Life Without a Home Button
by By Cody Froeter, CVRT
Tags: iPhone, iPhone 11, VoiceOver
For many individuals with vision loss, an iPhone is an essential tool for accomplishing a wide variety of daily tasks. The Home Button was one feature of an iPhone that many of my clients found useful. It was not only used for performing tasks, but it was a tactile landmark on the screen when performing gestures with VoiceOver.
Unfortunately, Apple appears to be removing the Home Button from all new iPhones, with the exception of the new iPhone SE. Due to the removal of the Home Button, VoiceOver gestures for many of the Home Button functions have been redesigned.
I was in the market for a new iPhone, but was resistant to not having a Home Button. I useg this feature on my iPhone 8 to return to the Home Screen and access App Switcher and Siri. As a vision rehabilitation therapist, I have seen many clients build the skills and techniques required to double or triple click the Home Button to access App Switcher or the Accessibility Shortcut features. In my lessons with clients, I also show them how to use the Home Button as a tactile landmark for orientation to the phone layout.
You may have some difficulty getting accustomed to the redesigned VoiceOver gestures on the iPhone X and 11 initially. However, with some practice you may find they are easier to use. Below are some of the redesigned gestures and features of the new models, Home Button-less iPhones:
Using the Power Button
- A long press on the Power Button, located on the upper right side of the phone, now activates Siri. On older models, a long press on the Home Button would perform this task.
- Similarly, a triple click of the Power Button will access the Accessibility Shortcut or Magnifier feature, depending on your settings. Previously, a triple click of the Home Button performed this task.
Unlocking a Home-Button-less iPhone
- To unlock the iPhone, you must slide one finger from the bottom of the screen until two tones are heard, or a short vibration is felt if the volume is turned down. The second tone is a higher pitch than the first, which is an audio clue that you have unlocked the iPhone.
Listening for Tones
- Once you unlock the phone and are on the Home Screen, sliding one finger up from the bottom will give up to three tones in progressively higher pitches.
- The initial tone indicates you are beginning the gesture rather than tapping on an object at the bottom of the screen.
- If you continue sliding up, you will hear a second tone. The second tone will perform different tasks depending on whether you are on the Home Screen or in an app. If you are on the Home Screen and release your finger, the phone will navigate to your first page of apps on the Home Screen. If you are in an app, it will back out of the app to the Home Screen.
- Continuing to slide up the screen, after hearing the second tone, you will hear a third tone. The third tone will access App Switcher. Here you can navigate through, or close, open apps.
Accessing Notifications and Control Center
- To access Notifications, you simply tap the status bar items and swipe three fingers down the screen. This task is nearly identical to older model phones. The status bar items can be made more tactually prominent thanks to the screen notch on these newer models and a glass screen protector, if applied.
- You can access the Control Center simply by placing one finger at the top of the screen and sliding down until you hear two progressively higher pitched tones. The first signifies that the gesture has started. The second signifies that the Control Center will be accessed if your finger is released.
- By continuing to slide down the screen, you will hear a third tone which will open Notifications, as mentioned above.
I must admit I was skeptical of an iPhone with no Home Button. But after learning about the VoiceOver gesture changes to accommodate the lack of this feature, I must say I was impressed. I found that with some practice, the gestures were easy to use. Some iPhone users may even find the redesigned gestures easier to use than the Home Button. As an instructor, I cannot count the number of times I have tried to access App Switcher with a double click of the Home Button and accidentally triple clicked instead.
It appears the Home Button may be a thing of the past. Luckily, Apple has redesigned VoiceOver gestures to accommodate the changes. And in my opinion, improved the function of the iPhone for users with vision loss.
Cody is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist at Second Sense