iPhone X: How to survive with no home button

The iPhone X doesn't have a home button. But you can still do everything you're used to. Here's how.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
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The iPhone X is almost all screen. It's beautiful, but it comes with a big change: There's no home button anymore. And that changes a lot of things about everyday use.

Many of the familiar screen gestures have changed. Down is up and up is down. When it comes to how the iPhone X operates, you'll find that you need to learn some new swiping tricks.

Watch this: Your iPhone X survival guide: New moves, no home button

The home button's old functions have migrated to other places. Specifically, the side button -- the newly elongated version of what we used to call the power or "sleep/wake" button -- takes on some new duties, too.

Is that off-putting? Don't let it be. I've been living with the iPhone X for a few days, and and it feels unusual at first, but I'm getting the hang of it.

Here's our guide on how to survive.

Unlocking the phone with Face ID

No more home button means no more Touch ID. Thankfully, Face ID works well -- and it's fast, too. Look at the phone to unlock, then swipe up. The iPhone X requires a physical swipe to finish the unlock, but here's a trick to speed things up a bit: Swipe up first, then let Face ID kick in and finish the job.

The new 'home' is a swipe up

How do you get back to the home screen if you're in an app without a home button to press? Again, it's swipe up -- and you're back at the app grid. Consider it "flick to home."

Nic Henry/CNET

Control Center: Swipe down on the right corner

If "home" is swipe up, what happened to Control Center? Weirdly, it's totally reversed: swipe down from the top right of the iPhone display (the right "horn" next to the notch).

Nic Henry/CNET

Notifications: Swipe down from anywhere else

That's right: Swipe down from the center or left "horn," and you'll get notifications.

App switching, version 1: Swipe up halfway, then over

With the home button, a quick double-press brought up the app switcher. On the iPhone X, you swipe up, but hold the finger down. Suddenly your open apps pop up. To force quit apps (which Apple really prefers you not do, but sooner or later it's needed), you tap and hold on the app to bring up a red circle with a minus sign. Tap it. Done.

App switching, version 2: Swipe left and right from the home bar

Swipe left and right on the bar on the bottom of iPhone apps, and you'll jump back and forth to other open apps. It's helpful to find recent apps you're still using.

Nic Henry/CNET

Siri: Long press on the side button (or just call her name)

On older iPhones, Siri was summoned with a long press on the home button. On the X, you either say "Hey, Siri" -- or press and hold the long side button on the right.

Apple Pay is a double-click on that same side button

It's a bit like the Apple Watch : To pay for things, double-clicking the side button brings up your wallet. Then, a glance at the display with Face ID unlocks the ability to make payments. It takes getting used to.

Screenshots: Hold top volume button and the right side button

This is confusing, but it's also your ticket to taking snaps of your phone screen.

Nic Henry/CNET

Power off, disable Face ID and/or activate SOS: Hold bottom volume button and right side button

Turning off your phone now feels like finding an Easter egg. Hold down until the swipe-to-turn-off slider appears. If you cancel out, note that Face ID is disabled: You'll need to enter the passcode during your next use -- aka "cop mode." Important: Don't keep holding down unless you want to activate SOS mode -- that is, dial emergency services -- and set off a siren.

Tap to wake up the X

Much like many Android phones, the display wakes on a tap now. That doesn't happen on other iPhones. Raise to wake still works, too.

Reachability brings the top of the screen into finger reach, but good luck using it

Unlock Reachability under Accessibility in Settings, then swipe down off the edge of the X's screen. Do it just right and the screen jumps down to make things reachable for your thumb if you're one-handing it. But I could never get this gesture to work well for me.