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Phone makers are quietly ruining the power button. Here's how to take back control

Turning your phone on and off used to be a simple press-and-hold. Here's how to reach the power menu in today's complex devices.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
iPhone Siri button
June Wan/ZDNET

As someone who reviews phones for a living, I've lost count of the number of times I've attempted to turn off a phone -- pressing and holding the side power button -- only for it to instead prompt a smart assistant to service questions I didn't have in mind. 

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I don't remember when this all started, but there seems to be no end in sight. New iPhones, Samsung Galaxies, and even Google Pixels all have the power button set to trigger your voice assistant by default. In the worst cases, you can't change that setting.

In the phone makers' defense, the likelihood of someone using a voice assistant is much higher than powering off a phone. 

I'm guilty of frequently asking Siri or Google Assistant about the week's weather, what restaurants are nearby, and how to go from point A to point B. But when it's time to use the power button for what it's known for, I'm left disappointed.

Fortunately, there are workarounds to this problem. The solutions can be cumbersome and unintuitive, but they exist.

How to switch the side key to power off

1. On Android

Whether you own a Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, or OnePlus device, here's how to change the side key default from activating the voice assistant to displaying power options.

On a Samsung device, open up your Settings > scroll down to Side key > select Power off menu under the Press and hold row.

On a Google Pixel or another Android, open up settings > scroll down to System > tap on Gestures > scroll down to Press and hold power button > toggle off Hold for Assistant.

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Now, when you press and hold the power key, your phone should prompt you with the power off options instead of the voice assistant.

2. On iOS

While Apple doesn't let you change the function of the side key, you can leverage the voice assistant that it activates, Siri, to turn off the iPhone for you. 

When the Siri icon pops up on the bottom of the screen, simply ask it to turn off your iPhone. It will ask for your confirmation before doing so.

Also: 3 ways to capture what's on your iPhone screen

Otherwise, you'll have to stick with the manual way of pressing and holding both the side power key and the volume down button at the same time. 

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