The Chinese have a weird way of using theiPhone, and no one knows why
The Chinese tourist next to me was doingthings I'd never seen with an iPhone. He was using an on-screen button topull up a menu and perform a series of rapid commands, and moving that buttonaround the screen, all without pressing the home button.
That floating button is called AssistiveTouch,and it's an alternate input method buried in the accessibilitysettings. It's designed for people who have trouble pressing hardbuttons or swiping in a particular way, but here was a guy with no apparentdisability or hardware problems using it like a pro.
I had to ask why: He said something aboutshortcuts being more convenient.
I asked if he knew other people who usedit: He said, "everyone?"
He gave me a quick demo (though on camerahe was moving slower than before):
When I looked it up, I found that many people in China use the AssistiveTouchfeature of the iPhone, and no one knows why.
"Just about every Chinese person Iknow does this," writes aShanghai-based user on MacRumors.
"Probably half of all iPhone users Isee [in Guangzhou] have the 'Assistive Touch' option turned on," writesTencent product manager Dan Grover. "Nobody can give me a straight answer onwhy they, a person with two functioning hands and a full complement of motorneurons, enabled this obscure accessibility setting. Answers range fromprotecting their investment on the phone by not wearing out the physical homebutton, to it just being fun to play with when you’re bored."
Many people claim it is a somewhatirrational attempt to protect the expensive hardware.
As WangYijie writes on a Quora thread devoted to this question:
It's because of the fear that the homebutton may be broken. iPhones are not cheap in China so people take care ofthem while using. Several years ago people began to complain about their homebutton being easily broken and it has somehow been a widely recognized truth,so even the home buttons are not that easy to be broken, they tend to useAssistiveTouch instead. When you buy an iPhone in China the salesman wouldautomatically turn on this function while helping you to do the settings. Imyself have not experienced a broken home button during 4 years with my iPhone4; however, I did have a broken sleep button from my 3rd year, which provedthat the rumours are, in some way, true. So I turned on AssistiveTouch...
This could be a worrying trend for Apple.
"[F]or a company that is looking toChina as its largest market it is worrying that the primary interface featureon their flagship product induces a workaround behaviour for perceived risk ofbreaking," writes consultantJan Chipchase on Medium.
Still others, including the guy I talked toon the train, claim it is a more efficient input method.
AmericanUser on May 12, 11:55 AMsaid:
I began using it when my top bottom stoppedworking, simple way of locking/taking screenshots.
Bruce_L on May 12, 12:06 PMsaid:
How have you never seen this before. Almosthalf the people I see that are using an older model iphone use this becausethey have worn out either their lock or home button.