The volume buttons on the side of your iPhone are for more than just adjusting volume levels for media, ringers, alerts, Siri, and other sounds and voices. You can use them to perform different actions inside certain apps and even create custom actions using the Shortcuts app. It's not exactly button mapping, but it's as close as you'll get without jailbreaking iOS.
While some third-party apps can utilize your iPhone's volume buttons for tasks besides volume adjustments, it's limited to just the normal expected behavior of iOS 15 and iOS 16. As you'll see below, there are a few actions the volume buttons can perform besides raising and lowering volume levels, and apps submitted to the App Store must not go beyond those parameters.
2.5.9 – Apps that alter or disable the functions of standard switches, such as the Volume Up/Down and Ring/Silent switches, or other native user interface elements or behaviors will be rejected.
When using Photo, Portrait, or Pano mode in the Camera app, you can use the volume up or down button on your iPhone as a shutter button. Pressing once will take a picture in Photo and Portrait modes for the front or rear camera. For Pano mode, pressing once will start a panorama, and a second time will stop it, or you could long-press a volume button to start one and let go to stop.
The concept is the same when taking pictures in other Apple apps, such as Contacts, Magnifier, Mail, Notes, and Reminders.
You can also use the volume up or down button as a shutter-release button in many third-party camera apps. For example, Adobe Lightroom, Camera+, FiLMiC Firstlight, Focos, Halide Mark II, Pro Camera by Moment, ProCam 8, and Snapseed. You can even use it to take pics with Snapchat and the Instagram Stories camera.
Like with pictures, you can use the volume up or volume down button in the Camera app to start a video using the front or rear camera. Choose a shooting mode such as Video, Slo-Mo, Time-Lapse, or Cinematic, then press the volume up or down button to start recording and again to stop. You can also press and hold a volume button to start recording and let go to stop.
On iPhone XS and newer models, you can press and hold either volume button in the Photo shooting mode to start recording a QuickTake video. Then, just let go to stop recording. QuickTakes are convenient because you can take them quickly when shooting photos without fumbling with the mode selector.
If you have an iPhone X or older, pressing and holding either volume button won't start a QuickTake recording since these iPhone models don't support the feature. Instead, you can press and hold a volume button in the Photo shooting mode to take a burst of images, then let go to stop.
On an iPhone XS or newer model, long-pressing one of the volume buttons will start taking a QuickTake, but you can bring back the burst option to one of the buttons. Go to Settings –> Camera, then toggle on the "Use Volume Up for Burst" switch. From now on, the long-press volume up gesture will take bursts, while the long-press volume down gesture will stick to QuickTake videos.
In apps like Freeform (available on iOS 16.2 and later), Files, Mail, Notes, and Reminders, you can scan a document using your iPhone's built-in document scanner. It's basically the Camera app modified to focus on documents, so if you suspect you can use a volume button on your iPhone to snap a picture of a document, you'd be right.
The document scanner will often automatically scan and snap an image, but if it doesn't, you can use the volume up or volume down button to take the scan instead of hitting the shutter button on the screen. After that, you'll need to drag the corners to adjust the crop before saving the image.
By default, you can snooze an alarm from the Clock app on your iPhone by pressing either volume button. It's as simple as that. If you can't get it to snooze the alarm, you may have "Snooze" disabled for that particular alarm, so double-check its settings.
If you don't like snoozing alarms, you can toggle off the "Snooze" switch for each alarm in the Clock app. Without a snooze option, pressing either volume button after an alarm sounds will turn the alarm off.
The volume buttons are also handy for incoming calls from Phone, FaceTime, and other calling apps. You can press either volume button when a call comes in to silence the call. If your iPhone's ringer is enabled, it will silence it. If you have your iPhone on vibrate only, it will stop the vibrations. You can then answer if you'd like, hit the Side or Home button to reject the call, or wait for the call to go to voicemail.
If you ever lose your iPhone and need to use Find My on another device to play a sound to locate it, pressing either volume button on your iPhone when you find it will turn the loud sound off.
Some third-party app developers incorporate the volume buttons on your iPhone into gameplay. For example, the Blackbox - Brain Puzzles app (seen below) uses the sensors on your device to complete puzzles, and some of the solutions require you to press your volume buttons.
Third-party developers of tally counter apps usually add volume button support for adding or subtracting numbers when counting. And you can use them to count anything: people, laps, pitches, animals, golf strokes, prayers, etc. It sure beats carrying around a separate digital or mechanical tally clicker.
The Pitch X - Pitch Counter app works well with the volume buttons. However, I couldn't get some that advertised volume button support to work, including Things Counter and Multiple Smart Counter. I didn't test out any paid apps.
Unfortunately, there is no automation trigger involving hardware buttons on the iPhone, so you can't set up an automation to detect when you press a volume button to initiate a task. However, you can use them as an interactive component to custom shortcuts and automations.
For example, I've created a shortcut called Perform Actions with Volume Buttons, and you can incorporate it into another shortcut or run it from within an automation that's triggered by something else.
- iCloud Link: Perform Actions with Volume Buttons
It gets your iPhone's current volume, converts it to a number, and then shows a notification that explains what pressing the volume buttons will do. In this case, pressing volume up executes Action A, pressing volume down executes Action B, and doing nothing stops the shortcut.
Then, it waits five seconds to give you enough time to read the notification and press a volume button. After five seconds, it retrieves the current volume again and compares that to the number that the shortcut previously recorded. Action A runs if the present volume level is greater than that number. If it's less, Action B runs. If you don't press anything, it stops the shortcut.
If you don't want the volume buttons to affect anything on your iPhone when you're using a specific app, like when you don't want to accidentally lower or raise the volume, you can take advantage of Guided Access. The accessibility feature restricts whoever's using your iPhone to the current app so that they can't mess around with anything else on the device.
Go to Settings –> Accessibility –> Guided Access, then toggle "Guided Access" on.
Then, go to the app you want and triple-click the Side or Home button on your iPhone. If you have more than one action assigned to the triple-click gesture, choose "Guided Access" from the action menu.
On the Guided Access screen, choose "Options," make sure the "Volume Buttons" switch is off, and hit "Done." Next, hit "Start," then set and verify a passcode.
After verifying the passcode, Guided Access will start, and the volume buttons won't do anything while you're in the app. To end Guided Access, triple-click your Side or Home button. If you have more than one action assigned to the triple-click gesture, choose "Guided Access" from the action menu. Then, enter your passcode, and hit "End" when you return to the Guided Access screen.
The above tips are for the volume buttons by themselves. However, they are used for other tasks when combined with other hardware buttons. Here's a quick list of everything they can help accomplish:
- Activate Emergency SOS: Press and hold the Side button and either volume button to show the Emergency SOS slider.
- Power off: Press volume up, then volume down, then hold the Side button down until you see the Power Off slider. Or press and hold the Side button and either volume button to show the Power Off slider.
- View Medical ID slider: Press and hold the Side button and either volume button to show the Medical ID slider.
- Force-restart: Press volume up, then volume down, then hold the Side button down until you see the Apple logo on the screen.
- Disable Face ID quickly: Press and hold the Side button and either volume button to show the Power Off, Emergency SOS, and/or Medical ID slider.
- Take screenshots: On Face ID models, press the Side button and volume up simultaneously and let go.
- Enter recovery mode in Finder or iTunes: With your iPhone connected to your computer, press volume up, then volume down, and then press and hold the Side button. You'll see the Apple logo eventually, but don't let go. Instead, release the Side button when you see the recovery mode screen.
- Enter DFU mode in Finder or iTunes: With your iPhone connected to your computer, press volume up, then volume down, and then press and hold the Side button. When the screen turns black, press and hold volume down without letting go of the Side button. Release the Side button after about five seconds, then let go of volume down when you see the "recovery mode" prompt in Finder or iTunes on your computer.
- Enter diagnostics mode: Press and hold the Side button and either volume button to show the Power Off slider. Drag the slider off, wait 30 seconds, then press and hold both volume buttons simultaneously. While holding those, plug your iPhone into power using a cable. Release the buttons when you see the Apple logo appear.
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