The iPhone 11 Pro Max: one-handed use strategies

The screen. It’s giant and glorious. But using the iPhone 11 Pro Max one-handed is a challenge. (This is true of any of the larger iPhones, for that matter: the 11, 11 Pro, Plus, X, XS, and XS Max models can all require thumb-contortions.)

But if you just gotta have that Max screen real estate, there are steps you can take to make the 6.5” iPhone easier to use one-handed. 

One-handed keyboard 

One-handed keyboard on iPhone 11 Pro Max

This one is simple. The change compresses the size of the keyboard at the bottom of the screen, making it easier to reach all the keys with your thumb.

To enable: To set it up, press and hold the emoji icon at the bottom of the keyboard, then select whether you want the keyboard to compress to the left or right:

QuickPath keyboard

With the QuickPath keyboard:

  • You don’t have to tap out each letter (though you certainly can if you prefer). 

  • Instead, you can leave your finger (usually your thumb) on the keyboard and just swipe from one letter to the next until you’ve spelled the word out. 

Sometimes QuickPath guesses the wrong word as you type, but not often. And combined with the one-handed keyboard, typing out quick messages while holding your beer is pretty easy.

To enable: Already good to go. Just start dragging your thumb across the keyboard to spell a word and QuickPath “just works.”


Reachability on iPhone 11 Pro Max

Reachability allows you tug on the bottom of the home screen and slide it down half way, making it easier to access apps, Safari address bars, etc. at the top of your screen. 

To trigger it, just pull down on the bottom of your screen, starting about half an inch up from the bottom:

To enable: Go to settings > accessibility > touch > Reachability. Then pull down at bottom of the screen to trigger the feature.



Spotlight feature on iPhone 11 Pro Max

Reaching for apps in the upper-left or right-hand corner of your screen can be a pain—so don’t.

Instead, just swipe down on your home screen and Spotlight will launch. Spotlight is a powerful search tool that, among other things, can launch apps for you. Just type in the name of the app—or at least the first part of the app’s name, and when it appears in the search results, tap it.

To enable: Automatically enabled. Swipe down on your home screen to launch Spotlight.

App-switching with gestures 

App switching with iPhone 11 Pro Max

You can quickly switch between apps, without tapping on their icons, by either:

  1. Swipe left-to-right along the bottom of your screen to move to your other apps, in the order you most recently used them, or

  2. Swipe up from the bottom and trigger “app cards” that let you quickly scroll through every app you have open in a sort of preview mode. Just tap on the one you want when you get to it.

Push your home screen apps down-screen

One of the most challenging aspects of one-handed usage is reaching apps at the top and left of your iPhone. But you can use a hack to push your home screen apps down-screen, though you will have to give up some app slots on the home page.

iEmpty (LINK) is a free service that allows you to upload your wallpaper and then create “filler” home screen shortcuts that appear invisible. This shortcuts can be used to fill the less-reachable spots on your home screen, pushing your most important apps down-screen. 

Here’s how it works:

In the end, you get an effect that looks like this:

iPhone 11 Pro Max home screen using iEmpty

All my home screen apps are now reachable by my thumb.


Shortcuts are an extremely handy—if a bit more complex—feature that allows you to create (or download) simple programs that perform multi-step app tasks in just one tap. 

You can use Shortcuts to save time and make one-handed iPhone use easier. Examples of Shortcuts include:

  • Launching a specific web page in Safari

  • Opening a playlist

  • Opening a third-party app and performing an action (like opening the Nike+ app and launching the run tracker feature).

And there are hundreds of other options.

Apple includes a pre-configured gallery of Shortcuts, including Shortcuts based on how you use your phone. Launch the Shortcuts app and tap “Gallery” to see what’s already available to you.

You can learn to create your own Shortcuts, and/or download Shortcuts others have made. Here are a couple of really robust Shortcut libraries:

For easy access to your shortcuts, you can:

  • Add them to the widget screen (available by swiping left on your home screen)

  • Set them up with icons to place on your home page

  • Assign them verbal instructions for use with Siri (“Siri, open Fox Sports Radio).


AssistiveTouch on iPhone 11 Pro Max

AssistiveTouch allows you to create an always-on “button” that, when tapped, opens a menu of configurable actions. For example, one of the options available is to open Control Center, which normally requires a difficult-to-execute-one-handed swipe from the top of the right hand of the screen.

AssistiveTouch has lots of options:

AssistiveTouch options on iPhone 11 Pro Max

To enable: go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch, where you also configure the feature. 

Help is here for your iPhone 11 Pro Max-hampered thumb

No,one-handed iPhone use isn’t as easy as it was in the iPhone 4 days (but … so …. much …. screen these days)

With a few tweaks (and possibly some hand-strengthening exercises) you can do plenty with your iPhone 11 Pro Max one-handed—and keep your thumb ligaments intact.