Apple’s AssistiveTouch Makes It Easier To Use A Smartphone


In a NYT blog post, David Pogue discusses a thoughtful feature that’s available on all iOS 5 devices: something called AssistiveTouch.

Turning on the feature in Settings->General->Accessibility, causes a white circle to appear on the screen that overlays apps and the homescreens. Tapping on it brings up a floating on-screen palette. Its buttons trigger Multi-Touch gestures using one finger or a stylus. It also supports the use of adaptive input devices, like headsets and switches.

For instance, you can tap the on-screen Home button instead of pressing the physical Home button.

Tapping Device brings up a sub-palette of six functions, including Rotate Screen (tap this instead of turning the phone 90 degrees), Lock Screen, Volume Up and Volume Down, Shake, and Mute/Unmute. The last five of which replace the five physical buttons on the iPhone.

Tapping Gestures brings up a palette that depicts a hand holding up two, three, four, or five fingers. Tapping the three-finger icon, for instance, places three blue circles on the screen. Drag them and the phone thinks you’re dragging three fingers on its surface. Using this technique allows users to operate multiple fingers gestures with one finger (or stylus).

AssistiveTouch also allows users to create their own custom gestures. Pogue offers the following possible example:

Suppose you’re frustrated in Google Maps because you can’t do the two-finger double-tap that means “zoom out.” On the Create New Gesture screen, get somebody to do the two-finger double-tap for you. Tap Save and give the gesture a name—say, “2 double tap.”

Pogue finishes the post by writing

I doubt that people with severe motor control challenges represent a financially significant number of the iPhone’s millions of customers. But somebody at Apple took them seriously enough to write a complete, elegant and thoughtful feature that takes down most of the barriers to using an app phone.
I, for one, am impressed.

If anyone is using AssistiveTouch, please mention how well it’s working in the comments. And please feel free to share any suggestions for custom gestures.


  • Grandmasterflash

    Assistive touch is amazing and I do not have any motor challenges (that I know of). I find it especially useful to bring up the multitasking window since double tapping that physical home button feels like a hit or miss sometimes. It would have been more brilliant if they had connected the custom gestures to iOS actions, such as brightness. Nevertheless, full recommendations.

  • Anonymous

    This is what I own an iPhone for. Though I don’t use the assistive touch much because I can get away with using my stumpy half fingers but I have spent some time customizing assistive touch. And it works. I’m really loving Siri on that note. Apple products have always had features built in for the disabled. Of all the company’s out there. Apple really has their act together.

  • Kog

    i haaaaate zooming into maps with 2 fingers while tryn zoom, shit is perfect !

  • DoctorT

    Try double tapping with one finger to zoom in and double tapping with 2  fingers to zoom out.

  • Mworkman

    I do not use the assistive touch feature, but I’m blind, so I use Voiceover.  Apple is so far ahead of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc when it comes to accessibility, and there is now a huge community of blind IOS users.

    Since buying the 3G s (the first iPhone with Voiceover), I’ve bought a Mac, an iPhone 4S, hundreds of dollars worth of apps, and personally convinced several blind friends to buy iPhones.  Accessibility should be thought of as an investment rather than a cost.

  • Snowboardingshay

    it also works good if your home button doessnt work

  • Kenkenken0001

    The bad thing is a white circle always appear on the screen, I was always accidently press it when I use other apps…..