Which buttons should Apple bring back next?


Buttons. Who doesn't love them? What buttons should Apple add to its products going forward?
Buttons. Who doesn't love them?
Photo: Diomari/Unsplash CC

It may have nothing to do with Jony Ive leaving the company, but Apple has been adding buttons back to its devices. It’s a slow start, but hopefully it’s the beginning of a trend. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro added an Escape key, and a separate power button (you can press the Touch ID button). Plus, the recently introduced iPhone 11 battery case added a dedicated camera button.

After what seems like decades of removing useful hardware features, is Apple finally seeing the error of its ways? And, if so, what buttons would we like to see next? Let’s take a look at the current lay of the land.

Never miss an iPhone call or alert again


Keep your ringtone volume and media volume separate. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Keep your ringtone volume and media volume separate. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

There are two different channels for audio on your iOS device: there are ringers and alert sounds and there are media sounds, like from the Music app or various games on your iPhone.

The hardware volume buttons on the side of your iPhone are set to control both by default, but you can separate it out, making the hardware buttons only turn down the media sounds instead of both media and ringer sound.

Here’s our recipe on how to make sure you never miss a call because someone “accidentally” turned your volume all the way down.

Ask An Apple Genius: Extending Your iPhone 5 Warranty, Water Damaged MacBooks And Swapping iPhone Colors



This is the Cult of Mac’s exclusive column written by an actual Apple retail store genius. Our genius must remain anonymous, but other than “Who are you, anyway?” ask anything you want about what goes on behind that slick store facade.  

Answers will be published first in Cult of Mac’s Magazine on Newsstand. Send your questions to with genius in the subject line.

With iPhone 5 warranties about to expire for early adopters, our Genius runs through the litany of legitimate issues you can use to get your iPhone replaced for free. We also dive into whether it’s better to be upfront about water damage and switching colors when the Genius Bar replaces your device.

1. My iPhone 5 warranty is about to expire.  How can I get my device replaced for free so I have a new iPhone from the warranty of the old one?

Like any piece of advanced tech, the iPhone certainly has its faults and manufacturing defects, even if they are somewhat rare.

Hardware defects are the easiest way to go

One of the biggest problems we have to swap iPhones for is the sleep/wake button. That button often gives out or gets jammed and becomes unresponsive. If that happens we swap the device. Same thing for the volume buttons. The home button isn’t as common a replacement. We may be able to do a modular repair to replace the flex assembly that goes to your home button. Often times that fixes it, but if it doesn’t we’ll swap it out.

Essentially, hardware defects are the easiest way to go. Camera defects come up frequently too, with issues like spots or lines on the sensor and shutter fails being the most common issue. We don’t have a camera replacement for the iPhone 5, so if you have any of those issues, definitely bring it in. There have also been issues with the iPhone 5’s metal enclosure getting bent out shape. As long as the screen isn’t cracked and the bend or morphing is noticeable, your warranty covers that as well.

Getting an iPhone replaced under warranty for a software issue is a bit trickier. Most software issues that people see will not lead to an iPhone replacement. Before you come to the Genius Bar you’ll be reminded to try rebooting your iPhone and restore from a backup. Those two quick steps usually do fix most software issues. Some software issues – like maybe your WiFi has gone out – can get you a replacement iPhone as long as the Genius can observe and verify the issue.

The good thing about taking your iPhone 5 in for those issues:  it won’t cost you anything and extends your warranty for another 90 days. After two replacements we have to ask a manager for permission to replace an iPhone, even if it’s a legitimate reason. Most of the time managers are cool and will just tell us to go ahead and swap it, but the two-replacement policy is supposed to act as a safeguard from people who try to milk Apple for an infinite number of replacement iPhones.

2. Why won’t the Genius Bar let me change the color of my iPhone when I get it replaced under AppleCare+?

Essentially, we don’t allow it in order to benefit our customers and make sure that inventory flows through the channels in the most efficient way possible.

When you buy a black iPhone, Apple keeps track of how many models it has sold in each color and plans out how many it will need to supply for replacements at the Apple Store. It’s a complicated process to get all the Apple Stores stocked with the right amount of iPhones in the various configurations, even though Apple makes it look easy.

Allowing customers to change colors at random would add an extra element of variation to Apple’s supply chain and could result in supply shortages. And then customers who actually need a device swap in their original color would get screwed over. So, sorry, you’re stuck with your original color choice. Choose wisely.

3. My 30-day-old MacBook Pro had a little accident involving water on the ride home. The screen isn’t working, but it will output video to an external monitor. What’s my best bet when approaching the Genius Bar – pretending I don’t know what happened, or fessing up?

Honesty is the best policy right? The Apple Geniuses are going to find out one way or another that your MacBook is water damaged. It’s better for them to find out from you right away, so fess up to it, but ask them what the best options are.

The Genius Bar is there to fix your computer, but it’s really about fixing your relationship with Apple

Ask them what was damaged and what repairs can be done. Sometimes – especially in your case where you purchased it very recently – they may be able to talk to a manager to help you out, so it’s good start off on the right foot.

The Genius Bar is there to fix your computer, but it’s really about fixing your relationship with Apple. Because the company wants to represent itself well and get great customer satisfaction scores, a manager might give you a break and only make you pay a partial amount of the repair, or even hook you up with a free repair.

Artisanal Wooden Shutter Buttons For Cameras Are, Like, Totally Necessary



There’s something that happens to a certain kind of person when it comes to hobbies: The acquisition of gear becomes more important than the hobby itself. Take photography, for instance.

One short trip to the Internet will fill your browser with awful, pointless photos taken by men with cameras that cost them a fortune. You’ll see truly lame family snapshots taken on an $8,000 Leica Monochrom, posted with notes about the tonality and the bokeh, as if the gear makes these snapshooters into great photographers.

And you’ll see accessories. All kinds of crazy accessories that do little but fuel the need to upgrade to ever more specialized and expensive models.

Back when I worked a Saturday job in a camera store, we’d joke about the men who’d spend so much on a camera that they could only afford the cheap off-brand film. For these folks, there’s the Artisan Obscura shutter release, a tiny, $30 circle of wood that screws into a camera’s shutter release.

iPhone Shutter Grip Adds Grip And Shutter Release To iPhone



This is the iPhone Shutter Grip. Can you guess what it does? That’s right: It adds a handgrip and a shutter release to your iPhone, letting you snap pictures one handed, and generally take photos without dropping the iPhone.

It even has a built-in tripod mount, and a secret second button.

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home Button



Laaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

After this week’s topic, someone’s going to be spitting teeth. Our question: Which is better? Android’s three virtual buttons or iOS’s physical home button?

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one.

iPad’s Orientation Lock Switch Repurposed To Mute In iOS 4.2



There’s an interesting change in the way iOS 4.2 handles orientation lock on the iPad… one that indicates a curious design backpedal on the part of Cupertino.

Previously, orientation lock on the iPad was handled with a physical hardware switch on the side of the device, but in iOS 4.2, it has been repurposed as a physical “Mute” button, with the orientation lock achieved the same way it is on the iPhone 4 or iPod Touch under iOS 4: through the multitasking tray.

It’s a minor but significant change that, I suspect, portends the elimination of the mute/screen orientation button on the second-generation iPad. For famously minimal and streamlined Apple, a physical mute button doesn’t make a lot of sense on an iOS device that isn’t a phone.

[via MacRumors]