If your iPhone screen has ever dropped down to the bottom half of the display area, you probably wondered if it was a feature or a bug. It’s actually an accessibility feature that exists for a very important reason.
Back when Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple he believed that a smartphone should be usable one-handed, in fact, they could’ve given the original iPhone a larger display, but Job and his team decided that going too big made the device cumbersome. So the iPhones display stayed 3.5 inches for much longer than its competition. In fact, after just three 3 years, Android devices like the Samsung Vibrant were featuring displays up to 4 inches, but Apple refused to increase their display until the iPhone 5 in 2012, they argued that by increasing the display height without increasing its width still made the device easy-to-use one-handed. But it was too little too late, Android phones had already redefined big..
The Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3 4 became the most popular smartphones in 2012, both released before the iPhone 5 and featuring 5 and a half inch displays.
So when Apple revealed their new 4 inch iPhone 5, customers didn’t see the appeal, in fact 2012 was the first time Androids US market share passed 50%, with iOS hanging around 33%. It was clear customers wanted larger displays and with Tim Cook as Apple’s new CEO, was happy to deliver.
The company began developing the largest iPhones ever at that point. The 6 and 6 Plus, released in 2014.
Their 4.7 and 5.5 inch displays could finally compete with Android , but they didn’t forget about the one-handed design philosophy implemented by Jobs,
there was no way to reach your thumb to the top of the display without shifting the device in your hand, so Apple solved the problem with a software feature called reachability, by double tapping the home button, the upper half of the displays content area would drop down to the lower half, allowing users to reach buttons one-handed, after making a selection, the display automatically moved back up.This feature is still around today except it’s activated by swiping down from the home bar, but if reach ability is something you find annoying it can always be turned off in the accessibility settings.
This article is inspired by a video in Apple Explained YouTube channel.