If you follow rumors about upcoming iPhones – and believe me, I do – then you’ll likely have read about the addition of a new ‘Capture Button’ on the iPhone 16. I first covered the possibility – which Apple reportedly call Project Nova – back in September 2023 (when my iPhone 15 still had that new-phone smell).
Now a lot more details are starting to emerge about the iPhone 16 – at least through the rumor mill – but as we’ve seen with Apple’s overall Arc, and the recent launch of Samsung’s S24 – software is becoming ever more of a factor.
iPhone 16 Pro Max Specs (Expected)
Memory: 8GB (up from 6GB)
Wide Camera: 48-megapixel (up from 12)
Main Camera: 48-megapixel
Zoom Camera: 5x tele 12-megapixel
Modem: Qualcomm Snapdragon X75 (‘5G Advanced’)
Mic: Improved for Siri/AI
Anyway the capture button, which has been discussed in the usually reliable MacRumors as well as The Information, which I admit I’m less familiar with. It suggests that the button will “allow adjusting the camera zoom, focussing on subjects and recording a video using gestures.”
In other words, while the button might be mechanical, like a traditional shutter button, it might also be touch and swipe-sensitive, and even pressure-sensitive. Although still in testing, Apple apparently envisage it appearing on the lower right of the phone, below the power button – which feels a natural place for a shutter button (though would require a certain amount of re-arrangement to the insides since this is where the mmWave antenna is, at least in the US versions – mmWave isn’t found outside the US).
The sources say that Apple see this as a major selling point, potentially for the whole iPhone 16 lineup – that seems a bit odd as new features generally go to the Pro series a year early, but would make sense given that Apple, like all manufacturers, are keen to offer something to creators using TikTok. Indeed when Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman – a kind of Apple leaker extraordinaire – told his followers about the button in his newsletter he described it as “a new dedicated button for taking video.”
While Gurman certain gets a good flow of information from Apple, I’d personally be very surprised if this isn’t a slight exaggeration. It’d be weird if an extra piece of physical hardware on the phone with so many potential uses – especially if zoom is one of them – didn’t also get brought into play for composing still images, for example.
This would certainly add to the Sony Xperia shutter button, but all credit to the Japanese firm for seeing the connection first. The Sony Xperia 1 III‘s shutter button was still being heavily marketed in 2023 with lines like “tap the shutter button to capture blink-and-you-‘ll-miss-it moments”.
Since the design isn’t final, the software that controls it certainly won’t be. Apple will no doubt be keen to balance functionality and mainstream usability, but I must admit to being a bit surprised to read that this was going to be a mechanical button for a few reasons. For one this the physical press of the Action Button causes an inevitable movement in the device when hand-holding; real camera shutter buttons tend to require less force. Pressure sensitive or capacitive actually seem to offer a potential benefit here, implemented correctly.
Secondly, I do suspect Apple (and other manufacturers) of wanting to push users to accept devices without moving parts; I still personally see the Action Buton as inferior to the sliding switch, while equally feeling Apple would have preferred to go with a touch-sensitive pad and haptic if they could get away with it. They have advantages (ingress protection), but, ultimately, I still feel like we need a way to physically restart a device!
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