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With each update to iOS and the iPhone itself, the home button has picked up new capabilities.  With only 4 physical buttons on the entire device, Apple has had to get creative and provide ways for power users to quickly perform routine tasks such as search, app launching, app closing, and more.

With all the new features, chances are you’re not taking full advantage of everything the home button can do.  Here’s a quick look at what you’re missing [note: some of these work on iPad as well, so feel free to experiment]:


Spotlight Search


IMG_1743-233x350From your main home screen (the first page of apps) press the home button to move to Spotlight, iPhone’s system-wide search function.  From here, you can simultaneously search your contacts, apps, music, videos, notes, email, calendar events, text messages, and reminders.

For example, searching for ‘Tom’ will pull up recent emails involving Tom, his contact card, calendar events with his name in them, and my text message conversation with him. From Spotlight, pressing the home button again returns you to the first page of apps.


Lock Screen Camera Shortcut & Music Controls


IMG_1744-233x350With your screen locked, double-press the home button to access a couple of handy shortcuts.  As covered previously, you can use the camera shortcut to quickly take a photo.  On that same screen, you can also control a running music or audio app, including the built-in Music (iPod) app, Pandora, Instacast, and more.




Siri (iPhone 4S only)


IMG_1745-233x350Press and hold the home button from any screen or app to trigger Siri.  Press the home button again to exit Siri and return to your previous spot.




Multitasking Tray


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From any home screen or app, double-press the home button to bring up the multitasking tray.  This is simply a list of recently launched apps (not running apps!), designed to give you quicker access as you switch back and forth between them.  Tap an app from this tray to switch to it, and repeat to switch to any other app.

The multitasking tray also has its own hidden features.  Swipe right on the tray to reveal orientation lock (to prevent your iPhone screen from rotating automatically), music/audio controls, and a shortcut to the Music app.

From here, swipe right again to access an on-screen volume slider and AirPlay selector (AirPlay only appears if you have an AirPort Express or AppleTV nearby, for wireless music or video streaming to a stereo or television).


Force-Quit a Frozen App


In the rare instance when an app has completely locked up on you, there is a way to force-quit it and return to the home screen.

First, hold down the lock button until the “swipe to turn off” screen appears.  Release the lock button, and press the home button until the app quits and you’re returned to the home screen.


Hard Reboot


In the even more rare instance when the entire iPhone has locked up and needs to be rebooted, you can do so with a hard reboot.  This is the iPhone equivalent of holding your PC’s power button in until it completely shuts down.

You should only do this if your iPhone won’t turn off the normal way (holding down the lock button and then swiping the red slider).

To perform a hard reboot, hold the lock button and home button together for about 5-7 seconds.  The screen will go black, indicating that the iPhone has been turned off.  Release both buttons, and press the lock button again for about 2 seconds to turn it back on.  Your iPhone should reboot normally.

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