Smartphone power buttons should work like power buttons

Every major phone manufacturer has committed a serious crime, and I won’t keep silent about it any longer: they stole our power button. Apple, Google, Samsung: guilty, guilty, guilty.

Long-pressing the power button used to show an option to turn off the phone, but then these companies went for it become cute and make this a shortcut to summon their digital assistant. This is bad and wrong and I politely demand that these companies give back what they took from us.

Look, I see the logic. As phone screens got bigger, physical buttons like Apple’s home button were dropped, and existing buttons had to take up the slack. With the iPhone X, Apple has moved the Siri function to the power button. Since then you have to press to turn off your iPhone a combination of keys. If you make the fatal mistake of long-pressing the power button in hopes of turning your phone off, Siri will start listening to you as you curse that the power button is no longer working as it should. And beware if you don’t hold down the right key combination long enough – you’ll take a screenshot you didn’t mean to and have to delete it later.

Apple, Google, Samsung: guilty, guilty, guilty

It’s just as bad on Samsung and Google phones. A long press of the power button on the Pixel 7 Pro just brought up the Google Assistant and a prompt to ask it how to apologize in Spanish. no, google it is you who should apologize. And the Galaxy S22 phones I’ve used this year all prompted me to set up Bixby when I made the mistake of long-pressing the power button. Both Google and Samsung let you change it back to the power menu – and Samsung has the decency to add a shortcut to the side button options on the shutdown screen – but enough is enough. By default, long-pressing the power button should only turn the phone off.

The thing that really adds salt to the wound is the keyboard shortcut to turn off your phone is not even the same on every phone. On an iPhone, you can press and hold the power button and either volume button to get to the shutdown options. On a Pixel phone, it’s a quick press of the volume up button and power button. If you mess up and hit the volume down key, you’ll take a screenshot, making you feel silly when you later find it in your photo gallery. For Samsung, you need to hold down the volume down button and the power button.

The shortcut key to turn off your phone is not even the same on every phone

I realize that most people only need to remember one of these combinations because they don’t switch phones every week like I do. I get that. And most people probably don’t even turn off their phones…ever. That’s okay too. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for one power switch that does the work it is named after. Sure, you can rename it “Sleep/Wake button” or “Side button,” but we all know what it’s really for. If we can’t have that, then at least let’s agree on a standard combination of keys to press so I can stop accidentally taking screenshots of my home screen.

I have a strong suspicion that my plea is in vain and it’s probably up to us as individuals to save ourselves from the on/off switch chaos.

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