apple also might remove volume buttons in favour of haptics.
We’ve seen a similar concept before with other Apple products. The MacBook lineup does not have a physical trackpad that clicks down. Instead, it uses haptic feedback to simulate a physical press.
The iPhone SE models also have home buttons that don’t press down. It’s Apple’s excellent Taptic Engine at work. It makes sense that many rumours of the upcoming iPhone are now talking about haptic buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro.
Rumours of the Taptic Engine replacing buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro
According to several reliable sources online, like GSMArena, the iPhone 15 Pro models will ship with pressure sensors and haptic feedback style virtual volume buttons. We also expect these virtual buttons to have customizable sensitivity.
This closely resembles the trackpad on MacBooks, where you can adjust the strength of haptic feedback when you click down. This is arguably better for longevity than a physical, clickable trackpad.
Analyzing all the recent reports, only the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max could feature virtual volume buttons. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus will stick with traditional buttons.
The iPhone 15 isn’t looking too interesting, with only the dynamic island and a new chip as the apparent upgrades. We’ll probably see a new camera sensor too, but that’s not as exciting as the Pro models.
If you recall, 3D Touch is a similar technology. Despite the unfortunate abandonment of the technology, haptics more or less make up for it. The physical layer underneath the display that enables 3D Touch is gone on new iPhone models.
Instead, it uses haptics to simulate a long press. The pressure sensitivity isn’t as good as proper 3D Touch, but it’s impressive that Apple could replicate some of it.
Virtual volume buttons
To achieve these virtual volume buttons, Apple will allegedly use multiple small Taptic Engine motors underneath where the buttons were originally supposed to be. After detecting a press from the user, they’ll perform a successful keypress.
There’s probably some under-the-hood technology that prevents accidental touches. People who hold their phones much tighter than normal could accidentally trigger the buttons if they don’t do it right.
We’re also unsure what’ll happen to the default iOS functions like screenshots or restarting. Removing all physical buttons from your smartphone is not always a good idea.
What will happen to the Mute switch?
In classic iPhone design, we always saw a power button to the right, the volume buttons to the left, and the iconic mute switch on the phone’s left.
Currently, toggling the mute switch switches to Mute mode, where the phone silences your calls and notifications, and you’ll only get vibrations. If you toggle it again, notification sounds and ringtones will return.
Instead of a physical switch, the iPhone 15 could have a virtual button instead. If you press it, it’ll respond with haptics.
If you’re wondering what the point of virtual buttons is, it’s to improve water resistance- since the number of places where water can enter reduces. It also proves that Apple can replace many physical components with virtual ones.
This improves the overall longevity of products since physical buttons have a chance of quality defects. That can’t happen with an internal vibration motor that the software controls.
If it happens, Apple will get these haptic motors from manufacturers Luxshare ICT and AAC Technologies.
Currently, we only have one Taptic Engine on iPhones, but this will push that number to three since Apple has to fit two more engines underneath where the volume buttons usually are.
More reports say that Apple will completely redo how the mute switch works. Remember the Bixby button on Samsung phones? Apple could do exactly that but with a virtual button instead.
What is the Action Button?
Apple’s best smartwatch yet, the Apple Watch Ultra, has a customizable Action Button as one of its main selling points. You can program it independently to make the most out of it.
There are many default options, like starting a Stopwatch, enabling a workout mode, turning on the flashlight, setting a waypoint, and more. However, with the Shortcuts app, you can use the Action Button however you want to and customize it in many more ways.
If there are plans at Apple to bring a virtual button to iPhones, then there’s a chance it could replicate some of this functionality. The new Dynamic Island feature already adds a bit of multitasking to iOS, and a configurable shortcut button is definitely welcome.
Underneath the volume buttons on some of Samsung’s phones, a button lets you activate Bixby. It’s a virtual assistant similar to Siri and Google Assistant, and major strides have been made to improve Bixby in recent years.
You can choose between a single and double press and customize the Bixby key. Though this button is missing on recent Samsung phones, it was useful.
Apple could bring it back on the 15 Pro, just not as an actual button. If solid-state buttons work out well, they might even replace the physical Action Button on the Apple Watch with haptic feedback.
The problems with haptic buttons
There are at least three practical problems with such a concept. One, we don’t know how this will work with cases. It was OK with the home button since a case didn’t cover the button-up.
Case makers must adjust how they design cases so they won’t go over the new haptic buttons. This is rather inconvenient and is also an incentive for Apple to push its first-party cases.
Then, there’s the age-old problem of accidental touches. People grip their phones in different positions with varying intensities, and it’s not fun if the volume accidentally keeps changing when you don’t want it to.
While it’s unlikely that Apple will overlook something like this, we can’t tell for sure. Finally, haptics is something that software has complete control of, and the same applies to the new action button.
We usually use buttons to restart the phones if our products have software bugs. If there are any bugs with the haptic buttons, a basic feature like changing the volume will become an inconvenience.
Since we rely on the volume up button to take screenshots on iOS, the functionality could break if there are any problems.
There’s also the argument that there’s no real benefit of gimmicky buttons except that they’re a party trick. It won’t add much to your daily smartphone use. And this further complicates the problem with repairs.
iPhones are already challenging to repair, and third-party centres especially hate the internal component design of iPhones. Replacing the buttons is much easier than finding Taptic Engines to replace.
This will give Apple more granular control over repairing iPhones since they can pair each motor to a particular unit and entirely disable third-party repair.
iPhone 15 Pro with haptic buttons?
After numerous conflicting reports from reliable leakers online, we can’t conclusively decide whether the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro models will have haptic buttons.
Reliable leaker Ming-Chi Kuo claims in a Tweet, and an elaborate article that there are some technical issues with this haptic button style design, and Apple couldn’t solve these issues. The report claims that Apple will revert to two physical volume buttons.
However, it does not mention anything about the mute switch. If Apple cancels the solid-state buttons, there’s still a chance we’ll see a button replacing the mute switch. If there aren’t any problems, then both the Action Button and haptic volume buttons might happen.
So far, there is an internal problem with this arrangement of haptics for buttons. It’s not profitable enough for CL and AAC Technologies, the companies responsible for supplying the Taptic Engines IC controllers.
While investors are still on board, there’s a chance it might not happen due to some conflicts with profit margins. Another company, Luxshare ICT, has a much larger scale of operations. This company supplies these Taptic Engines too.
There’s still time to cancel; the reports are contradictory
This company will remain relatively unaffected since it can easily meet the demands. Furthermore, it’s not too late to alter the design and final product of the iPhone 15 Pro. There are three phases to product development.
The iPhone 15 Pro is still in the EVT phase, which refers to Engineering Validation Testing. Once that’s done, it’ll move to the DVT (Design Validation Testing) and PVT (Production Validation Testing) before finally entering mass manufacturing.
So if Apple wants to remove the buttons just a few months before launch, they can do it without affecting any target dates and shipments. It’ll also simplify the development and testing of the lineup.
However, analyst Revegnus on Twitter claims that cancelling the mass production of solid-state buttons is just a fake rumour. There’s still a chance that the mass manufacturing of the iPhone 15 Pro with solid-state buttons is still happening.
The analyst claims that Apple has already ordered the necessary components and that it’s not getting cancelled. Apple tries to keep things a secret, so this could be a plot to throw off leakers and confuse the enthusiasts.
This also helps in catching insiders who leak information. Since we don’t have enough information to determine conclusively, we’ll update you if there are any further reports. For now, the reports conflict, and there’s little to conclude from.