10 Hidden Gestures and Shortcuts on the iPhone

Your iPhone is packed with hidden touch gestures and shortcuts you could use, if only you knew about them. You might have discovered some of these already, but Apple is always adding more new gestures. Here are 10 of our favorites.

Tap the Menu Bar to Scroll to the Top

In practically any app, you can tap the menu bar at the top of your screen—that’s the bar with the time on it—to scroll to the top of the current document or list. For example, if you’ve scrolled down a web page in Safari and want to quickly scroll back to the top, just tap the menu bar at the top of your screen. It’ll immediately jump back to the top of the page.

 

Reopen Closed Tabs by Long-Pressing Safari’s New Tab Button

The Safari browser included on your iPhone allows you to reopen tabs you’ve previously closed. To find this feature, tap the button at the bottom right of the Safari app to view your open tabs. Long-press the new tab button and you’ll see a list of closed tabs you can reopen.

 

Move the Text Cursor With 3D Touch

If you have an iPhone with the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch feature, you can easily move the text entry cursor while typing something. With the keyboard open, hard-press the spacebar. The keys on the keyboard will turn blank, and the cursor will appear. Move your finger to the left or right and the cursor will move. Lift your finger to set the cursor’s position.

This works with the iPhone’s default keyboard as well as some third-party keyboards—it depends on whether keyboard’s developer has added support for this feature. For example, this trick also works in Google’s Gboard keyboard.

 

Double Tap the Home Button for “Reachability”

On larger iPhones—including the iPhone and iPhone Plus, but not the iPhone SE or older, smaller iPhones—you can tap (but not press) the Home button twice to enter “Reachability” mode. All the content on the iPhone’s screen will be lowered on the display, making it much easier to press buttons on the top of the screen when using your iPhone with one hand. Double tap the Home button again to leave Reachability mode.

This is different from double-pressing the iPhone’s Home button, which brings up the app switcher.

 

Change Your Scrubbing Speed for Music and Podcasts

When playing music or a podcast, you may want to “scrub” through the track at different speeds. To do this, touch your finger to the progress bar and move the finger up or down on the screen, away from the bar. Without lifting your finger, move your finger to the left or right to scroll back or forward through the file. Depending on how far your finger is from the progress bar, you’ll scrub through the file at either faster or slower speeds than you would if you were just touching the bar normally. You’ll have to try it yourself to get the hang of it, but it allows for much more precise control.

This works in the included Music and Podcast apps, and it works with any audio-playing app that appears in the Control Center. It may work in other apps with a playback control, too—it depends whether the app’s developer added this feature.

 

Use 3D Touch to Quickly Switch Between Apps

If you have an iPhone with pressure-sensitive 3D Touch, there’s a way to change apps and bring up the app switcher without double-pressing your Home button. Hard press the left edge of your iPhone’s screen and move your finger to the right side of the screen to swipe away the current app (or home screen) and go to the app you were previously using. You can repeat this process to go back through multiple apps.

You can also hard press the left side of the screen and move your finger to the center of the screen instead of the right edge. Lift your finger and you’ll see the app switcher, allowing you to scroll through the apps you’ve been using and tap any app to go to it.

 

Swipe Down on the Home Screen to Search

If you’re looking for an app or anything else, you don’t have to scroll all the way to the left to access Spotlight search. On any one of your home screens, just press your finger to somewhere on the screen and move your finger downwards. The Spotlight search interface will appear and you can start typing to quickly search for an app or anything else.

 

Long Press to Type Special Characters and Symbols

If you ever need to type a letter with an accent or insert a less common symbol, you can quickly do it using the default keyboard. Just long-press an associated letter, number, or symbol to view more characters you can type.

For example, if you want to type an e with an accent, long-press the “e” key on the keyboard, move your finger to the character you want to type, and lift your finger. If you want to type a foreign currency symbol, long-press the “$” key, move your finger to the symbol you want to type, and lift your finger.

 

Swipe to Browse Back and Forward

You don’t have to tap the back and forward buttons on the toolbar to go back or forward when browsing in Safari. Instead, touch the left edge of your screen and swipe to the right to go back, or touch the right edge of the screen and swipe to the left to go forward.

 

Shake to Undo

If you want to undo your recent typing, you can physically shake your phone and you’ll be prompted to undo what you’ve recently typed in many applications. This works in Apple’s own apps, form Messages and Mail to Notes, Calendar, and Safari. Perhaps it was inspired by the Etch a Sketch, which allows you to clear its screen by shaking it. You can disable this feature if you find yourself shaking your phone accidentally.

Other developers clearly assume you’re frustrated if you’re physically shaking your phone. That’s why, if you shake your phone in the Google Maps app, you’ll be prompted to send feedback about the maps experience. Other apps may have similar features that activate when you shake your phone.

 


If you have an iPad, there are quite a few iPad-specific multitasking and navigation shortcuts, too.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.