iPhone 16's big draw could be a new magic button

The iPhone 16's new capture button is more than just a button and Apple sees it as a big selling point

iPhone 15 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

If someone told you that one of the most interesting things about a new smartphone was a button, you'd make your excuses and leave. But the capture button that's coming to the iPhone 16 is no ordinary button. If you like to shoot video whether for fun or for creative projects it could turn out to be one of the best things about the next generation iPhone.

Despite initial rumours that the new button would be a capacitive solid state one, the latest reports say that it's mechanical – but that it'll do more than just bring up the camera app. According to tech site The Information, the button will be both touch and pressure sensitive, and that means it can do some interesting things.

Apple is still very much in the prototype stage, so it's possible that the current favoured design may change between now and production. But given that Apple sees the new button as a key selling point of the next iPhone, it'll be very surprising if it doesn't make it into the final device. 

What will the iPhone 16 capture button do?

According to the report, the button will be able to detect left- and right-swiping, which will enable you to zoom in and out without reaching for other buttons or tapping on-screen controls. It will also enable you to focus with a half-press much as you would do with a digital camera, and pressing harder will activate the recording or stop filming. That's a lot for a single button to do.

The button needs to be conveniently placed or it'll be pretty pointless, which is why Apple intends to put it on the right hand side of the phone just below the sleep/wake button. In US iPhones that's where the mmWave antenna currently lives, but Apple intends to move that to the other side of the iPhone to make room for the new control. 

According to The Information, the button's goal is to make the iPhone the go-to phone for shooting horizontal video: while vertical video is currently the dominant format on social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram, creators are increasingly moving to landscape because it works better on larger displays and on TVs and because there's more room for ads. And of course it's the orientation used by most movies and TV shows too.

One of the biggest challenges to the new button, at least for me, isn't technology but muscle memory: I've got the Action button programmed on my iPhone 15 Pro Max to launch my camera app and I never, ever use it – not because it isn't good, but because I keep forgetting it's there. It turns out that 17 years of iPhone touchscreen tapping takes a lot of unlearning.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).