A lot of the time we have to use our smartphones with two hands – one hand to hold the phone and the other hand to press and stroke and press buttons. But sometimes it is not possible to use both hands. You may not be able to use a particular hand due to a handicap, accident or other problem. Or you may just want the flexibility to manage your phone without tying both hands. Whatever the reason, there are ways you can control your phone with just one hand.
Android phones and iPhones offer various options for accessing key functions, navigating screens and typing text with a single hand. Let’s look at both types of phones to see how this works.
When using your iPhone with one hand in portrait mode, you can enable a Reachability feature that lowers the top half of the screen so you can access it more easily with your thumb. To enable this, go to Settings> Accessibility> Press and turn on the accessibility switch.
To put this into practice on an iPhone with Face ID, swipe down on the bottom edge of the screen. The top half should then move downwards. On an iPhone with a Home button, lightly double-tap it to move the top half down. To return to the regular full screen, tap the top half of the screen.
You can reduce the size of your keyboard and move it to the right or left, making it easier to type with just your thumb. This method is awkward for a long time, so you do not want to write the great American novel this way. But for a quick sms or email, it is a good solution.
To try this, open any app where you want to enter text, such as Mail or Messages. Tap the globe or emoji icon at the bottom left of the screen below the keyboard keys. The menu shows three keyboard layouts at the bottom. Tap the left image to move your keyboard to the left. Tap the right image to move it to the right. When done, tap the Globe icon again and tap the center image, or simply press the arrow key next to the left or right keyboard.
With the Back Tap feature enabled, you can tap the back of your iPhone two or three times to run various commands. Go to to turn this on Settings> Accessibility> Press> Press back. Press the Double-tap option and select the command action you want to trigger with a double-tap. Return to the previous screen and select Triple Tap. Select the triple bottling activity. To run the corresponding commands, simply double or triple the back of your phone.
The AssistiveTouch function displays a button that you place on the screen and then press to perform various tasks. To configure this, go to Settings> Accessibility> AssistiveTouch. Turn on the AssistiveTouch switch. The button is displayed and can be moved to the left or right side of the screen for easier access with one hand.
You can now customize the button to trigger specific actions based on whether you press it once or twice or long press it. Under Custom Actions, tap the Single-Tap option. On the next screen, select the action you want to trigger with a single tap. Select Open Menu displays a top-level menu that you can also customize with icons for a variety of commands and functions.
Return to the previous screen, select Double-tap, and select the action you want to run here. Return to the previous screen again, select Long press, and then select the associated action.
To fine-tune the top-level menu, if you selected it as an option, tap Customize top-level menu. Here you can add more icons to different commands and replace the existing icons with others.
Lastly, do not forget that Siri is here to help you. Using your phone with one hand, you can trigger a host of commands and features by talking to the voice assistant, including dictating and sending text and email messages. This page from Apple covers some of the many commands you can issue to Siri.
The ability to use an Android phone with one hand varies depending on the OS version and the phone.
With Android 12 or later, you can enable a one-handed mode that lowers the top half of the screen, similar to the Reachability feature on an iPhone. To enable this on most Android phones, go to Settings> System> Gestures> One-handed mode and turn on the Use One-handed mode switch. If you cannot find the setting this way, go to Settings and search for that expression.
On some phones, you can choose to activate the feature by swiping down the screen at the bottom or by double-pressing the Home button. Certain phones, such as those from Samsung, also offer the option of one hand with older versions of Android. After activating the feature, activate it on any screen to drag the top down.
On some Android phones, you can instead set the one-handed feature to display notifications and key settings. On the One-handed mode screen in Settings, select the Show notifications option. Swipe down to the bottom of the screen to see settings at the top and notifications below them.
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Button on the screen
Instead of swiping to the bottom of the screen, you can display a button on the screen to enter one-handed mode. On the One-handed mode screen in Settings, turn on the one-handed mode shortcut switch. Then a button will appear on the screen that you can place anywhere on the left or right side. Then just press that button to drag the top of the screen down or display messages.
You can shrink and move the keyboard on an Android phone to make typing easier with one hand. The process varies based on manufacturer and phone, but here are a few methods.
Open a text-based app, such as email or messaging. Tap in the text field. Tap the ellipse icon on the toolbar above the keyboard keys. Touch the one-handed icon if you see it. The keyboard will then switch to the left or right side of the screen. Press the left or right arrow to move it to the other side of the screen. Tap the icon with the four arrows to reset it back to full screen.
Some phones, including those from Samsung, offer a different way to access the keyboard with one hand. In a text-based app, tap the ellipse icon and then tap the Modes icon. This screen offers three layouts: Standard keyboard, One-handed keyboard and Floating keyboard. Select the keyboard with one hand and you can move it to the right or left. With the floating keyboard, you can move it around the screen by dragging it via the horizontal line below the space bar.
Finally, you can trigger specific commands and actions through gestures, such as tapping the back of your phone, tapping the fingerprint sensor, and pressing the power button. As with most Android features, what you can do and how you do it varies depending on your phone model and OS version. But you can at least review your options. Go to Settings> System> Gestures or Settings> Advanced features> Gestures and gestures.
Some phones, such as the last few Google Pixel models, offer a feature called Quick Tap that is similar to the iPhone Back Tap. Turn on the switch for this function if you see it on your phone. You can then set a specific action that is triggered when you tap the back of your phone, such as taking a screenshot, playing or pausing media, displaying messages, or opening a specific app.
In addition to Quick Tap, most phones will provide other gestures. Browse the screen of your phone to find and activate one of the following options:
Double-press the power key to start Google Assistant or the camera.
Double-tap the screen to turn it on or off.
Tap, swipe, or long press on the fingerprint sensor to view messages or open and close apps.
Press and hold the power button to display a power menu.
Press the power button twice to open the camera.
Shrink the screen by swiping from the center to the bottom left or right corner.
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