Five ways to take charge of the iOS Home button

Ben Patterson
7 July, 2016
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The Home button on your iPhone and iPad will get a new job with arrival of iOS 10: it’ll unlock your handset, replacing the old ‘Slide to Unlock’ gesture. But you don’t have to wait until fall to change the Home key’s behaviour.

Beyond its standard chores of taking you back to the home screen and letting you quickly switch between apps, the Home key can also act as a shortcut to some of iOS’s handiest features, such as zooming the display and reversing screen colours. You can also change the speed at which you need to double-click the Home key, or decide whether the Home button can access Siri and Apple Pay from the lock screen. Last but not least, you can choose whether double-touching the Home key engages iOS’s (potentially annoying) ‘Reachability’ feature.

Triple-click for accessibility shortcuts

iOS has long had a series of interesting accessibility features up its sleeves. VoiceOver, for example, will read aloud aloud anything on the screen, while Zoom lets you zoom in or out on the display by pinching the screen. Grayscale renders all the colours on the display in shades of grey, while Invert Colors reverses all the colours on the screen, making for a de facto ‘dark mode’ while browsing in Safari. There’s also Assistive Touch and Switch Control, a pair of features for those who need help tapping and swiping a touchscreen.

Triple-click the Home key for

All those accessibility options are (somewhat inaccessibly) hidden behind a few layers of menus, but there’s a handy setting that’ll let you get there with a triple-click of the Home button.

Tap Settings > General > Accessibility, then scroll all the way down and tap Accessibility Shortcut. Next go ahead and tap the accessibility features you use the most – you can tap one, all, or just a few of them.

Now, go back to the home screen and triple-click the Home button. If you selected more than one accessibility shortcut, a pop-up listing all your selected shortcuts will appear; just tap the one you want. If you only selected one shortcut, that accessibility feature will immediately switch on. Triple-click the Home button again to turn off the accessibility option or to return to the shortcut menu.

Change the double-click speed

Double-clicking your iPhone or iPad’s Home key can be trickier than it sounds. If you aren’t fast enough with your Home key double-clicks (or triple-clicks), you’ll simply wind up back at the home screen rather than, say, switching apps or jumping to your accessibility shortcuts.

Change the Home button double-click speed

If you don’t have the split-second timing needed to double-click the Home button, there’s a setting that’ll help slow the pace a bit.

Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Home Button, then pick a speed: Default (the fastest), Slow or Slowest.

Each of the three options will blink repeatedly as you tap them, giving you an idea of how fast you’ll have to double-click. Don’t feel bad if you opt for the Slowest setting; that’s what I did.

Turn off Reachability

Older iPhone models look puny compared to the jumbo-sized iPhone 6 and 6 Plus versions, but the smaller 3.5in and 4in iPhone screens have one advantage over their bigger brothers: you can access the entire thing with your thumb while holding the device in one hand.

Turn off

That’s why the bigger iPhone handsets (the iPhone 6 and later, except the iPhone SE) got Reachability, a feature that scoots the entire screen down to about the midpoint of the display, making it easier to reach the top of the interface with your thumb. You can activate Reachability by double-tapping, but not pressing, the Home button.

Now, Reachability is a considerate feature for those who use their iPhones with only one hand, but it’s also easy to activate Reachability by mistake. Luckily, there’s an easy way to disable Reachability if it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Tap Settings > General > Accessibility, then switch off the Reachability setting.

Disable Apple Pay access from the lock screen

What’s the point of Apple Pay if it isn’t easier to get to than your wallet? Good question, and that’s probably why you can use the Home button as an Apple Pay shortcut.

Access (or not) Apple Pay from the lock screen

From your iPhone or iPad lock screen, you can simply double-click the Home button to make your Apple Pay debit and credit cards appear.

It’s a nifty feature for those who use Apple Pay all the time, but it can get annoying if you’re not an Apple Pay fan. I tired of Apple Pay after my saved cards were repeatedly declined in New York City yellow cabs, and adding insult to injury, I kept activating Apple Pay by accident from my iPhone’s lock screen.

As with Reachability, you can keep Apple Pay stowed by tweaking a simple setting. Tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, then turn off the Double-Click Home Button setting. Once that’s done, your Apple Pay cards will stay hidden unless you specifically launch the Wallet app or hold your iPhone next to an NFC (near field communication) payment terminal.

Summon Siri from the lock screen – or not

Helpful though she can be, Siri has a bad habit of appearing on my iPhone screen when I need her the least. Maybe something’s up with the Home button on my iPhone 6, but Siri frequently pops up on my screen when I’m unlocking my iPhone, or when I’m trying to double-click.

Summoning (or not) Siri from the lock screen

You can’t change the default method of summoning Siri – pressing and holding the Home key – but you can keep her from appearing on your iPhone or iPad’s lock screen.

Tap Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, then switch off the Siri option under the Allow Access When Locked setting.

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