February 2018 Issue  Volume 19  Number 2

Product Reviews and Guides

The iPhone X for People with Visual Impairments: Face ID, New Gestures, and Useful Commands

When the iPhone X was released in late 2017, there was a lot of concern in the blind community regarding several significant changes. Would someone who is blind be able to use Face ID? How do you set up Face ID if you can't see the camera? How do you use a phone without a designated Home button and how do the new VoiceOver gestures work?

I received my iPhone X in late November. For the first 24 hours, I wasn't sure if I was going to keep it. I had some difficulty with the new gestures. I needed to get my finger in the correct location and make sure to listen for the sounds. But by the end of 24 hours, my opinion changed completely; I had become a fan.

In this article, I will describe the iPhone X and explain how to set up Face ID. I will describe the new gestures and provide useful iPhone X commands.

Physical Description

The phone's screen is a perfectly flat surface. Unlike earlier phones, there is no surrounding bezel. A protective case may be used.

According to Apple, the phone measures:

Height: 5.65 inches (143.6 mm)

Width: 2.79 inches (70.9 mm)

Depth: 0.30 inch (7.7 mm)

Weight: 6.14 ounces (174 grams)

The iPhone X is made of surgical-grade stainless steel and has an all-glass casing. It has a 5.8-inch (diagonal) all-screen OLED Multi-Touch display. It has a fingerprint resistant coating and is splash, water, and dust resistant.

On the left edge of the phone are the mute switch and the volume up and volume down buttons. At the top of the screen, there is a cut out or notch. Part of the status bar is on one side of the notch and the rest is on the other side. On the right side of the phone is the Side button. The new Side button is much longer than the old one.

There are speakers at the top and bottom of the phone. The bottom also contains the microphone and a Lightning port. The phone supports wireless charging.

The camera is on the back, in the same location as on older iPhones, but with a vertical rather than a horizontal opening. You do not need to turn the camera in order to photograph.

What's in the Box

The iPhone comes with the following:

  • A Lightning to USB cable.
  • An AC adapter for charging from house current. If you are using a Mac with USB-C ports, you will need a USB to USB-C adapter if you want to charge your phone from your computer.
  • A pair of EarPods, Apple's wired headphones that fit in the ear. If you are upgrading from a phone older than the iPhone 7, note that these EarPods have a Lightning connector rather than the standard 3.5mm connector.
  • A small cable with a Lightning connector on one side and a 3.5mm jack on the other end for accommodating headphones with a standard connector.

Setting Up Face ID

VoiceOver will talk you through the set up process. When VoiceOver is on, the Attention feature is turned off automatically. This means you do not have to look directly into the camera for the iPhone to recognize your face. Apple does say, "Requiring Attention makes Face ID more secure." Unlike Touch ID where several fingerprints can be entered, Face ID only allows one face.

During the iPhone activation process, you will be prompted to set up Face ID. There is a button to activate. Double tap to select it.

VoiceOver will tell you to position your head in the camera frame and move your head in a circle. Don't panic, VoiceOver will guide you. Activate the Get Started button.

Hold the phone at approximately arm's length. VoiceOver will tell you how to move the phone so your face is in the camera frame. Slowly move your head clockwise. VoiceOver will guide you how to move your head. You will also hear VoiceOver speak the progress of the scans. Once VoiceOver announces that the first scan has been completed, select the Continue button. The iPhone will do another scan. When VoiceOver announces that the scan is complete, select the Done button.

You can go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode to choose which features can use Face ID. This works the same way as Touch ID & Passcode. There is also a button to re-set Face ID.

Face ID settings can be changed at any time by going to Settings > Face ID & Passcode. There is a Face ID & Attention setting in Accessibility. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Face ID & Attention. There is a button to toggle to turn requiring Attention on and off. If you are using VoiceOver, this button is off by default.

The Status Bar

The Status Bar is in two separate sections, separated by the notch in the middle at the top of the screen. The left side tells you the time and whether Location Tracking is on. The right side has signal strength, Wi-Fi strength, battery level, and charging status.

You can still flick left or right to read the Status Bar. VoiceOver will automatically speak items on both sides of the notch when performing this gesture. It works exactly as on previous iPhones. The notch does not interfere with VoiceOver.

New Gestures

The iPhone X has new gestures for getting to the Home Screen, App Switcher, Control Center, and Notification Center. When performing these gestures, remember to slide your finger. Do not lift it off the screen until the appropriate action is completed. When your finger is placed in the correct position for beginning a gesture, you may hear a brief popping sound.

The Home Screen

Place your finger on the very bottom of the screen just above the Lightning port. Slide your finger up toward the top of the phone until you hear a soft pop sound. You are now on the home screen. This gesture also can be used to close apps, folders, the App Switcher, the Control Center, and Notifications Center.

The App Switcher

Get to the App Switcher by putting your finger on the very bottom of the screen. Slide your finger up toward the top of the phone. Keep sliding after you hear the first pop sound. When you hear the second sound, you are in the App Switcher.

The Control Center

Place your finger at the top of the screen, and slide it towards the bottom. When you hear the first pop sound, the Control Center will open.

The Notifications Center

To open the Notifications Center, place your finger at the top of the screen and slide it towards the bottom until you hear the second pop sound.

VoiceOver Practice

You can practice these gestures in the VoiceOver Practice section on the iPhone. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > VoiceOver Practice. Gestures for the Home screen and App Switcher work as expected. As of this writing, using the gestures for the Control Center and Notifications Center, while in VoiceOver Practice, will open them.

The Side Button

The Side button, located on the right edge of the phone near the top, is used for many of the tasks previously done by the Home button. These include summoning Siri, activating Apple Pay, and activating the Accessibility Shortcut.

Turning VoiceOver On and Off

If you have selected VoiceOver for the Accessibility Shortcut, triple clicking the side button will toggle it on and off. Set up the Accessibility Shortcut by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut. Activate the button and select VoiceOver from the list.

Press and hold the Side button until you hear the sound for you to begin speaking to Siri. To use ApplePay, double click the Side button to begin the payment process. Face ID will be used for authentication.

To turn off the iPhone, Hold down the Side button and one of the volume buttons. VoiceOver will speak four options: slide to power off, medical ID, emergency SOS, and cancel. To turn the iPhone on, press and hold the Side button for a few seconds, as witih previous iPhones. To force the iPhone to reboot, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Volume Up button and quickly release it.
  2. Press the Volume Down button and quickly release it.
  3. Press and hold the Side button until the phone shuts down and then begins the re-start process.

To launch Emergency SOS, simultaneously hold down one of the Volume buttons and the Side button. The same screen as when you are shutting down the iPhone will appear. Select Emergency SOS.

If you do not make that selection but continue to hold down the buttons, a countdown begins and an alert will sound. When the countdown ends, the phone will automatically contact emergency services.


I am very happy with the iPhone X. The initial period of frustration went away quickly and I find Face ID more reliable than Touch ID. The phone is very expensive. I upgraded from an iPhone 6 to the X and am very pleased with the new and improved features and ease of use.

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