What Are the Flash & Pause Buttons on a Telephone?

By D.M. Gutierrez

Updated September 28, 2017

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Landline phones and cellphones today have numerous buttons you can press to cause specific actions. The "Flash" button engages the call waiting feature, allowing you to accept a second incoming call. The "Pause" button inserts additional space into a phone number programmed into phone book memory or speed dial. These features can usually be performed even when your phone doesn’t have a "Flash" or "Pause" key, like on a rotary phone.


The "Flash" button on a telephone switches between two calls on the same line. For a "Flash" button to work as intended, you must have the call waiting service on your telephone account. Pressing the "Flash" button when you hear the call waiting signal and then again during your call allows you to hold two alternating conversations on a single phone line. If your phone doesn’t have a "Flash" button, you can usually engage the "Flash" feature by holding down the receiver hook for a few seconds and then releasing it.


The "Pause" button is used to insert a pause into a string of numbers entered into memory. Some phone systems require dialing a particular number to obtain an outside line, usually the number “9." It usually takes the phone system a few seconds to reach an outside line, so if the automated dialing sequence is delivered immediately after the “9," the call won’t go through. The pause function allows the phone to pause after the initial number dialed and then deliver the rest of the telephone number. This feature is often required for international numbers entered into memory as well.

No Buttons

If you have an older phone or a simple model without "Flash" or "Pause" buttons, you may still be able to access these features. In some phone systems, using a number on the keypad -- like the number “9” -- can substitute for the "Pause" button when programming a momentary pause into a phone number in memory. On older rotary or touch-tone phones, you can usually press the switch hook, which hangs up the phone, to access the incoming call waiting phone instead of using a "Flash" button.

Other Buttons

In addition to buttons for flash and pause, most phones have redial, transfer and speaker buttons. Some phones have detailed menu systems accessed by a menu or mode button with which you can program handset, phone book, texting and answering system options. For phones without these buttons, these options can often be accessed by pairing the "#" or "_" key with a particular number. For example, you can press "_70" to allow a three-way call on a touch-tone phone or dial "1070" on a rotary phone, according to AT&T.