The Many Uses of the iPhone Home Button

iPhone Home Screen
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Everyone who's used the iPhone for even just a few minutes knows that the Home button, the only button on the iPhone's front, is crucial. It takes you out of apps and returns you to your Home screen, but did you know it does more than that? The Home button is used for all kinds of apps and actions (this article is updated for iOS 11, but many of the tips apply to earlier versions, too), including:

  1. Access Siri—Holding down the Home button will launch Siri.
  2. Multitasking—Double clicking the Home button reveals all running apps in the multitasking manager.
  3. Music App Controls—When the phone is locked and the Music app playing, clicking the home button once will bring up the Music app controls to adjust volume, change songs, and play/pause.
  4. Camera—From the lock screen, a single press of the Home button and a swipe from right to left launches the Camera app.
  5. Notification Center—From the lock screen, press the Home button and swipe left to right to access Notification Center widgets.
  6. Accessibility Controls—By default, the Home button only responds to single or double clicks. But a triple click can also trigger certain actions. In order to configure what a triple click does, go to the Settings app, then tap General -> Accessibility -> Accessibility Shortcut. In that section, you can trigger the following actions with a triple click:
    • AssistiveTouch
    • Classic Invert Colors
    • Color Filters
    • Reduce White Point
    • VoiceOver
    • Smart Invert Colors
    • Switch Control
    • VoiceOver
    • Zoom.
  1. Dismiss Control Center—If Control Center is open, you can dismiss it with a single click of the Home Button.
  2. Touch ID—On the iPhone 5S, 6 series, 6S series, 7 series, and 8 series the Home button adds another dimension: it's a fingerprint scanner. Called Touch ID, this fingerprint scanner makes those models more secure and is used to enter passcodes, and passwords for purchases at the iTunes and App Stores, and with Apple Pay.
  1. Reachability—The iPhone 6 series and newer have a home-button feature that no other iPhones have, called Reachability. Because those phones have large screens, it can be hard to reach from one side to the other when using the phone one-handed. Reachability solves that problem by pulling the top of the screen down to the center to make it easy to reach. Users can access Reachability by double tapping (not clicking; just a light tap like tapping an icon) the Home button. 

The Home Button on iPhone 7 and 8 Series

The iPhone 7 series phones changed the Home button dramatically. On earlier models the button was truly a button: something that moved when you clicked it. On the 7 and now 8 series, the Home button is actually a solid, 3D Touch-enabled panel. When you press it, nothing moves. Instead, like the 3D Touch screen, it detects the strength of your press and responds accordingly. Because of this change, the iPhone 7 and 8 series has the following Home button options:

  • Rest Finger to Open—Earlier versions of the Touch ID-enabled Home button let you rest your finger on the button to unlock the phone. That changed with the 7 series, but you can restore that option by going to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Home Button -> and moving the Rest Finger to Open slider to on/green.
  • Click Speed—Change the speed needed to double or triple click the button in Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Home Button.
  • Click Settings—Because the button is now 3D Touch-enabled, you can choose the kind of click feedback you prefer by going to Settings -> General -> Home Button.

iPhone X: The End of the Home Button

While the iPhone 7 series delivered some big changes to the Home button, the iPhone X removes the Home button completely. Here's how to perform tasks that used to require the Home button on the iPhone X:

  • Unlock the phone—You unlock the iPhone X using either the Face ID facial recognition system or by entering an onscreen passcode after waking the phone by raising it, tapping the screen, or clicking the Side (aka sleep/wake) button.
  • Return to homescreen—To leave an app and return to the homescreen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen (Control Center is now accessed by swiping down from the top right corner of the screen).
  • Multitasking—To access the multitasking view of all open apps, swipe up from the bottom like you're returning to the homescreen, but pause partway through the swipe. 
  • Siri—Instead of pressing and holding the Home button to launch Siri, press and hold the Side button.
  • Taking screenshots—The Home button is no longer involved in taking screenshots. Instead, squeeze the Side button and volume up button at the same time to capture a screenshot.
  • Force restart—Force restarting the iPhone X requires more steps now. Click the volume up button, then the volume down button, and then press and hold the Side button until the iPhone restarts. 

Uses of the Home Button in Earlier Versions of the iOS

Earlier versions of the iOS used the Home button for different things—and allowed users to configure the Home button with more options. These options aren't available on later versions of the iOS.

  • iOS 8—Double tapping the Home button reveals not only the multitasking manager, but some new contacts options, too. At the top of the screen, icons show the people you have most recently called or texted, as well as the people listed in your Phone app's favorites menu, to quick contact. This was removed in iOS 9.
  • iOS 4—This version of the iOS introduced double clicking the button to bring up the multitasking options. It also launched the phone's Spotlight search tool with a single click from the homescreen.
  • iOS 3—Double tapping the Home button in this version of the iOS was a shortcut to the Favorites list in the Phone app. Alternatively, you could change a setting to launch the Music app (then called iPod) instead.
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