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How to use the iPhone 15 Pro's new Action Button to do just about anything

The Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro series opens an app or function with a press and hold. Here's how to set it up.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
iPhone 15 Pro Action Button
June Wan/ZDNET

Apple's Wonderlust event saw the unveiling of many things, but a new iPhone feature received all the applause when it was introduced to members of the press in Steve Jobs Theater. No, I'm not talking about USB-C. I'm talking about the Action Button, which serves as a programmable hotkey to open a desired application, function, or Shortcut and replaces the aging alert slider above the iPhone's volume buttons.

Also: My iPhone 15 Pro Max hands-on: The 5 biggest reasons to upgrade

If "Action Button" rings a bell, it's probably because Apple introduced a similar feature with the Watch Ultra last year. Only this time, the one on the iPhone is much more customizable and comes with a settings UI that's way ahead of its time. You'll understand in a minute.

While the new Action Button is only available for the latest iPhone 15 Pro models, and you'll have to wait until September 22 to get a taste of it, here's a breakdown of how the feature works and its most practical use cases.

How to use the Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro

What you'll need: iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro Action Button
June Wan/ZDNET

1. Default gestures

Before we dig into the iPhone settings, here are the basics of the Action Button.

  • To trigger most functions, you'll need to press and hold the button. 
  • By default, a press and hold of the Action Button switches between sound and silent modes, much like how the original alert slider behaved.
  • On a per-app basis, a single tap of the Action Button will also trigger a secondary function. For example, a single tap while the camera is open prompts the shutter. A single tap while Voice Memo is on will stop the recording.

2. Customizing the Action Button

Should you want to get more creative with the Action Button, the Settings app is where to go. Open the app and scroll down until you find the Action Button tab.

The first thing you will notice is how different the user interface looks compared to other settings on the iPhone. There's a fancy animation of the Action Button as you swipe through the programmable functions.

Also: iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 14 Pro: Which model is best to buy?

Your options include Silent Mode (default), Focus, Camera, Flashlight, Voice Memo, Accessibility, Shortcut, and Translate (arriving later this year).

Apple allows you to map a specific function with the broader categories. For example, a drop-down box on the Camera slide gives you the options of Photo, Selfie, Video, Portrait, and Portrait Selfie.

iPhone 15 Pro Action Button

Here's what the Action Button settings menu looks like.

June Wan/ZDNET


What iPhone models have the Action Button? 

Only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have the new Action Button. Older models instead have a physical alert slider that switches between sound and silent modes. Naturally, cases and covers made for previous iPhone models won't fit on the iPhone 15 Pro series.

Can I map a third-party app to the Action Button?

You can, thanks to the Shortcut option in the Action Button menu. You first need to create a Shortcut with the desired app. Then, select it as the sequence to open when the Action Button is triggered. Due to how versatile Shortcuts can be, the possibilities for what the Action Button can do are endless.

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