iPhone 16 Capture button — everything you need to know

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

The iPhone 16 could receive an all-new key on its right side, supposedly called the Capture button. It's not often you get a completely new button on a phone (last year's iPhones aside), so we're excited to see what this could possibly entail.

Word is that this button will be completely distinct from the iPhone 15 Pro's Action button, and will have its own distinct functionality. There haven’t been many rumors on what the Capture button will be all about, but we can piece together the details and get an idea of what Apple could have in store for us.

Here’s everything we know about the iPhone 16 Capture button so far.

iPhone 16 Capture button devices

While the Action button is currently exclusive to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max, rumor has it that the Capture button will be available on all iPhone 16 models. That includes the entry-level iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus, and will likely extend to the iPhone 16 Ultra — assuming that phone actually gets released in 2024.

But according to the initial report, Apple has created a hardware configuration that doesn’t include a capture button. Presumably as a backup, just in case the new button does achieve Apple’s high standards. But at this point it sounds like the button is still coming, with leaker Unknownz21 claiming that the Capture button is “still in development as of the Proto2 stage”.

So while there’s a chance the Capture button is scrapped, as the iPhone 15’s capacitive volume and power buttons reportedly were, things are apparently still on track for now. 

iPhone 16 Capture button design

According to reports, the Capture button will be a solid state capacitive button, with haptic feedback supplied by a built-in Taptic engine  — which mimics how a physical button would react when pressed.

The current expectation is that the Capture button will live underneath the iPhone 16’s power button. previous reports say that this will be roughly where the mmWave cutout can be found on the iPhone 15. However some dummy models suggest it'll be a little lower, where the iPhone 15's SIM tray can be found on models sold outside the U.S. 

Naturally, adding a brand new piece of hardware is going to lead to more than a few design changes, least of which is transplanting the older components. At least two reports have now claimed that the mmWave area will swap sides and find a new home under the iPhone 16’s volume buttons. It's unclear how the positioning of the SIM try in international markets will change, if at all.

No doubt there will be other internal changes to compensate for this change, though we don’t expect it to have any noticeable impact on the user experience. Phone internals change all the time, and the iPhone 16 will be no exception.

iPhone 16 Capture button possible features

So far we don’t know much about what the Capture button might actually do, or even what its final name might be. It’s claimed that “Capture button” is the name Apple is using internally, and that alone offers some clues as to what this button might actually do. 

“Capture” suggests that this will have something to do with the iPhone 16’s camera. It’s possible that the button could trigger the camera shutter, or act as a shortcut to the camera app. Though whether there will be an element of user choice in these functions isn’t clear. Though Apple would need to be careful not to essentially add a glorified second action button.

Interestingly MacRumors claims that the button will feature “force sensor functionality” — meaning it can detect and translate applied force. That potentially opens up a bunch of extra functionality to the Capture Button. For example, if a single tap snaps a photograph then a more forceful press could trigger a video recording. Alternatively, it could be a safety measure to avoid taking photos accidentally. 

It may also be the case that a light press of the button triggers the camera to focus on a subject, similar to a dedicated camera's shutter button.

iPhone 16 Capture button: What we’d like to see

Not a frivolous gimmick: It’s common for smartphones to offer some kind of gimmick to try and encourage people to buy. Given the iPhone’s immense popularity, Apple shouldn’t need to resort to such tactics. That means the Capture button needs to have an actual purpose, and isn’t being thrown in for the sake of it. There’s a reason dedicated camera buttons never caught on, and if the Capture button can’t offer anything worthwhile, then it probably shouldn’t be included at all

Offer some user choice: Apple has been emphasizing a lot of user choice in recent years, and the Action button is a great example of that in, well, action. Apple would be wise to do the same for the Capture button, even if the available options are totally different. If only to ensure that the button offers something for everyone, rather than locking them into a feature or function they may not care about.

Not just another Action button: If Apple is going to start adding extra buttons to the iPhone, it’s important that they’re actually distinct from each other. We already have a programmable Action button, and there’s no need to have a second one just for the sake of it. Especially when the original already has untapped potential for programming additional features.

Learn from the Action button’s mistakes: While we don’t want to see a carbon copy of the Action button, Apple needs to learn from the button’s mistakes. Specifically, the fact that it has been limited to a single action, and could only be triggered with a long press. If there is a Capture button, we’d like to see more options for triggering specific functions, including double taps, long presses and so on. 

Don’t make it a Pro exclusive: While current rumors claim the Capture button will be available across the entire iPhone 16 lineup, that may not be the case. Apple typically launches these kinds of features on the Pro models first, then adds them to the cheaper models the following year. But this time we’d like to see the iPhone 16 and 16 Plus come with something new and fresh — rather than last year’s features.

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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.