iPhone 16 just tipped for biggest design change in years — no more mechanical buttons

iPhone 15 Pro shown in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Last year we heard rumors claiming that Apple would scrap physical buttons on iPhone 15 Pro, swapping them out for capacitive solid state buttons. Instead we only got one, the Action button. However those rumors aren’t tempered so easily, and now there are claims we could see the end of buttons as we know them on iPhone 16.

This comes from a supply chain report from Economic Daily News, claiming that Apple has placed orders with Advanced Semiconductor Engineering — suggesting we’ll see capacitive buttons on the iPhone 16. But this isn’t just Apple adding an Action button to non-Pro iPhone 16s, or including the rumored Capture button.

This order is said to include a new system-in-package module to replace the iPhone 16’s traditional mechanical buttons. The report specifically mentions the power and volume buttons, noting that Apple needs two “system-level package modules” to replace the mechanical buttons with new capacitive buttons and Taptic Engine motors. 

The benefits of solid state buttons

iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

If the report is true, then it sounds like the new buttons will have no moving components, and the buttons themselves will register your touch and respond with haptic feedback to let you know something has happened. This would make the buttons themselves less susceptible to damage over time, as it would be much less likely debris could slip behind the button enclosure. 

The reason Apple didn’t add solid-state capacitive buttons to the iPhone 15 Pro was reportedly down to “manufacturing complexity” alongside higher costs and issues integrating with the software. So they were shuffled back to this year, and a possible release on this year’s iPhones. 

The supply chain report suggests this may be the plan, though a lot could change between now and September. That’s assuming Apple has concrete plans to include solid-state buttons at all. There’s no guarantee the order was made for this year’s iPhones after all.

The question is, if solid-state power and volume buttons are coming, which iPhone 16 models are in line to get this upgrade? The report implies the non-Pro iPhone 16 could be getting the new capacitive buttons. However, these are usually the kind of upgrades we see debut on Pro models, and then migrate to other iPhones a generation or two down the line.

It's also worth noting that the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus are tipped for a new vertical camera arrangement, which would enable the two new iPhones to capture spatial videos for the Vision Pro

We’re just going to have to wait and see how this all pans out. In the meantime you can keep up to date with the latest news and updates in our iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro hubs.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.