Update 1 Nov 2017:
There are a whole new set of gestures for the iPhone X.
The gestures below are suitable for iPhone 3 / 3GS /4 / 4S / 5 / 5S / 5C / SE / 6 / 6S /6 Plus / 6S Plus / 7 / 7 Plus 8 / 8 Plus.
A new article explaining the iPhone X gestures is due soon.
When you get an iPhone and open the box you may have been surprised to see that there is no instruction manual. Indeed there are very few details on how to actually setup and use it to be found anywhere. Apple believes that the iPhone is so intuitive and simple you don’t need a manual. You should be able to pick it up and figure it out as it is so obvious.
For people used to technology this may be true – but for the vast majority us it isn’t. For this very reason, you may be missing out on a huge number of features that are useful.
How to use iPad and iPhone gestures and swipes
A good place to refer to is the online iOS iPhone user manual by Apple. It tends to skim over things and present the information in categories that can make it hard to piece what to do together. For example, iPhone gestures and swipes are not covered in any detail.
You will also find a really good explanation of the different gestures and swipes available on touchscreen devices over at Wikipedia, although they are not specific to Apple devices.
That is why I put together this handy list which is specific to iPhone gestures.
iPhone multi-touch gestures
Gestures are what Apple calls the way you move your fingers on the iPhone touchscreen to get it to do stuff.
iPhone Gestures List
Basically, there are 4 types of gesture that you can use on all iPhones and iPads:
- Tap is used to select something on the screen. For example, you jab your finger at an app on the screen and it will open.
- If text runs off the bottom of the iPhone screen you can use drag to move down to see more
- Swipe allows you to move from screen to screen and much more…
- Pinch/spread allows you to zoom in and out. Good for making things bigger, such as photographs
iPhone swipe gestures
Of the 4 iPhone gestures available swipe has the most ‘hidden’ uses.
In iOS 8 Apple added many new ways in which you can use the swipe gesture. Some are obvious, but others may be completely new to you so I compiled a list of all the iOS7 and iOS 8 swipe gestures.
There are also 3 handy videos at the end of the post which shows you how to do most of these swipes and iPhone gestures.
Swipe left to right from anywhere on the screen to unlock your device
If your iPhone is locked, or if you have first switched it on then swipe left to right to allow you to unlock it.
Swipes on the iPhone home screen
A swipe down from the top half of the home screen brings up the new Spotlight search interface. This allows you to search your iPhone for stuff – from an email to website.
A swipe down from the very top edge of the home screen will open the notification centre.
Notification Center collects your notifications in one place, so you can review them whenever you’re ready. View details about your day—such as the weather forecast, appointments, birthdays, stock quotes, and even a quick summary of what’s coming up tomorrow. Tap the Notifications tab to review all your alerts.
A swipe left to right, or right to left in the notification centre will swap between sections.
Swipe up from the bottom of the screen
A swipe up from the bottom of the screen brings up the newly-introduced Control Center that gives us quick access to system toggles and lots more.
Control Center gives you instant access to the camera, calculator, AirPlay, and other handy features. You can also adjust the brightness, lock the screen in portrait orientation, turn wireless services on or off, and turn on AirDrop
Swipe up to close an app
When you open an app on your iPhone it stays open even after you leave it. You may not even be aware you have several apps open in the background draining the battery and using data. This is why iOS 8 has a multitasking switcher – to allow you to switch between open apps and also to close them so they no longer drain your battery.
To access the multitasking switcher tap the home button twice on an unlocked iPhone. Swipe up an app in the new multitasking switcher to close it. You can use multiple fingers – up to 3 – to close 3 apps at a time.
Swipe left to right in an iPhone app
Swipe from the left edge towards the right in Mail, Notes, Settings, Messages etc. to go back one screen. This is an alternative to tapping the back button at the top-right. Be aware that this feature isn’t enabled in all apps due to possible conflicts.
Swiping in the Safari web browser
Swipe from the left edge in Safari to go back one page.
Swipe from the right edge in Safari to go forward.
Drag a tab towards the left in the new Safari tab view to close a tab.
Swipes in email
A swipe from right to left on an individual email while in the mail list view brings up the “Flag”, “Trash” and “More” options. Tapping on more lets you do all sorts of extra things to the message.
Swiping left to right allows you to mark a message as being read.
Peek and Pop 3D Touch
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus with iOS 9 added some new iPhone gestures called ‘peek and pop’ which use 3D touch. This feature is not available on earlier iPhones or iPads.
This means that the phone can tell how firmly you press the screen. Press and hold can be used to preview more information (peek) or a deep press opens the information (pop).
For example, in Mail, press a message in the mailbox list for a peek at the message contents, then slide up to see a list of actions. Or press a little deeper to pop the message open. In Photos, press to peek at an image; then swipe up to share or copy it, or press a little deeper to pop the image to full screen.
Video 3: All the new gestures and swipes in iOS9
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Kevin Craighead is iChimp’s chief technology editor and has been covering Apple’s mobile electronics, security, privacy and the wider technology sector since 2011. He is also a highly regarded Web Designer & Developer.
With a career spanning 30 years which began doing PC support (before the internet existed), Kevin’s technical expertise and experience is highly regarded in a wide variety of fields. His well-researched work resulted in highly regarded and often cited articles such as the infamous ‘Unable to move message to trash’ error on iOS devices.