The iPhone 15 Pro has a case problem and we need to talk about it

iPhone 15 Pro Max in a case, showing the action button from the side
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

If you have an iPhone 15 Pro and you bought a case for it, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed that something is missing. When the iPhone 15 was announced, one of the biggest changes Apple made to its Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models was to include an Action Button instead of a mute switch. It turns out that case makers were caught unaware, and many iPhone 15 Pro cases from some of the top case makers have a cutout for a mute switch, and no button. 

The difference is huge. I’ve been trying cases for my iPhone 15 Pro Max, and I can’t stand using the cases that don’t have an Action Button. The cutout hole for the mute switch (that doesn’t exist) makes it very hard to press the button. 

On most iPhone 15 Pro cases, the cutout rises enough to obscure the button. The top of the button is beneath the edge of the case. I have to press hard, or dig in with just the tip of my finger. This is a terrible situation. 

The Action Button is a new convenience for iPhone 15 Pro owners. These poorly designed cases make it more difficult to use. They’ve effectively removed the button from the phone. A case should never make a phone feature harder to use, and this is the first time in recent memory this has happened.

Gee, what a surprise that Apple kept this a secret

It’s not hard to guess how this happened. Apple doesn’t share. Apple doesn’t share with anybody. I asked Casetify, a very popular case maker, about this, and Casetify reps said that “because few casemakers work directly with Apple, CASETIFY didn't receive the final design from Apple until after the keynote.” Casetify pointed us to that Wall Street Journal story, linked in the quote.  

It’s not exactly clear which companies get designs early from Apple. They aren’t allowed to brag about it. I asked the case maker Spigen how they managed to get it right this year. Spigen has Action Buttons on its cases, making the real button much easier to press. But Spigen never responded to my questions.

iPhone 15 Pro Max in a case, showing the action button from the side

This Spigen case has an Action Button, which is essential (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

As a phone reviewer, I got emails from phone case makers in the weeks before the iPhone 15 launched. I ignored them all. None of those case makers knew what the new iPhone 15 design would look like. If they had the designs, they would be forbidden by Apple from even mentioning the name iPhone 15 before it launched. Because they talked about the new iPhone, I knew they didn’t know anything about it.

Making cases is a gamble. You can bet on what Apple will change, then release your wager on the iPhone launch day so that people who line up for the iPhone (still?) have your great case to go with it. Most people buy a case with their new phone, and most of those people never change their case unless they have to. If you don’t offer an iPhone 15 case on the day the iPhone 15 comes out, you’ve lost a big portion of your addressable market.

iPhone 15 Pro Max in a case, showing the action button from the side

Lucky case makers like Nomad managed to guess correctly (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I talked to Moment, a company that makes a variety of accessories for phones, including camera lenses, mounts for bicycles, and cases that work with those camera lenses and bike mounts. If you have a Moment bike mount, you need a Moment case to clip your phone to your bike. If you are a Moment fan, buying the iPhone 15 Pro, you can’t go a day without a Moment case. Where would you put your phone?

At least, that’s the logic that I imagine drove Moment’s decision to release its case without an Action Button. Moment reps tell me “we don't get any designs ahead of time and our #1 priority is always to get cases with the lens mounts out to our customers to use their lenses and protect their phones, instead of waiting months for us.” That’s true. If Moment began the design process on the day the iPhone launches, it would take a long time for those cases to hit the market.

If your case lacks a button, you need a new case

Some case makers are going back to the drawing board. I got samples from a small case maker, Burga, that did not include an Action Button. That company decided to make the change, and a couple months later sent me newer samples with the button in place. It was a smart move. 

When I asked Casetify if they would be revising the Pro and Pro Max cases to include an Action Button, the company said that its “Ultra Bounce Case currently has a covered button and other products are being considered to include as well.”

iPhone 15 Pro Max in a case, showing the action button from the side

This Casetify case offers good protection but no Action Button (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Other case makers are standing their ground. The popular brand Incipio told me that “unfortunately Incipio won’t be making any changes to the current iPhone 15 case designs and action button covers won’t be coming until the 2024 iPhone series.”

Unfortunately, the Action Button is a big deal, one of the defining features of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max phones. I could never say that a case without an Action Button is one of the best cases you can buy for this phone. If you never use the Action Button, you may not care, but it’s unwise for case makers to stick with a design that is, frankly, wrong.

I’m not sure how to fix this, but if Apple wants to keep a robust ecosystem of accessory partners alive and thriving, it may need to play nice and offer at least some hint to case makers that a change is coming.

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Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.