My iPhone's Home button doesn't work any more. I have to press the Home button really hard to get it to respond, and sometimes even that doesn't work. Is it permanently broken? Is there a fix?
iPhone Home button not working? For certain models of iPhone (particularly the old iPhone 4, although some more recent iPhones have been affected too) this is a common complaint, but we may be able to offer some advice on getting it fixed. We've also got a handy software workaround that may make life bearable if your iPhone is out of warranty or it's otherwise impossible to repair the hardware problem.
Here's how to fix a broken iPhone Home button, or work around the problem using a handy feature in iOS if you can't.
iPhone Home buttons do go wrong from time to time, often (frustratingly) a year or so after the warranty runs out. Apple may be able to repair the hardware, but this can be expensive - perhaps to the point where it would be more sensible to spend more and get an entirely new device.
If paying for a repair is too expensive or otherwise inpractical, however, there's a neat workaround built into iOS that you may not be aware of. We'll look at both options in this feature: hardware repair, and software workaround.
How to fix a broken iPhone Home button: Hardware repair
First of all, let's talk about the full repair option.
Check out our iPhone warranty guide to see what your rights are - if the problem arose after you dropped the iPhone in water, for example, your warranty may be invalid. (In our experience, however, the unresponsive Home button problem usually arises seemingly spontaneously after a year or two of use simply because you've got one of the models that are susceptible - the iPhone 4 seemed particularly prone to this issue - and are unlucky.) Make an appointment with Apple and find out if you're covered, or how much the repair is likely to cost if it's not.
With some frequently occurring problems, Apple acknowledges that it is a legitimate and widespread issue and institutes a free repair programme. The power button on the iPhone 5, for instance, was admitted to be malfunction-prone, and Apple offered free repairs or replacements for affected devices - something that the author of this article benefited from.
Sadly, although our conversations with readers suggests that the Home button problem has been almost as widespread, Apple has not set up a repair programme for this issue. And this is unlikely to change in the future, since more recent iPhone models seem not to fall victim to the problem. My personal experience suggests that all the Touch ID equipped iPhones have reliable Home buttons that appear not to be prone to failure - although if your experience differs, please do get in touch and let us know in the comments.
Can you repair the device yourself? You can give it a try, but unless you're a confident tech hobbyist we wouldn't recommend it - since for one thing it's likely to invalidate your warranty (if you're still under warranty), and may worsen the problem instead of fixing it.
Plus, as we will see shortly, there is a workaround that means a dodgy Home button needn't kill your iPhone experience.
How to fix a broken iPhone Home button: Software workaround
iOS has a neat feature that helps when hardware buttons stop working. To activate this, go to the Settings app, and select General, then Accessibility. Scroll down to the Interaction section, and tap AssistiveTouch. Now tap the button next to AssistiveTouch so that it turns green and slides to the on position.
Here's what it looks like in iOS 9:
We've turned it on above, which means you can see the little AssistiveTouch button at the bottom-right. We'll explain what it can do in a moment.
This process was very slightly different in older versions of iOS. If you're still running iOS 6, for example - there can't be many of you left! - you'll need to go to Settings, General, and scroll down to Accessibility. Under Physical & Motor, click AssistiveTouch, and then slide AssistiveTouch into the ON position.
A small circle inside a square will appear on your screen; this can be dragged around the screen to wherever you find it least disruptive. It will become opaque when pressed, then turn transparent if left alone for a short while.
Tapping the button gives you six options: Home, Siri, Custom, Notification Centre, Device and Control Centre, and between them they should allow you to accomplish anything for which you used the hardware Home button - and the other hardware buttons too, for that matter.
Home, Siri, Notification Centre and Control Centre are self-explanatory; Custom lets you set up your own gestures and actions (you get Pinch, double-tap and 3D Touch by default); and Device leads you to further options such as volume controls, mute, Rotate Screen and Lock Screen - tap More for still further options, including, brilliantly, screenshot (although annoyingly it's very difficult to screenshot the feature itself, since it dutifully moves itself out of the way before snapping the picture).
In older versions of iOS a single press of the button used to give you just Voice Control, Home and Favourites options (Favourites allowed you to save specific gestures and commands, just like Custom in iOS 9). Then as now, Device took you through to further options such as volume controls.
The 'dot' on your screen can be a little irritating, granted, but it may well be preferable to either shelling out for a costly repair or coping without a fully functional Home button.