You’ll notice two things about the iPhone X (pronounced iPhone ten) when it launches on November 3. First, it has a big, edge-to-edge display, borrowing heavily from devices like the Galaxy S8. Second, there’s no home button—a first for Apple’s smartphone lineup.
The home button’s removal is a significant change, as it’s remained a constant since the iPhone was released in 2007. Even as the iPhone’s design has evolved, the home button has endured, a familiar and comforting feature that everyone knows how to use.
Without a proper home button, navigating iOS is now suddenly a completely foreign experience. Hand the device over to someone and the first thing they’ll say is, “How do I get back home?” But it’s not quite as daunting as it seems.
The new home button
For iPhone owners, navigating iOS has always been the same. When you’re in an app, simply press the home button and you’ll be taken back to your home screen. Things are different with the iPhone X.
Now, when you’re in an app, iPhone X users will see a small bar at the bottom of the screen, which acts as a home button of sorts.
When you’re in the App Store, for example, you can get back to your home screen by swiping up on that bar. If you see that bar, it’s Apple’s way of reminding users they can get back to the home screen be performing the simple gesture.
It’s not quite as simple as pressing a home button, and early hands-on impressions from media suggests this gesture will take some getting used to. In an introductory video of the iPhone X, Apple argues that touch and gestures are more intuitive than mechanical buttons, so take that for what it’s worth.
The new way to multi-task
Not only was the home button used to jump back to your home screen, but it acted as a way to multi-task. On the iPhone 8, pressing the home button twice in quick succession would bring up the multi-tasking menu, allowing users to quickly switch apps.
To multi-task with the iPhone X, you have to swipe halfway up the display. I know, it’s a bit confusing. I haven’t used the iPhone X, but I can already see myself entering the multi-tasking screen by mistake, or jumping back to the home screen when I meant to multi-task.
Needless to say, it will take a period of acclimation to learn the difference between the two gestures.
Swipe down for more
Weirdly, Apple has moved the gesture to invoke Control Center. So, rather than swiping up from the bottom, which you would do with the iPhone 8, Control Center can now be accessed by swiping down from the righthand top corner. It’s the complete opposite of what iPhone users are used to.
It makes sense why Apple made the switch—swiping up from the bottom will either bring people to the home screen or multi-tasking menu. But it shows that the company doesn’t really know where to put Control Center.
Having used Android, accessing Google’s controls are much easier and intuitive. One swipe down from the top will show your favorite controls, while another swipe will bring up a menu of convenient shortcuts. Apple should take a page out of Android’s book.
Swiping down from the top where the Face ID sensors are will still bring up your notifications, while a swipe from the middle of the display will bring up Spotlight.
That’s a lot of different gestures to get used to, but I suppose that’s what happens when there are no more buttons.
Speaking of buttons, calling upon Siri is done in a new way, too, now that the home button is gone. In addition to saying Hey Siri, the digital assistant can be invoked by pressing and holding the iPhone X’s larger power button. Previously, iPhone users could bring Siri up by pressing and holding the home button. It’s not a difficult concept, but it’s yet another change iPhone X users will need to get used to.
The whole idea behind removing the home button was so Apple could include a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display. But it doesn’t come without its own set of problems. Re-learning to navigate iOS will be a big part of using the iPhone X when it launches—not to mention living without Touch ID.
Samsung faced this very issue when the Galaxy S8 launched, introducing a clever solution that made the bottom portion of the screen pressure sensitive, so when users pressed the software key, it would bring them back to their home screen. It’s exactly like a home button, it just wasn’t like consumers know it in the traditional sense.
Rather than doing that, Apple came up with a series of gestures it believes is much more intuitive. Only time will tell if Apple was right.
The iPhone X is the most significant redesign to the iPhone in years, signaling a new future for the device. We’ll have much more coverage of the device, including Face ID, when it launches on November 3.