How To Use The iPhone 11, 11 Pro & XR: Essential Gestures

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Back in 2017 the iPhone X ruffled feathers by discarding the Home button in favour of the largest phone screen Apple had ever provided, and the company has since doubled down with the (even larger) 11 Pro Max and XS Max, as well as the 11, 11 Pro, XR and XS.

They’re wonderful devices, but how do you unlock the device, go to the Home screen, activate Siri, turn on the app switcher and do all the other functions accessed via a Home button? With gestures, or alternative buttons, or with your face! In this tutorial we explain how to use the 11- and X-series iPhones.

Note that the 2020 and 2018 iPad Pro models are also bereft of Home buttons, and follow a similar set of gestures. You can learn about them in How to use the iPad Pro 2018.

How to unlock your iPhone 11

The 11- and X-series iPhones haven’t got Touch ID, because the fingerprint scanner used to sit in the Home button (RIP) and Apple decided not to move it to the back of the device or embed it in the screen. Instead of Touch ID, we get Face ID.

To unlock your iPhone, you just need to lift the device up and look at it – by default you need to make eye contact, a deliberate feature designed to stop people being able to unlock your phone when you’re asleep or unconscious. It should unlock near instantly.

Note that this won’t automatically take you to the Home screen, it will just unlock the device – noticeable by the padlock icon changing at the top of the screen. You then need to swipe up from the bottom, or activate one of the other features available from the lock screen (such as the camera).

We look at this feature in more detail elsewhere: How to use Face ID.

How to use Apple Pay with the iPhone 11

The loss of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner also impacts on Apple Pay. This too is now verified by facial recognition.

You have to double-tap the side button (formerly known as the power button!), look at your iPhone to verify your identity, then hold the device near the contactless terminal to complete the transaction.

If you’re using Apple Pay online or in an app, things are slightly different – you double-press and authenticate, and the transaction must be completed within 30 seconds. If it’s not, you’ll have to double-press and authenticate again.

How to go back to the Home screen

The original and most obvious purpose of the Home button is to take you back to the Home screen from anywhere. That’s now done with a gesture: a swipe up from the bottom of the screen, just as you used to do to bring up the Control Centre. There’s a little bar across the bottom of the screen – except when it fades out during video playback and similar – to remind you of this.

Note also that it’s possible to get the 11- and X-series iPhones to display an onscreen Home button – we explain this in How to get a Home button on iPhone X.

How to access Control Centre

Talking of Control Centre, that’s now activated by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen.

You may not like the notch at the top of the display, but it does have the advantage, interface-wise, of effectively turning the top edge into two separate gesture-sensitive sections. And the top-left edge is used for something else…

How to access Notifications Centre

Swipe down from the top of the screen (the middle or the left) to bring up the Notifications Centre.

How to see your battery life as a percentage

The easiest method is to bring up Control Centre, as described above: swipe down from the righthand side of the top edge. The top status bar gets pulled down slightly too, and with the extra space the battery graphic gets a percentage figure next to it.

There are a couple of other methods too, and these are outlined in How to show iPhone X battery percentage.

How to switch from one app to another

As usual you can go back to the Home screen, find the app icon and tap to open it, but you’ll be wanting to know the equivalent of the old double-press on the Home button, which used to bring up the app switcher.

Swipe up from the bottom of the screen (on the little bar), just as you do to go back to the Home screen, but this time hold your thumb or fingertip on the screen for a moment or two, until the app switcher appears. You can now swipe left or right to scroll through your recently opened apps, then tap one to open it.

If you don’t want to bother with the app switcher and just want to jump back to the previous app, you can swipe across the bar at the bottom of the screen. Some early users have found it easiest to do a little semi-circle gesture up, across and then down, but experiment to find what’s best and most effective for you.

That’s the gist of it, but we describe this process in more detail elsewhere: How to switch apps on iPhone X.

How to take screenshots

You can’t take a screenshot on your 11-series iPhone by pressing the Home and power buttons at the same time, because you’ve not got a Home button. Instead you now press the volume-up and power buttons simultaneously.

The screen will flash white and you’ll see a small thumbnail of your screenshot at the bottom left. You can tap this to add annotations or share it, swipe left to make it disappear or just wait for it to go away.

Some users have found themselves triggering screenshots without meaning to – often when picking up their iPhone. In a separate article we explain how to stop accidental screenshots on iPhone X.

How to activate Siri

Press and hold the power button to turn on Siri – or say “Hey Siri!”, as before, and assuming you’ve got this feature switched on.

How to turn off an iPhone 11

You turn off most iPhones by holding down the side button until the power-off slider appears. But, as previously explained, that activates Siri on these handsets.

Instead, to turn off an 11- or X-series iPhone, you should press and hold both the side button and one of the volume buttons (up or down – it doesn’t matter). Again, hold them down until the power-off slider appears, then swipe across it to turn off the phone.

How to force-restart an iPhone 11

Force-restarting (or hard-rebooting) an iPhone with no Home button is a bit of a pain, requiring you to press all three of its buttons in the correct sequence and reasonably quickly.

You need to press (and release) the volume up button, then press (and release) the volume down button. Finally, press and hold the side button – do so until the Apple badge appears.

How to put an iPhone 11 into DFU mode

Entering DFU mode is complicated on the 11- and X-series handsets by their lack of a Home button.

Attach your iPhone to a Mac or PC, and open iTunes (or Finder, if you’re using macOS Catalina). Press and quickly release the volume up button, then press and quickly release the volume-down button.

Press and hold the side (power) button until the screen goes black. Hold the side and volume down buttons for another five seconds, then let go of the side button but keep holding volume down until iTunes/Finder says it “has detected an iPhone in recovery mode”.

Now you can let go of the volume down button.

If you’ve done this properly, the screen of the iPhone will be black. In iTunes/Finder, you should see the iPhone appear in Devices.

How to activate Reachability

When Apple first debuted its big-screen iPhones it worried that people wouldn’t be able to reach the whole of the touchscreen display with their thumbs while holding the device, so it introduced a new Reachability feature, which brought the whole screen image down when you double-touched (not pressed) the Home button. There’s no Home button now, but the screen is bigger than ever, so how does Reachability work?

It’s now activated by swiping down at the very bottom of the screen. It’s a little fiddly, so read our How to use Reachability on the iPhone XS Max tutorial for a more detailed explanation (and a GIF!).

If you’re worried that this will be activated accidentally while using apps, it can be turned off (or on) in Settings, under Accessibility.

How to get a Home button on your iPhone 11

If the above advice isn’t enough to sate your thirst for Home button functionality, you may want to consider extreme methods. Such as getting your iPhone to display an onscreen Home button at all times.

This is activated via the Accessibility section of the Settings app. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility, then scroll down and look for a setting called AssistiveTouch. (It might be quicker to search for AssistiveTouch from the opening screen of Settings.) Turn this on and the button will appear on the righthand side of the screen

That’s the quick version, but read How to get a Home button on iPhone X for a longer explanation of how to use AssistiveTouch and what it can do.

How to avoid screen burn-in

One last tip, which isn’t related to the Home button but is specific to another feature of the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max (but not the XR or 11): screen burn. This is an extreme form of image retention, and the main downside to OLED screens, which are otherwise excellent. (The XR and 11 have the older LCD type of screen.)

If you allow a static, bright, high-contrast image to display on an iPhone 11 Pro for a long time, there is a danger that it will burn into the screen and remain there, in a faint, ghostly form, permanently. So be careful about using Auto-Lock, and remember to turn down the brightness if you need to have a static image on screen for a prolonged period.

More tips (and a couple of possible fixes for the problem, in case the worst does happen) in a separate article: How to avoid & fix iPhone X screen burn-in.

How to use Animoji

Animoji was one of the standout new features of the iPhone X. If you’d like to find out how to send these fun animations that mimic your facial expressions read our complete guide to using Animoji.

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