Navigating an iPhone with use of the home button is an absolute nightmare. How do you get to anything other than the screen you're on? Well, not only are there ways to get a quick alternative so you can use your phone again, there are a host of things to try to get you back up and running normally.
Before undertaking any of the more time consuming solutions below, these are a few fundamentals to give a go.
- Enable Assistive Touch in the Accessibility settings as a workaround to access home button function. Use Siri to "Go to Settings" if necessary.
- Under Settings, navigate to Accessibility >Touch and toggle the Assistive Touch option to On.
- This will cause a small white circle to show on screen which. When pressed, it opens a menu, including a home button shortcut.
- Restart your phone. This may clear any software hiccups.
- Give the home button an external cleaning. Wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. A toothpick can be safely used to remove grime from the perimeter if necessary.
- Verify your phone and apps are up to date.
Any software which contains errors can cause an iPhone to act as though the home button is not responsive.
- See if you can use the home button elsewhere. Ask Siri to open another app, or perform some function if necessary.
- If home button works in other functions, open the App Switcher and close the last app in use.
- Reopen the affected app and try to recreate the issue. If it reoccurs, check the App Store for updates and install them. Uninstall and reinstall the app if no updates are present.
- If it also unresponsive in other functions, this is more likely a hardware issue, but you can update your phone using a computer to be certain.
- To rule out software entirely, be sure you have a current backup, and restore your phone via a computer to ensure a fresh copy of the Operating System is used. This will delete all data on the phone. Try without restoring your back up at first to keep testing limited to a bare OS.
Debris in Button Mechanism
iPhones 6s and earlier rely on old fashioned button technology. When you push the button to go home, a tiny focal point on the button's opposite side presses against a raised point on a back plate to activate it. Especially if your button feels mushy or does not depress all the way, it is worth a interior good cleaning.
- Follow the appropriate Guide to get your iPhone open. You will probably be able to tell if this is your issue by using your eyes and common sense.
- Take off the back plate holding the button in place and clean with some compressed air, or isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab depending on what sort of debris you’re dealing with.
Button Is Misaligned
Although this issue is more common in iPads, it also affects iPhone 6S and earlier. If your button is not clicking when you press it, this is likely the cause. The button needs something to press against to work properly and if it falls out of alignment, this may not be occurring.
- The gasket which provides a seal between the home button and the screen, is prone to wear. This may allow to button to deflect when pressed rather than depressing straight down. Check for tears or a general “looseness” of this component.
- Pro Tip: If you need to replace the gasket, buy an extra. They mount with adhesive and alignment is key. Having a spare is better than trying to reuse the same gasket with weak adhesive from multiple attempts.
- Verify all the screws for the mounting bracket are present. This bracket provides stabilization as well as the surface the button mechanism to presses against. The iPhone 6S in particular is prone to losing screws. If you open your phone and see a screw stuck to the Taptic Engine, chances are, that’s where it came from. Reinstall it, and retest.
- Check to be sure the mounting bracket is flat. Although it is rare, warping can occur. This might increase the distance necessary to get a click from the button, allowing the same sort variability of movement as a worn gasket.
Physical Damage to the Button
Just like anything else, physical break or liquid contact can cause the home button to stop functioning. This is more prevalent on the touch sensitive style buttons present in the iPhone 7 or newer, but can occur regardless of model.
- Check for signs of cracks in the button itself. Similar to a touch screen, capacitive type buttons can lose functionality if the glass is damaged. Change your viewing angle to spot small hairline cracks.
- Since the home button is not a continuous part of the display, it is prone to liquid entry. Damage of this type may be harder to see, but you may note rust, or signs of corrosion with close inspection of the button’s back side.
- If you are content to live without touch ID functionality, your button can be replaced. There are third party manufacturers who make these parts, but touch ID will not work. Verify the vendor's listing specifies that it restores home button functionality before purchase.
Many of the issues surrounding home button functionality are a result of repair attempts. The home button assembly itself uses tiny ribbon cables to transmit its electrical signals. As such, they are easier to damage inadvertently.
- Check for tears in the home button cable. They appear most often in corners and can be difficult to spot with the naked eye. If your cable is torn, it's best to replace the button. Although these cables can be repaired, it involves running tiny jumper wires to bridge the two sides of the break, and is not something even many seasoned microsolderers would undertake.
- The cable which carries the home button signal from the display to the logic board is also commonly torn. It is often the outermost cable and so the first to suffer damage if tools used in opening slip, or are inserted too far. Use a known good display to test if this is the issue. If this restores function, replacing the display is recommended.
Not Native Home Button
The logic board and home button from any iPhone with Touch ID are paired together by Apple during the assembly process. If your screen was replaced by an independent repair shop, or you replaced it yourself, this button needs to be moved from the original screen to the new one to retain fingerprint reading capabilities. On the iPhone 7 and newer, failing to transfer this button also breaks home button functionality.
- If you still have your original home button use the corresponding Guide to transplant it to the new display.
- If you do not, replacement buttons are available from some vendors which allow for restoration of home button function, but not Touch ID. Check before you buy that the vendor specifies it restores home button function before purchase.
- If you also want Touch ID, getting a screen replacement from Apple is presently your only option. They alone have the ability to pair a new home button to a logic board. If you have an iPhone SE 2022, you have the option to repair it yourself, but be aware of the caveats of Apple’s Self Repair Program.
Overtightened Anchor Screw
As seems to be the theme, this is another issue stemming from a previous repair attempt. On the iPhone 7 and newer, a button which functions more like a touch screen is used. The component which transmits the signals from your finger press, lies just under the center mounting screw on the bracket. Overtightening this screw can prevent the home button from working, and in some cases may even cause permanent damage.
- Loosen all the screws on the mounting bracket slightly, even a quarter turn is plenty.
- See if the button is functional when installed in another, known good screen.
- If this is your issue, it’s a real bummer and not something that can be readily fixed. It would require opening the home button itself to repair. Sadly, it is welded together and quite a task.
- If you are content to live without touch ID functionality, your button can be replaced. There are third party manufacturers which make buttons to restore home button, but touch ID will not work. Verify the listing indicates it offers this, or is not listed "for cosmetic purposes only."
The logic board is the hub for the vast majority of an iPhone's functionality. Any number of the small components on the board may have failed or become damaged, and is a safe assumption of cause if nothing else on this page has worked.
- Check for obvious signs of a board issue - burned or cracked components, liquid residue, corrosion or bend. If there are signs of liquid the iPhone Liquid Damage Guide might help.
- Replacing the logic board is often the most practical solution for a DIYer in this position. But due to Touch ID pairing, replacing the board will break fingerprint reading functionality in all cases and home button function as well in the iPhone 7 and newer.
- Contrary to popular belief, the board itself can be repaired. However, it requires specialized tools and microsoldering know-how. This is not something most people can do themselves, but many independent repair shops can do it for you! Ask around to find a board level repair specialists near you.