BUSINESS + ECONOMY

The iPhone’s new Action Button is more than a one-trick pony

Sep 19, 2023, 12:00 PM

Apple is blaming a software bug and other issues tied to popular apps such as Instagram and Uber fo...

The new iPhone 15 Pro lineup offers the typical slate of new features designed to persuade customers to upgrade: They’re slimmer and thinner than last year’s crop. The new cameras are professional-grade and the switch to USB-C charging will make your life easier. (Apple)

(Apple)

(CNN) — The new iPhone 15 Pro lineup offers the typical slate of new features designed to persuade customers to upgrade: They’re slimmer and thinner than last year’s crop. The new cameras are professional-grade and the switch to USB-C charging will make your life easier.

But one new feature easily stands out: The Action Button.

Apple has repurposed its physical mute button on the side of its high-end models into a more customizable tool, allowing users to carry out a handful of commands, from recording a voice memo and taking a picture to turning on the flashlight. The button can also be programmed to launch any app or shortcut, essentially turning it into a remote control or launching pad to gain quick access to something you want on demand.

In the days since Apple’s iPhone 15 event at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, I’ve used it to load a variety of apps in a single press, including CNN, Amazon and Instagram. It’s certain the Action Button will become a viable resource for anyone who revisits an app time and time again throughout the day.

But it also has the potential to become an even more powerful tool; you could program it to play your favorite playlist, turn on the smart lights in your living room or use it to open the garage door. You could even turn it into a dedicated button to call mom. It builds on iOS’s existing offering of ready-made or custom shortcuts, and Apple is encouraging developers to build other unique shortcuts that other users could activate on the Action Button.

The change is subtle but it’s one of the few noticeable tweaks to the iPhone’s design this year. The Action Button is about the same size as the existing button, and users still hold it down to switch between muting and turning on the ringer. Commands are accompanied with visual feedback from the Dynamic Island bar — home to alerts and notifications at the top of the screen.

The Action Button update, along with changes in the phone’s charging and camera systems, comes as Apple looks to give consumers more reasons to upgrade their iPhones. Last month, Apple’s sales fell for the third consecutive quarter. iPhone revenue came in at $39.7 billion for the quarter, marking an approximately 2% year-over-year decline, as people update their devices less often.

Another selling point to splurge for the iPhone 15 Pro ($1,099) or iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,199): The phones come with a titanium casing — the same alloy used to build the Mars Rover — making them what Apple calls the thinnest and lightest Pro models to date. Apple’s entry level iPhones, the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, cost $799 and $899, respectively. The entire lineup starts shipping on Friday.

How it works

To program the Action Button, iPhone 15 Pro users can visit the button’s section in Settings, scroll through and select from a series of functionalities — such as flashlight or camera. By picking the shortcuts option, however, users can sift through their list of apps or previously established commands.

Once set, there’s a slight learning curve following years of falling into the habit of using the physical button to turn the volume on and off. For this reason, it could take quite a while for some of iPhone’s loyalists to change how they use the device.

The Action Button isn’t entirely new; the company unveiled it last year on the Apple Watch Ultra. Apple told CNN it was inspired to bring it to the iPhone after hearing anecdotes from users who said they consistently leave their phone on silent, rendering that button essentially useless. Considering iPhone usage has changed a lot since the iPhone debuted 16 years ago, revisiting a hallmark feature like the mute button was only a matter of time, according to the company.

Mixed reception

Ramon Llamas, a director at market research firm IDC, believes last week’s announcement is only the first step toward making the Action Button more dynamic. “I’d like to think that the Action Button could be expanded a bit more, like one click will take you to one feature; two clicks takes you to another, and three clicks gets you something else,” Llamas said. “But I think that would be it. Any more than that and you risk launching the wrong app, like Wordle, at the wrong time (when you need your camera the most),” he said.

It’s also a strategic way for Apple to make the most of already tight real estate on the device, according to Llamas. Annette Zimmerman, a VP analyst with market research firm Gartner, agrees, noting that “having one button to do exactly one thing isn’t really progressive in a time where everything has multi-functionality and can be programmed.”

Although it’s unclear if the Action Button will come to more devices in the future, Apple continues its sweep to create a uniform ecosystem for its consumers. Similarly, Apple is adding a Double Tap feature that allows people to use a finger feature to control the Apple Watch, just months after it showed off a similar gesture on its upcoming Vision Pro mixed reality headset.

For now, iPhone 15 Pro users will enjoy playing with the new Action Button. While the feature is not worth the upgrade to iPhone 15 alone, the switch to universal charging, a faster processor and advanced camera capabilities make it a solid package, especially if you haven’t upgraded in the last few years.

Related:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Business + Economy

FILE: A "For sale" sign in front of a home in North Salt Lake on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023....

Curt Gresseth

Utah home prices not likely to fall soon, says real-estate expert

Utah home prices are back up and so are interest rates -- and they will stay high says a Utah real-estate expert.

1 hour ago

A nurse works in the laboratory room in El Nuevo San Juan Health Center at the Bronx borough in New...

Tammy Kikuchi

Skeptics have doubts about universal health care model for Utah

One of the biggest concerns is affordability, according to a recent presentation at the Kem C. Gardener Policy Institute.

2 hours ago

Salt Lake City’s downtown skyline on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Jazz owner Ryan Smith continues to d...

Mariah Maynes

Utah Jazz owner hypes potential “sports-centered” downtown Salt Lake

Ryan Smith, the owner of the Utah Jazz, is hyping up the possibility of bringing more professional sports teams to Utah. 

21 hours ago

FILE: An Angel bike given to the family of Eli Mitchell in April, 2023. Mitchell was hit and killed...

Britt Johnson

Families of drunk driving victims fight possible new Utah liquor license legislation

The bill sponsored by Rep. Jefferson Burton would increase the number of liquor licenses issued by the state of Utah.

2 days ago

FILE: Tech workers are feeling a decline in on-the-job happiness according to a new survey. (Getty ...

Tammy Kikuchi

Tech workers report declining job happiness

Tech workers and those in the construction industry are on opposite sides of the a survey on job happiness.

2 days ago

The Federal Trade Commission sued to block a proposed merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albe...

DEE-ANN DURBIN AP Business Writer

US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons

The FTC says the $24.6 billion Kroger Albertsons merger would eliminate competition and lead to higher prices for millions of Americans.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

The iPhone’s new Action Button is more than a one-trick pony