Apple could kill physical buttons on the iPhone 15 Pro

A photo of the iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Apple iPhone 15 rumors are gathering pace now. We've heard that the new phone is alleged to feature a new-look curved metal frame (opens in new tab), and a new leak says the phone will have haptic buttons on the side, too. 

It's thought that Apple might get rid of physical buttons (the mechanical volume and power buttons) on its next high-end iPhones in 2021, to make for a slightly larger differentiation between Pro and non-Pro handsets. The benefit of this is that there would be fewer entry points for dirt and water to get into the handset (you can read more on haptics further down).

The new intel comes courtesy of MacRumors (opens in new tab), which has published that Apple supplier Cirrus Logic’s CEO John Forsyth confirmed the company’s high-performance mixed-signal chips (which includes haptic drivers for iPhone’s Taptic Engine) will come to market in the second half of next year – matching it up to the iPhone 15’s expected September 2023 launch.

If you've missed the latest rumors, catch up with everything we know so far about the Apple iPhone 15.

iPhone 15 latest leaks

Further intel unearthed by MacRumors (opens in new tab) comes via an investor note from Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley, who are quoted as writing: “The biggest change to our thinking here is to model $1 of new content in the IP15 Pro models. To be clear, the company hasn't said much here other than that the chip is mixed signal and not in the power domain. When looking at potential use cases, the largest change in new iPhone models next year is the removal of the buttons.” 

Obviously, we can never be sure when it comes to leaks and rumors, but these sources seem sound to us and it’s not the first time we’ve seen the rumor either. Last month, prolific Apple leaker, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (opens in new tab) tweeted saying the same – this just holds a lot more weight now MacRumours (opens in new tab) has brought the additional sources of information into the limelight.

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What are haptic buttons?

Rather than physical buttons, haptic buttons are essentially just bits of software that provide touch to communicate with camera phone (opens in new tab) users, through vibrations, motion, and the perceived application of pressing a button – just like you would on a traditional button. 

Smartphone users who own a device which haptic buttons, such as the Google Pixel 7 Pro (opens in new tab), are essentially pressing into a hard surface, but they are getting the feel and feedback of pressing a physical button. 

While mechanical buttons need some physical space to move and work within a smartphone, haptic buttons require none as they are software based. This means no holes in the frame are needed, so manufacturers can create completely sealed devices and bring closed-frame smartphones to the market instead. Obviously, sealed devices are less prone to breakage and don’t have any holes in them to potentially allow dirt, water, etc. to get inside and cause damage. 

iPhone 15: Rumors so far

According to a recent rumor we can’t expect the long-awaited Apple chip to debut until at least 2025 and so Qualcomm is predicted to remain the supplier of modems for all iPhone 15 (opens in new tab) and iPhone 16 models instead. Currently, then, it’s expected that all iPhone 15 models will be powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon X70 modem, which was announced in February.

The X70 supports up to 10 Gbps download speeds (as does the Snapdragon X65 modem in iPhone 14 models (opens in new tab) but boasts added artificial intelligence capabilities for faster average speeds, improved coverage, lower latency, better signal quality, and importantly up to 60% better power efficiency.

@LeaksApplePro (opens in new tab) has already spread several iPhone 15 rumors, including the Dynamic Island to stop being a Pro exclusive and feature in all models instead, and all models in the iPhone 15 series ditching the Lightning port (opens in new tab) in favor of USB Type-C. 

The Apple iPhone 14 sees the newer SoC on the Pro model only and @LeaksApplePro (opens in new tab) says this will also be the case next year with standard iPhone 15 models getting the A16 Bionic and the Pro models featuring an all-new A17 one. 

It’s alleged, again by @LeaksApplePro (opens in new tab) that Apple will use a new naming scheme for the iPhone15 and that the Pro Max label could be dropped. This would mean we would get iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, and 15 Ultra – potentially in titanium. Additionally, this leak says that the 6.7-inch Ultra model (which would replace the Pro Max as we know the range now) could have exclusive features in addition to the larger display.

Finally, the prolific leaker has also shared that Apple may be working on 8K video recording support and that the tech giant is looking to improve battery life for the new series. It’s rumored that on the iPhone 15 Ultra model, Apple is aiming for the battery to last 3-4 hours longer.

iPhone 15 Pro: Release date

There’s plenty of time for a slew of leaks and rumors before the iPhone 15 family launches. We expect this to be in September 2023, as this is in line with Apple’s standard launch timeframe – remember, the iPhone 14 launch (opens in new tab) was in September 2022 – but of course, we can't be sure until there's an official announcement.

Wondering which iPhone 14 model to buy? Check out our iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro (opens in new tab) comparison guide to all four new models. You might also like the best iPhone for photography (opens in new tab).

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Rachael Sharpe

Rachael is a British journalist with 18 years experience in the publishing industry. Since working on www.digitalcameraworld.com (opens in new tab), she’s been freelancing, and contributing to some of the world’s best-loved websites and magazines including T3.com and TechRadar.com and has also had a book, iPad for Photographers, published. She's currently acting as editor of 5GRadar.com - a website specializing in the latest cellular technology.