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How to use a virtual home button instead of the iPhone X’s gestures

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Just in case your thumb gets tired of swiping up so much

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

I’ve got no problem with the iPhone X’s new home indicator and its swiping gestures. In fact, I quite like them. Swiping up to go home feels like second nature after just a few days using the phone. Same for getting to the app switcher by pausing after that upward swipe.

But I’m not a big fan of how far away Control Center feels now. That upper right corner is a stretch for my thumb — even with my big hands. So yesterday I thought about trying a different method to reach those useful shortcuts, and it’s a trick that has been in iOS for years: it’s called AssistiveTouch. AssistiveTouch is a feature in the accessibility settings (under the “general” section) of iOS that puts a floating, virtual home button on your screen that you can drag wherever you want.

You can configure the button to perform four different actions based on whether you tap, double tap, 3D Touch, or hold it down. And you can pick your own opacity for the virtual button so that it won’t draw attention or distract from your apps when inactive. I’ve got a free space for it on my home screen. But if you don’t, it might be tough to find a good spot for the button to live. Also, enabling AssistiveTouch doesn’t turn off or get rid of the swiping gestures; you can switch between them as you please.

I’ve got mine set to act like the old home button whenever it’s tapped once. So if you’re tired of swiping your lock screen up every time you use your phone, you can just tap on the virtual button instead. I don’t know that it’s any faster than swiping up on the indicator. It seems about equal, and Face ID works extremely quickly in both cases.

A double-tap will pull up the multitasking menu — just like the old home button shortcut. And if I 3D Touch on the virtual button, Control Center appears. I’ve chosen screenshot for the “long press” move, which feels appropriate for the task. You can also configure one of those initial button actions to activate a secondary menu with even more shortcuts. But I think these are all I really need.

It’s convenient, but I doubt that I’ll keep the virtual button enabled permanently. Maybe it’ll just be a nice tool if my thumb gets tired of all that swiping from time to time. Apple does a superb job keeping accessibility near the top of its priority list, but it turns out AssistiveTouch is also pretty helpful for the lazy among us.

You can set the button’s opacity to a point where it blends in with your apps when inactive.