Introduction to the iPhone for Blind and Low Vision Users

What is an iPhone?

The iPhone is a smart phone made by Apple. It is a mobile computing device that lets people make phone calls, access email, use the internet, and more on the go or from the comfort of their own couch.
The iPhone is a touchscreen device which means that users control it by touching different parts of the screen using various gestures. Note that these devices require bare fingers or specialized gloves.
There are various versions of the iPhone. The original iPhone came out in 2007.It was followed by the iPhone 3G in 2008 and then the iPhone 3GS in 2009. The iPhone 4 was released in 2010 and featured Retina Display (high pixel density display). The iPhone 4s came out in 2011 and offered a larger display than previous models. The iPhone 5 was released in 2012 and offered a larger memory capacity, display size, and was thinner than prior models. The iPhone 5c came out in 2013. The iPhone 5s also came out in 2013 and offered Touch ID. The iPhone 6 was released in 2014 and offered an even larger display than previous versions. Also in 2014, the iPhone 6 Plus was released which offered a larger display than the 6. In 2015, these two versions were followed by the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus.
iPhones run iOS which is the mobile operating system developed by Apple. iOS is also the operating system for iPad and iPod. iOS is now on its ninth iteration with iOS 9.

Image of different models of iPhone
Different models of the iPhone from 3G to 6 Plus

Tour of the iPhone Controls

Shape and Size

The iPhone is a rectangle. The feel and exact dimensions may vary depending on whether or not the device is in a case, because different cases comes in different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. The front screen is flat and slick1.

The Home Button

On the front screen, the home button is a small, circular depression users will find along the front edge of the screen. The Home Button might be the most important control on the iPhone as it helps users navigate the iPhone, activate VoiceOver mode, use Siri, and more.
To find the Home Button, users may simply trace a thumb along the edge of the iPhone screen. They’ll find the Home Button in the middle of the edge on one of the shorter sides.
Use the Home Button to navigate back to the home screen of the iPhone, wake up the iPhone, activate Siri, switch between apps, and turn on accessibility modes like VoiceOver and Zoom.

Image showing the location of the home button on the iPhone
iPhone home button

Sleep and Wake Button

The Sleep and Wake Button is located along the outside edge of the iPhone on the side opposite of the Home Button. The button is small, rectangular and near the corner.
For iPhone 5 and earlier, users holding their device in vertical orientation will discover the home button on the outside of the upper edge on the right. For iPhone 6 and later users, the sleep/ wake button will be on the outside of the right edge near the top.
The Sleep and Wake Button will put the iPhone into sleep mode which dims the screen and uses less energy. When the iPhone is asleep, the button will also wake the iPhone. Holding the Sleep and Wake Button down will turn the iPhone on or off.
Image showing sleep and wake button on iPhone 5 earlier
Location of the sleep and wake button on the iPhone 5 and earlier models

Image showing sleep and wake button on iPhone 6 later
Location of the sleep and wake button on iPhone 6 and later models

Volume Buttons

The volume buttons let you adjust the volume level of the iPhone. These two small, rectangular buttons are found side by side along the outside edge of the iPhone.
If a user is holding the iPhone in vertical orientation, the volume buttons can be found on the outside edge on the left side near the top corner. The top button is volume up and the bottom button is volume down.

Image of iPhone volume controls
Volume buttons on the iPhone

Side Switch Button

On older versions of the iPhone, it is sometimes referred to as the Mute and Screen Rotation Switch2.
So what does the Side Switch do? The Side Switch is used for one of two purposes: to mute and unmute the iPhone or to lock and unlock screen rotation.

Image of side switch button on an iPhone
Side switch on the iPhone

Dock Connector Port

The Dock Connector is how the iPhone is charged and connector to other devices. The Dock Connector can be found on the outside edge of the iPhone below the home button.
Different iPhones have different connector types. Earlier iPhone (iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4s) have a 30-pin dock connection. This connection port is wider than the connection on newer models of iPhone and is approximately 1 inch wide.
Newer iPhones have the Apple Lightning Connector which is an 8-pin connection. This type of connection is present on all iPhone starting with the iPhone 5. This connection is smaller and is approximately half an inch wide.
Image of 30 pin iPhone charger
Charger type for iPhone 4 and earlier

Image of lighting cable iPhone charger
Charger type for iPhone 5 and later

Headphone Jack

The Headphone port is for connecting headphones and other audio devices to the iPhone. On earlier versions of the iPhone (prior to the iPhone 5), the headphone jack was found on the outside edge on the top left side. With newer iPhones (iPhone 5 and newer), the headphone jack can be found along the bottom outside edge on the left side.
Image of headphone jack on iPhone 4
Location of headphone jack on iPhone 4 and earlier

Image of headphone jack on iPhone 5
Location of headphone jack on iPhone 5 and later

Rear Facing Camera

The Rear Facing Camera is the default camera for the device. It will be used in a range of applications from the iOS Camera app to OCR apps like the knfbReader to magnification apps like VisionAssist and more.
The Rear Facing Camera can be found on the backside of the iPhone. If a user is holding the iPhone in vertical orientation, the rear facing camera is on the back side of the upper right corner. The camera is built into the iPhone and cannot be physically distinguished1.

Image of the rear facing camera on the iPhone
Location of rear facing camera lens on iPhone

Front Facing Camera

The Front Facing Camera is utilized by several apps, most notably FaceTime. The front camera is small, circular and cannot be physically distinguished as it is built into the iPhone1.
If a user is holding the iPhone in vertical orientation, the front facing camera can be found in the middle of the screen just beneath the top edge.

Image of the iPhone front facing camera
Location of front facing camera lens on iPhone

iPad Mics

The location and number of Mics on an iPhone vary depending on the version of iPhone. Mics are physically indistinguishable, but if the iPhone is in a case, there is typically an opening for the mic.
iPhone 4 and earlier have a single mic. If a user is holding the iPhone in vertical orientation, the mic can be found on the bottom outside edge of the device, on the left side.

Image showing the location of the iPhone 4 microphone
Location of microphone on iPhone 4 and earlier
iPhone 5 and later have three mics. If the user is holding the iPhone in vertical orientation, there is a mike on the outside of the bottom edge on the left side between the dock connector port and the headphone jack. There is another mic on the screen, the middle just below the top edge. Finally, there is a third mic on the back side of the phone right next to the rear facing camera.
Image showing the locations of the three mics on the iPhone 5
Location of microphones on iPhone 5 and later.

Image showing the locations of the three mics on the iPhone 6
Location of microphones on iPhone 5 and later.

Turning On and Off the iPhone

The first thing you’ll need to learn about your iPhone is how to turn it on and off.
To turn on the iPhone, press and hold the Sleep and Wake button for 3 seconds3.
To turn off the iPhone, touch and hold the Sleep and Wake button for 4 seconds until the Power slider appears at top of screen3. For users not working in VoiceOver, simply touch and drag the red arrow to the right. For VoiceOver users, they’ll hear the system say, “Power off button, slide or double tap” and they can simply perform a one finger double tap to turn off the device.

Putting the iPhone to Sleep

Putting the iPhone to sleep is simple: users simply have to touch the Sleep and Wake button. To wake the iPhone up, users can do the same thing. Note that, depending on settings, the passcode will need to input again or users can use Touch ID to unlock their iPhone.

iPhone Care and Cleaning

“The best way to clean the iPhone is by using a dry, soft, lint-free cloth3.”
“There’s no need to scrub the screen very hard, as there is a protective coating on the screen’s surface3.”
Do not use glass cleaners! “According to the iPhone user’s guide, you should not use “window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia or abrasives” to clean the screen. Instead, to wipe off any smudges, first, turn off the iPhone — the dark screen makes smudges easier to see — and try using your luck with a microfiber cloth or even your sleeve3.”

References

1. Nelson, M. (Ed.). (2015). Teaching the iPad Instructor’s Guide. Digital Apex LLC.
2. Apple. (2015, November 16). About the iPad Side Switch. Retrieved from Apple Support website: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204171
3. TechVision, LLC. (n.d.). Ipad / iphone curriculum. Retrieved from The New York Institute for Special Education website: http://www.nyise.org/ipad/iPhone_iPad_Curriculum%20Hines%20VA.pdf

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