Simplified scrolling: how to use your smartphone with one hand

Most of the time, we have to use our smartphones with two hands – one hand to hold the phone and the other to press, swipe and press buttons. But sometimes using both hands is not possible. You may not be able to use a certain hand due to disability, accident, or other issues. Or maybe you just want the flexibility to manage your phone without tying both hands. Whatever the reason, there are ways to control your phone with one hand.

Android phones and iPhones offer different options for accessing key features, navigating screens and entering text with one hand. Let’s look at both types of phones to see how it works.


iPhone

Accessibility

Accessibility

When using your iPhone one-handed in Portrait mode, you can turn on an accessibility feature that lowers the top half of the screen so you can reach it more easily with your thumb. To activate it, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch and enable 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 come down. On an iPhone with a Home button, lightly double-tap it to move the top half down. To return to normal full screen, tap the top half of the screen.

Move top half down


One-handed keyboard

You can reduce the size of your keyboard and move it to the right or left to make it easier to type using only your thumb. This method is inconvenient for a long period of time, so you wouldn’t want to write the Great American Novel this way. But for a quick text or email, it’s a great workaround.

One-handed keyboard

To try this, open any app where you want to enter text, like Mail or Messages. Tap the globe or emoji icon at the bottom left of the screen below the keyboard keys. The menu displays 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 you’re done, tap the Globe icon again and tap the middle image, or just tap the arrow key next to the left or right keyboard.


Press return

Press return

With the Back Tap function enabled, you can double-tap or triple-tap the back of your iPhone to perform different commands. To activate it, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Tap the Double Tap setting and choose the control action you want to trigger with a double tap. Return to the previous screen and select Triple Tap. Choose the activity for the triple tap. When you want to execute the related commands, just double or triple tap the back of your phone.


Support contact

Support contact

The AssistiveTouch feature displays a button that you position on the screen and then press it to perform different tasks. To configure it, go to Settings > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch. Enable the switch for AssistiveTouch. The button appears and can be moved to the left or right of the screen for easier one-handed access.

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 setting for Single-Tap. On the next screen, select the action you want to trigger with one click. Choose Open menu displays a top-level menu that you can also customize with icons for a variety of commands and features.

Go back to the previous screen, select Double-Tap and choose the action you want to perform here. Return to the previous screen one more time, select Long press, then select the associated action.

To edit the top-level menu if you’ve chosen it as an option, tap Customize Top-Level Menu. Here you can add more icons for different commands and replace existing icons with others.

Top level menu


Siri

Siri

Finally, remember that Siri is here to help. When using your phone with one hand, you can trigger a host of commands and features by speaking to the voice assistant, including dictation and texting and emailing. This apple page covers some of the many commands you can send to Siri.


android

The ability to use an Android phone with one hand varies depending on the version of the operating system and the phone.

One-handed mode

With Android 12 or higher, 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 it on most Android phones, go to Settings > System > Gestures > One-handed mode and turn on the switch to use one-handed mode. If you can’t find the setting that way, go to Settings and search for that term.

One-handed mode

With some phones, you can choose to activate the feature by swiping down on the screen or double-tapping the Home button. Some phones, like those from Samsung, also offer the one-handed option with older versions of Android. After enabling the feature, enable it on any screen to pull down the top.

Activate the feature

On some Android phones, you can instead set the one-handed feature to show notifications and key settings. On the one-handed mode screen in Settings, choose the Show notifications option. Swipe down at the bottom of the screen to show Settings at the top and Notifications below.

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Show Notifications


On-screen button

On-screen button

Instead of swiping down the screen, you can show an on-screen button to switch to one-handed mode. On the one-handed mode screen in settings, turn on the switch for the one-handed mode hotkey. A button then appears on the screen, which you can position anywhere on the left or right side. Then just tap that button to pull down the top of the screen or show notifications.


Keyboard

You can collapse and move the keyboard on an Android phone to make typing easier with one hand. The process varies by manufacturer and phone, but here are some methods.

Open a text application, such as email or messaging. Type in the text field. Tap the ellipsis icon in the toolbar above the keyboard keys. Tap the icon for a hand if you see it. The keyboard will then move to the left or right 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 to full screen.

Keyboard

Some phones, including Samsung’s, offer a different way to access the one-handed keypad. In a text-based app, tap the ellipsis icon, then tap the modes icon. This screen offers three layouts: standard keyboard, one-handed keyboard and floating keyboard. Choose the one-handed keyboard and you can move it right or left. With the floating keyboard, you can move it around the screen by dragging it via the horizontal line under the space bar.

Keyboard layouts


Gestures

Finally, you can trigger certain commands and actions with gestures, like pressing 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 will vary depending on your phone model and operating system version. But you can at least review your options. Go to Settings > System > Gestures or Settings > Advanced Features > Motions & Gestures.

Gestures

Some phones, such as the latest Google Pixel models, offer a feature called Quick Tap, similar to the iPhone’s Back Tap. Enable the switch for this feature if you see it on your phone. You can then set a specific action that triggers when you tap the back of your phone, such as taking a screenshot, playing or pausing media, showing notifications, or opening a specific app.

Beyond Quick Tap, most phones will provide other gestures. Check your phone screen to find and enable one of the following options:

  • Press the power key twice to launch Google Assistant or the camera.

  • Double-tap the screen to turn it on or off.

  • Tap, swipe, or long press the fingerprint sensor to view notifications or open and close apps.

  • Long press the power button to bring up a power menu.

  • Press the power button twice to open the camera.

  • Minimize the screen by swiping from the center to the bottom left or right corner.

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