When Apple revealed its smart battery cases for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s in 2015, it was ridiculed for a massive bump that ruined the phone’s clean beauty. It was almost the same as the company coming back for people who are struggling for such an accessory, but Apple never endorsed that “hump” design. In fact, it has pushed it even further this year by adding a new function, a physical camera button. It was not completely magical but still novel enough for iFixit to want to look inside without tearing it down.
Only a few smartphones ever had a physical shutter button and iPhones were never among them. Most phones use the volume button for that purpose, depending on the context or orientation of the phone. The iPhone 11 already does button remapping tricks, so it was a puzzle as to how and why the smart battery case has a physical shutter when the iPhone doesn’t.
The “how” was fortunately answered by iFixit in collaboration with Creative Electron and subsequent X-ray contraception. Some said the shutter used wireless communication, perhaps via NFC, which could have introduced some concerns about lag and interference. Fortunately, this was not the case, no punishment was intended.
X-rays detected a small circuit board, which used a flexible circuit to connect to the main board of the case that connects to the iPhone’s Lightning port. Not a completely revolutionary design but it suggests that Apple may be open to introducing new functions in its own cases.
As for the “why”, the design of the new iPhone 11 makes the volume rocker awkward to reproduce as a camera shutter button. The button of the Smart Button Case is also recruited to prevent accidental presses, unlike a regular button. Whether Apple makes more changes in the future will depend on whether this functional addition will be popular with users.