Learn all the new gestures for iPhone X | Cult of Mac

Learn all the new gestures for iPhone X


gestures iPhone x
Your thumb will get a workout now that the home button is no longer around to do all the work.
Photo: Apple

The iPhone X has no home button. We already know that, but what does it mean when you’re actually using the phone? The home button is the most important button on the iPhone. It wakes it up, gets you to the home screen, activates Apple Pay, invokes Siri, takes a screenshot, and helps you force the phone to reset if everything goes wrong. And that’s just the beginning. The iPhone X replaces the home button with a combination of gestures, and by using other buttons. Some of them you may already use. Others take existing gestures and move them. Let’s take a look at all the new gestures on the iPhone X.

Wake up your iPhone X

There are three ways to wake your iPhone X. You can raise it and the screen will wake, just like you can do on previous iPhones. You can also tap the screen, or press the sleep/wake button on the side. If you’re coming from an iPhone 6s or later, you will already be familiar with Raise to Wake. The twist with the iPhone X is that Face ID will now unlock your iPhone too — previously you had to use Touch ID to get past the lock screen.

Raise to Wake, then, is probably the best way to unlock the iPhone X — you just pick it up and use it.

Get back to the home screen

This is the big one. On all previous iPhones, pressing the home button returns you to the home screen. This navigational device makes the iPhone approachable by anyone. Even if things get very confusing for a new user, all they need to do is hit the big button and they’re back on familiar ground.

On iPhone X, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go home. This is the gesture used by other iPhones to open Control Center, and on the iPad to reach the Dock and the Control Center. It’s not as intuitive as an actual clicking hardware buttons, but then again, the iPhone hasn’t had a “real” home button since iPhone 7.

iPhone x gestures
Gestures replace most of the home button’s duties.
Photo: Apple


Control center and Notification Center

With its gesture stolen by the home button, how do you open Control Center on iPhone X? Easy. You just swipe down from the right side of the notch at the trop of the screen. The two little “ears” produced by the notch are now gesture starting points. Swiping down from the right ear brings up Control Center, and the left ear pulls down the Notification Center.

App switcher/slider gestures

The multitasking view is the same, but you get there differently.
The multitasking view is the same, but you get there differently.
Photo: Apple

It takes a little finesse to open up the iPhone X’s multitasking view, i.e. the view where recently-used apps are stacked like cards, and you can swipe to switch between. On previous iPhones, a double-tap of the home button would show this view. On iPhone X, you have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and then pause. So, the gesture is related to the home button gesture, just like the old behavior uses a modified home-button tap.

Quick app switcher

This is a variation on the app switcher. On previous iPhones. you’d use 3D Touch to kind of dig in to the left side of the screen and pull the current app to the right, dragging the last-used app into place. On the iPhone X, this is achieved by starting a swipe from the bottom of the screen, and then moving your thumb in an arc to the right. Like the old gesture, this will probably take a bit of practice, but soon become an essential shortcut.

But the simplest way to switch apps is to just swipe along the bottom of the screen, left or right, as if there was some kind of control strip there. It’s so handy that I wish it was available on other iDevices.


With the home button gone, Siri is now woken up by long-pressing the side button, aka. the sleep/wake button. That’s actually easier to do if the iPhone is in your hand. And Hey Siri also works as usual.

Apple Pay

To access Apple Pay, you now have to double-tap the side button, and then let Face ID identify you. This is also true for purchases made in the App Store. Instead of authenticating by touching the fingerprint sensor, you confirm your intent to purchase by double-tapping the side button, then letting Face ID check you out.


Screenshots used to be taken by pressing the home button and the side button simultaneously. Now you squeeze the side button and the volume up button to do the same trick.

Temporarily disable Face ID

If you need to switch off Face ID in an emergency — you’re at the U.S. border, for example, or a mugger has demanded your iPhone, then you can disable Face ID so they can’t unlock your iPhone X by forcing you to stare at it.

To do so, just grab the phone in your pocket and hold some the same buttons you’d use to snap a screenshot — a volume button and the side button. Just hold them down for a little longer, and you should get a little Taptic vibration to let you know that Face ID is now off, and that your password will be required to unlock the iPhone.

Turn off

You might think that holding down the power button would switch off the iPhone X, or bring up the Slide to Power Off screen. It doesn’t. To power down the iPhone X, you hold down the side button, and the volume up button. That’s the same combo used to take screenshot, and to disable Face ID. This is what happens when you remove so many buttons — the rest have to do all their work for them.

Forced shutdown

If everything goes wrong, and you need to force your iPhone X to restart, you’ll need to do some fancy Konami-code style button tapping:

  1. Press and release the volume up button.
  2. Press and release the volume down button.
  3. Press and hold the side button.

When you see the Apple logo you’ll know you got it right.

The removal of the home button on the iPhone X really shows just how important it was to every aspect of the iPhone, from Touch ID to returning to the home screen. People may be a little lost to begin with — have you ever been given an Android phone and gotten stuck as soon as you find out that it has no home button?

When I finally get my hands on an iPhone X, I’ll be interested to see what Apple does to help new users discover these new gestures, if anything at all. It’s worth noting that there are no first-run instructions on current iPhones telling you how to use the home button.


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