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The Many Uses of the iPhone Home Button


iPhone home button

iPhone multitasking revealed by double-clicking the Home button

Updated May 16, 2014

Did you know that the iPhone's Home button, the button at the bottom center of the phone, has more uses than just returning you to the phone's default screen? It can also be used to control the iPhone's phone and iPod app, search, and more with just a few changed settings.

Home Button in iOS 7

In iOS 7, the home button is somewhat less powerful and flexible than in previous versions of the OS. It does basically two things.

  • First, just as in iOS 6, holding down the Home button will launch Siri (read below for more detail on that).
  • Second, double clicking the Home button will reveal all running apps in the multitasking manager, like in earlier versions.

Home Button on iPhone 5S

On the iPhone 5S, the home button adds another dimension: it's a fingerprint scanner. Called Touch ID, this fingerprint scanner is used to make the 5S more secure and to enter passcodes, and passwords for purchases at the iTunes and App Stores.

Home Button in iOS 5 and iOS 6

If you have an iPhone 4S or 5 (or an iPad 3 and up, or 4th gen. iPod touch and up) running iOS 6 or higher, the home button offers a very cool feature that no other iPhones have: Siri. Siri's is Apple's voice assistant, an app that you can talk to to search the web or perform actions on your phone.

To use Siri, you need to make sure it's turned on. Do this by going to Settings -> General -> Siri and moving the slider to On.

Then, use Siri by holding down the home button until the Siri icon (a round microphone) pops up from the bottom of the screen. Then speak your request or command to Siri and you'll be off and running.

If you have protected your device with a passcode, you can or not allow Siri to work from the lockscreen. Change this option in Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock -> Siri.

Home Button in iOS 4

The arrival of iOS 4 changed much of the information below. The home button is no longer configurable in that OS. Instead, it's double clicked to open the fast app switcher to move between apps and close programs.

For iPod Controls

When the phone is locked and the iPod playing, a double click of the home button will bring up the iPod controls.

For Voice Control

On the iPhone 3GS and higher, holding down the home button for a few seconds activates Voice Control, a program that allows the user to speak the names of people to call or songs to play (replaced by Siri in newer versions of the OS).

For Search

When on the home screen, if you click the Home button once, it will bring up the phone's Spotlight search tool.

Home Button in iOS 3 and Earlier

For Favorites

The first use of the Home button is as a shortcut to your phone’s favorites. With this setting, when you double-tap the Home button, your list of favorite people to call will be displayed.

Here's how to set that preference:

  • From the home screen, go to Settings
  • In Settings, choose General
  • In General, choose "Home" about halfway down the screen
  • In Home Button, tap the option that reads Phone Favorites so that there is a checkmark next to it.

Now, each time you double-tap the iPhone’s Home button in quick succession, your phone favorites will appear.

For iPod App

You can also use Home button to control the iPod feature of the iPhone. With this preference set, a double tap of the Home button will bring you right to your music – saving you clicks if you're not at the home screen.

Here's how to change this setting:

  • From the home screen, go to Settings
  • In Settings, choose General
  • In General, choose "Home"
  • In Home Button, tap the option that reads iPod so that there is a checkmark next to it.

Now, each time you double-tap the iPhone’s Home button in quick succession, your music list will appear.

For iPod Controls

In the same Preferences screen, there is also an option called iPod Controls. If you set the slider to On, a double-tap when the iPod is playing displays controls that offer the name of the song and pause/forward/backward buttons in a window overlaid on whatever program you’re using.

This gives you control of your iPod even while you are using other programs and allows you to jump to the iPod program.

For iPod Controls when Locked

Similarly, when your music is playing and the iPhone is locked, a double-tap of the Home button will display the iPod controls without unlocking the phone.

Home Button for Search and Camera

As of iPhone OS 3.0, the home button can also be set as a shortcut to open the camera or search applications on the phone. As with the other settings, in the Home option of General settings, you'll find check boxes to set either the camera or search apps as shortcuts.

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