Before Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, mobile phones often sported confusing keyboards that flipped open and required you to press multiple keys just to type a single character. Not surprisingly, these early mobile phones were often confusing and clumsy to use.
When Apple introduced the iPhone, they introduced an entirely new way to interact with a mobile phone. Instead of forcing users to type on cramped physical keyboards and squint at information crammed into tiny screens with poor resolution, the iPhone displayed nothing but a blank screen.
This blank screen doubled as both a viewing screen and a virtual interface. Instead of sporting physical buttons, the iPhone could display virtual buttons that could adapt to whether the user wanted to type a text message, an email, or a website address. By adapting to the user, the iPhone screen proved far more versatile than previous mobile phones.
The key to controlling an iPhone lay in its touchscreen, which could interpret touch gestures to perform different commands. Although today's iPhone is vastly different from the first iPhones of 2007, the touchscreen interface remains largely the same. To get the most out of your iPhone, you must learn not only what touch gestures are available, but when and how to use them.
- Using tap gestures
- Using swipe gestures
- Using long-press gestures
- Using drag gestures
- Using pinch gestures
- Using rotation gestures
Using tap gestures
If you've ever pointed at something in a book or magazine, you've used a tap gesture. Tap gestures consist of pointing at – that is, tapping – something on the iPhone screen, such as an icon or a hyperlink. After tapping the screen briefly with one finger to select that item, you then lift your finger off the screen.
Think of tap gestures as similar to pointing and clicking with a mouse on a traditional PC.
Tap gestures let you tell your iPhone, "See what I'm pointing at? That's what I want." Since tap gestures select items, they represent a common yet simple touch gesture you'll use all the time.
Tap gestures are commonly used to choose commands or select items represented by the following onscreen elements:
Tapping an icon or button to choose a command immediately causes something to happen, giving you visual feedback that you tapped on an item. For example, tapping an app icon from the Home screen loads that app, while tapping a button might dismiss a dialog or open up a different screen, as shown in Figure 1.1:
Besides causing an action to occur, the tap gesture can also select items displayed in a list. The Mail and Messages apps display a list of email and text messages, respectively. When you want to read a specific message, you scroll through a list of messages and tap on the one you want to view its entire contents.
When you want to move, send, or delete items such as pictures, messages, or files, you need to select one or more items by tapping on them. Tapping typically highlights the selected items in some way, such as displaying a check mark, as shown in Figure 1.2. After selecting one or more items, you can then choose a command to move, send, or delete those selected items:
Since the tap gesture acts as a pointing tool, you can also use the tap gesture to move the cursor when editing text. On a traditional computer, you can move the cursor using a mouse or the cursor keys, but on the touchscreen of an iPhone, you must move the cursor by tapping where you want to place it.
Using swipe gestures
Think of reading a book or magazine. When you're done reading a page, you can put your finger on the far edge of the page and swipe to the left or right to turn to the next (or previous) page. That swiping gesture works exactly the same way on the iPhone.
Swipe gestures are similar to scrolling to view more information on a traditional PC. Such gestures involve placing one fingertip on the edge of the screen, and then sliding your finger in an up, down, left, or right direction, as shown in Figure 1.3:
Swipe gestures are one of the most common gestures used on the iPhone. Whenever you want to see additional options or switch to another screen, try swiping in all four directions. If an app does not support a swipe gesture, you can't damage anything by swiping, since nothing will happen.
Using left- and right-swipe gestures to navigate screens
One common use for swipe gestures is to navigate from one screen to another, just like turning pages in a book. The left- and right-swipe gestures are often used to navigate between multiple screens within a single app.
To show there are multiple screens available, a series of dots appears at the bottom of the screen where each dot represents another screen. A white dot identifies the currently displayed screen while dimmed dots identify the number of screens available if you swipe left or right, as shown in Figure 1.4:
In Figure 1.4, there's only one dimmed dot to the right of the white dot, and three dimmed dots to the left. This means there's only one more screen to view if you swipe left, but three available screens to view if you swipe right. Dots identify both how many screens are available to view and how many are hidden to the left and right of the currently displayed screen.
The most common place that these dots can be seen is on the Home screen, but they also appear in other apps that need to display multiple views of nearly identical information, such as the Weather app (see Figure 1.4). To get familiar with the left- and right-swipe gestures, follow these steps:
- Turn on your iPhone.
- The Home screen should appear. The more apps installed on your iPhone, the more screens the Home screen needs to display them all.
- Look for the dots at the bottom of the screen to identify how many screens are available.
- Swipe left.
Notice that, each time, the Home screen displays a different screen filled with app icons. The last screen will be the App Library screen that organizes apps into common categories, such as Social and Utilities, as shown in Figure 1.5:
- Swipe right.
Notice that, each time, the Home screen displays the previous screen. When you swipe right on the main Home screen, the iPhone displays a Screen text field along with widgets that display information from different apps such as showing news, weather, stock quotes, or appointments you've scheduled, as shown in Figure 1.6. This screen is called the Today View and is meant to display a list of useful information you might need that day:
Later in this book, you'll learn how to customize both the Today View and the App Library.
Using left-swipe gestures to delete items in a list
- Tap the Edit button.
- Tap the item you want to delete.
Using the down-swipe gesture to view Notifications Center
Apps will occasionally display messages called notifications. For example, the News app might display the latest story, while another app might simply display a message from the company that made the app.
While you can view notifications individually, it's often easier to view them all at once in the Notifications Center, which you can access by using a down-swipe gesture. To open the Notifications Center, follow these steps:
- Place one fingertip at the top of the iPhone screen, as shown in Figure 1.8:
- Swipe down until Notification Center appears, as shown in Figure 1.9:
- Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to return to the Home screen.
Using up- and down-swipe gestures to view more information
Both up- and down-swipe gestures are commonly used to display more information on the screen. The most intuitive use for up- and down-swipe gestures occurs when viewing lists of items, such as text messages or pictures stored in the Photos app.
Any time you see information partially obscured by the top or bottom of the screen, that's a visual clue that you can swipe up or down to view more information. Even if nothing is obscured, try swiping up and down just in case there may be more information hidden out of sight.
Using up - and left/right-swipe gestures to switch apps
For iPhones without a Home button, place one fingertip at the bottom of the screen and swipe up to the center of the screen as shown in Figure 1.11:
Using swipe gestures to open Control Center
To open Control Center, you need to do one of two swipe gestures, depending on whether you do it on an iPhone that has or does not have a Home button:
- On iPhones without a Home button, swipe down starting in the upper-right corner of the iPhone screen as shown in Figure 1.13 to open Control Center, shown in Figure 1.14. Then swipe up from the bottom of the screen to hide Control Center:
- On iPhones with a Home button, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to display Control Center, as shown in Figure 1.14. Then swipe down from the top of the screen to hide Control Center:
Using long-press gestures
Similar to the tap gesture is the long-press gesture. With the tap gesture, you touch the screen briefly and then lift your finger away. With the long-press gesture (also called tap and hold), you press the screen over an item and hold it until the iPhone responds in some way, typically by displaying one or more options you can choose from.
To make those options go away, just tap anywhere on the screen, away from the list of options that appeared.
Think of long-press gestures as similar to right-clicking with a mouse to view a submenu of options on a traditional PC.
On the Home screen, the long-press gesture can display commonly used commands for a specific app, along with general commands for editing the Home screen. When you long-press the Camera and Maps icons on the Home screen, the Camera app displays shortcuts for taking selfies or videos, while the Maps app displays shortcuts for marking locations or searching nearby, as shown in Figure 1.15:
Besides displaying options for apps on the Home screen, the long-press gesture can also display options for text and pictures sent as either a text or email message. This can be handy to display options for saving, copying, or sharing a message or image, as shown in Figure 1.16:
In the Maps app, a long-press gesture places a marker to define a specific location, as shown in Figure 1.18. This long-press gesture allows you to mark a specific location rather than just point and scroll on a map:
Using drag gestures
Drag gestures occur when you place a finger over an item on the screen, slide your finger across the screen, then lift your finger off the screen. Drag gestures typically move items, select text, or draw lines.
Think of drag gestures as similar to holding down the left mouse button and moving (or dragging) the mouse on a traditional PC.
On the Home screen, the drag gesture is used to move app icons around the Home screen, as shown in Figure 1.19. The drag gesture typically works with the long-press gesture as follows:
- Open the Home Screen and use the long-press gesture to select an item.
- Drag the item to a new location.
- Lift your finger off the screen:
- When working with text, the drag gesture is used to select text.
- First, you use the long-press gesture to select a word.
- Then you drag the selection handles that appear to the left and right of the selected word. Dragging these selection handles highlights additional text, as shown in Figure 1.20:
Using pinch gestures
Pinch gestures are two-finger gestures where you place two fingertips on the screen and either move them apart or closer together to zoom in and out. Pinch gestures are most commonly used with both text and pictures so you can zoom in to see details and zoom back out again, as shown in Figure 1.21:
- Use the pinch gesture (moving two fingertips apart) to expand text or an image, as shown in Figure 1.22:
- Use the drag gesture to position the expanded text or image to display what you want to see.
- Repeat the pinch gesture (moving two fingertips closer together) to shrink the text or image back to its original size, as shown in Figure 1.23:
Remember that when you reach the maximum or minimum size of an image, the pinch gesture will no longer work. This is the iPhone's way of letting you know when you've reached a maximum or minimum size.
Using rotation gestures
Touch gestures let you take complete control of your iPhone, so it's important that you know the basics of all these gestures and the common ways to use them. While not all apps will support every type of touch gesture, most touch gestures can be used interchangeably across different apps. Here is a quick summary of the gestures we went through in this chapter:
- Tap gestures are most often used to select an icon or image, or position the cursor within some text.
- Swipe gestures are most often used to navigate to another screen or slide an item in a list to the left to delete that item.
- Long-press gestures are most often used to display additional information about an icon, image, or word.
- Drag gestures are most often used to move an icon or image, or to select text.
- Pinch gestures are most often used to zoom the screen magnification in or out.
- Rotation gestures are most often used with images to rearrange their orientation.
In many cases, apps won't always give you any visual clues when you might be able to use different touch gestures, so try experimenting with these touch gestures in different parts of every app.
The most common touch gestures are taps and swipes, so try these three touch gestures in every app to see what they might do (if anything).
The second most common touch gestures are long presses and pinches. The long-press gesture typically displays a menu of additional commands, while the pinch gesture expands or shrinks an item to make it larger (and easier to see) or smaller (back to its original size).
By understanding common touch gestures, you'll be able to control your iPhone no matter which app you may use, now or in the future.
Once you understand basic touch gestures, you'll be ready to learn more about common user interface features of iPhone apps in the next chapter. With your knowledge of touch gestures and user interface features, you'll be able to use most almost every type of app you might use on your iPhone.
In the next chapter, we will look at the new iOS 14 apps.