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Reachability: A gimmick or an effective way to use the bigger iPhone 6 with one hand?

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I’ll be honest: When I heard Apple say the word “Reachability” during the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch event, I winced. The function, which is meant to help use the bigger iPhones with one hand, simply sounded gimmicky. Even a few minutes with the phones that day didn’t sway me. After spending hours with the larger iPhones, however, Reachability has somewhat surprisingly become fairly natural and effective for me.

For those not familiar with it, Reachability is activated by touching the iPhone’s home button twice in quick succession.

touch ID on iPhone 6

This isn’t a double-press of the button: That would typically activate the iOS app switcher. Instead, it’s just two light touches; you’re not depressing the home button. Doing so causes the entire home screen or active application to slide down on the [company]Apple[/company] iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, making it easier to reach controls, apps, buttons and input fields near the top of the screen with your thumb. Once you tap something, Reachability slides the screen back up to its normal location.

Here’s a great example: Look at the sign-in link on in Safari. On my iPhone 6, I can’t easily reach it with my thumb when holding the phone in my right hand as I normally do. A quick double-touch of the home button solves that problem.

Reachability doesn’t just work in Safari though: It’s a system-wide function, meaning any time you need to reach items on the top-third or so of the new iPhones, it’s there. Although Reachability arrived with iOS 8, it’s not available on older iPhones simply because it isn’t needed: They all have smaller screens.

So why did I initially think this would be a gimmick? Mainly because my initial reaction was along the lines of this: “So to keep using the iPhone as a one-handed device, I’m going to have to double-tap a button dozens of times a day?” Here’s the thing: I can’t think of a better or more effective design solution that helps. And developers don’t have to update their apps to take advantage of Reachability on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Sure, we’ve seen “one-handed” software modes before on other large phones and they can be effective too; this isn’t something new to the industry. Here’s Samsung’s implementation on a Galaxy S 5, which you turn on in the device settings and is activated with a half swipe to the from edge to center of the screen and back again.

Galaxy S5 one hand mode

Without a doubt, Reachability does require more taps and touches, but without it, what’s the alternative?

I can think of two: Either adjusting the grip on your iPhone on and off during the day or switching to a two-handed method. Those are certainly viable options and even with Reachability, you can still use them. Surprisingly though, I’m already not doing either. Instead, my brain is already trained to use that simple double-touch and then tap whatever I need to on screen which is now within easy reach.

We’re all different though with a range of hand sizes and use cases for our phones, so I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of Reachability after a few days use. Chime in below in our comments to share your thoughts.

This post was updated at 9:07am  to correct the double-tap feature of the iPhone’s home button.

19 Responses to “Reachability: A gimmick or an effective way to use the bigger iPhone 6 with one hand?”

  1. Im buying a 5s

    This just breaks with apple philosophy, doesn’t it?

    Apple makes ingenious, user-friendly devices that looks good. With the iphone6 they step away from this.
    -People are buying cases to improve the grip so the phone don’t fall out of their hands.
    -Apple needs to introduce silly software functions (which means more taps, many more over the course of a day) with no other purpose than to enable people to use their phone.

    That is defeat in my eyes! What happened to the core values? I’ve been using the galaxy s3 the last two years and while i have normally sized hands i’ve still gotten light tendonitus in my right thumb after long time usage. Get us back our 4″ size!

  2. Nobiggi Finger Strap

    1. Adjust grip.
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  3. SpineDoc is right. I’m an iPhone fan and have owned every major model of it. But reachability was not executed effectively. Shrinking the entire screen to the size of an iPhone 4 or 5 would be better. I’m an average man with average hands and I cannot reach the “Q” and can barely reach the “W”. So yes, bringing the Safari address bar down so I can type in it is great – but not shrinking the keyboard is stupid.

  4. on the iphone6, i would rather be able to configure the soft touch of the home button (intended for reachability) to be functional as the HOME button (without the full press of the button)
    please make it configureable. I find reachability somewhat of a gimmick but the soft tap on the home button is awesome.. now if we could only define the gestures on it…..

    • Mark Dutton

      After having a worn out home button and hence a worn out phone, I would much rather the sensor be programmable so I can use it as my home button. Please add in an update Apple.

  5. Makes little sense to me. In Kevins case although he can now tap on the sign in box with his thumb he still needs to type 2 handed as the keyboard remains the same width. Samsung did this much better in shrinking the screen horizontally as well as vertically for TRUE one handed use.

    • I have an iPhone 6, not a 6 Plus, and I can easily type with one hand on it; it’s not any wider than my Moto X. It’s the height of the phone / screen that’s more of a challenge and that’s where Reachability lets me…. well…. reach. ;)

  6. I don’t like that the screen bounces back to full after I press one think in reachability mode. Frequently there are a whole slew of things I wouldn’t want to keep double tapping the home button to get to with my thumb.

  7. Why not fill home screens from the bottom up, like building a wall? That way I could have maybe just three rows of apps per screen, hopefully accessible by my little fingers. It wouldn’t solve the issue on other pages but would eliminate many clicks throughout the day. And, yes, it would necessitate more screens but still.
    As it is, I appreciate and use Reachability all the time. It’s one habit I readily adopted.

  8. I’m still waiting on my 6+. I went to a local apple and tried out reachability but noticed some difficulty dialling a phone number. I had to activate reachability for the top numbers then wait for the screen to move back up in order to access the bottom numbers. So what I’m wondering is, will apple allow a third party to implement something like samsung’s take (where the whole screen shrinks and moves closer to the hand)?

  9. Oliver Hoffmann

    I was sceptical myself when they announced the feature and it sounded like another function that I would never use. However I quickly got used to it and use it several times a day now.