04/22 Update below. This post was originally published on April 19

The saga of Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro Action button just took a surprising twist. According to a leaker analyst941the Action button will have wide-ranging new functionality, including taking over the power off and force restart functionality currently controlled by the volume buttons.

“The volume up + power button will no longer be used to power off the device, or force-restart it,” states the leaker. “The sequence remains, but [the] the combination will be changed to action + power button.”

While this would mess with years of muscle memory, it actually makes sense in conjunction with a leak last month which claims Apple is developing a dedicated chip that allows the Action button to work even when the phone is off or out of battery.

In addition, analyst941 claims the Action button will replace the functionality of the volume up button when taking a photo, as well as adding new shortcut options:

  • Light press: auto-focuses the camera
  • Hard press: captures photo
  • Hard press + long-hold: captures/records video

According to analyst941, these additional controls are enabled by pressure sensitivity in the Action button. This is akin to 3D Touch (Force Touch on a MacBook trackpad), with the new solid-state Action button recognizing light, hard and long presses.

If correct, support for multiple input recognition is unlikely to be restricted to the power and camera, with Apple using it for other apps. It could also be a boon for gamers, though it is unknown whether Apple would open up access to the Action button for developers, with the company known to be cautious with new technology out the gate.

Ultimately, however, the potential for a multi-function, programmable external button on the iPhone is huge.

It won’t be the only change either with record-breakingly thin bezels for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, an optical zoom camera for the latter and USB-C connectivity introduced for the whole range. Apple is also expected to introduce a new textured finish for standard models.

The only negative to all of this, other than the incremental pace of change, which frustrates some iPhone fans, are rumors about price increases. iPhone 15 Pro models may rise by as much as $200 while standard models remain unchanged, creating a $400 gap between the 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch Pro and non-Pro versions. Meaning a lot of fans may miss out on the biggest changes.

04/21 Update: According to a new leak, the iPhone 15 lineup could have had one major difference from the models Apple will release in September: Lightning.

Reliable leaker Unknownz21 explains that Apple toyed with the delaying its adoption of the USB-C and made a version of the iPhone 15 with the Lightning port, “but it was quickly scrapped.” This was likely due to growing legal pressureeven though those rules will not come into play in 2023.

The leaker also states that USB-C on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will deliver 3.0 higher data speeds (up to 5Gbit per second/5,000Mbit per second), compared to the USB 2.0 (480Mbits per second) speeds which have handicapped iPhones for years now.

Disappointingly, Unknownz21 claims that the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will offer no wired performance upgrades, sticking with USB 2.0, despite the phones also transitioning to USB-C. Given the USB-C connector can be paired with Thunderbolt 3 to deliver theoretical speeds of up to 40Gbit per second, not moving the needle at all for standard iPhone 15 models is a shame.

Yes, wirelessly backups are the norm, but the ability to quickly back up or restore all iPhone 15 models at higher data rates would have been a welcome addition.

04/22 Update: Further details around Apple’s upcoming iPhone plans have leaked courtesy of Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Speaking on the MacRumors podcastsGurman revealed that Apple’s hotly anticipated support for side-loading apps on iOS 17 is unlikely to come to the US.

Gurman says that Apple will make the feature solely available in Europe to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Actwhich tackles so-called “gatekeepers” and asks them to open up their software platforms to ensure fair competition.

The response to this is likely to be divided. On the one hand, many Apple fans enjoy the walled garden the company enforces for the security benefits it brings. On the other hand, critics say it stifles competition and not all apps are available in all App Store regions, something side-loading can address.

Gurman says that Apple is unlikely to mention the feature at WWDC — a sign of how reluctant it is to comply with this change. This should not be a surprise. CEO Tim Cook has argued against side-loading apps on numerous occasions. Notably, last year he spoke at the IAPP’s global privacy summit, saying:

Apple believes in competition. We value its role in driving innovation and pushing us all forward. And we appreciate that the supporters of these ideas have good intentions. But if we are forced to let unvetted apps onto the iPhone, the unintended consequences will be profound. And when we see that, we feel an obligation to speak up.

Apple is clearly losing this battle but will continue to fight it on a territory-by-territory basis (unlike its global transition to USB-C). Personally, I’m in favor of the move because it provides choice and flexibility, and subscription services can be significantly cheaper without the App Store taking a cut. Anyone against the change can just stick to the App Store.

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