When it was revealed that the iPhone X didn’t have a home button, there was some panic.
What would happen to the fingerprint scanner? How would you navigate back to the home screen if you got confused? And what about “reachability”?
Reachability was introduced three years ago with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple’s first larger-screen devices. Up until now, the feature has let you navigate the larger display with one hand by tapping on the home button twice. Then, the screen is pulled halfway down the screen so you can reach everything using just your thumb.
Apple stayed true to the smaller phone screen for a long time. Even when Apple’s competitors were making devices with larger screens, Apple had barely changed the size of the iPhone. AppleInsider points out that Apple even made a commercial in 2012 saying the average person could reach every corner of the iPhone 5’s screen with their thumb, meaning the phone was still great for one-handed use.
When the bigger screen came out, however, Apple needed an easy way to let people continue using the phone with one hand. Thus, reachability was born.
While it may seem niche, the feature is popular — 76% of millennial iPhone users take advantage of reachability, according to comScore’s “2017 US Mobile App Report,” which gathers data about smartphone app use among US adults.
The feature isn’t as widely used among older iPhone users. The study found that 39% of those ages 35-54 used reachability, while 32% of those ages 55 and up used it.
On average, though, 55% of those surveyed by comScore said they used reachability.
How to use reachability on the iPhone X
The good news is, reachability didn’t disappear altogether with the iPhone X — but it is vastly different.
Now, you’ll have to turn the feature on manually: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reachability and toggle the button on. To use it, swipe down on the horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen from any app.
The feature doesn’t work quite as easily as it did in the past. As a few users have pointed out to me, it’s tough to get used to and won’t work unless you swipe down from the exact right place on the screen. But at least the feature hasn’t disappeared altogether.
And for those who have had a lot of trouble using large phones one-handed, the iPhone X will likely be easier to use even without reachability than past iPhones. The X’s design differs from previous iPhones because Apple mostly eliminated the bezels, or edges around the screen. Since its face is almost entirely the 5.8-inch screen, the phone is smaller than Apple’s Plus models and likelier to support one-handed use.
If you’re not sold on the iPhone X, Apple’s other new phones — the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — have home buttons, which means they still have “classic” reachability. And if you miss the smaller design of Apple’s older phones, you can still buy the iPhone SE, a $US350 phone that looks like an iPhone 5S and runs like an iPhone 6S.