How to use one-handed mode in Windows 10 Mobile

One of the features I like on Windows 10 Mobile preview is one-handed mode. Just tap and hold the home button and the whole display moves down to half the size, letting you navigate and interact with links or buttons with just your thumb. This feature isn't unique to Windows 10, though. It was introduced with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus by Apple as Reachability. How does it compare with the one-handed mode on Windows 10 Mobile? We'll show you.

Windows 10 Mobile one-handed mode

Tap and hold the Windows button to enable one-handed mode. You can use your thumb to scroll, tap, and interact with the items that are usually on top, but is now more reachable in one-handed mode. Previously, this feature was limited to devices with screens that are 5 inches or larger, but it is now available on all devices running Windows 10 Mobile. The top half of the screen turns black. Things go back to normal if you tap the black part of the screen, don't touch anything for a few seconds, or tap and hold the Windows button again.

Compared to iOS reachability

One-handed mode in the iPhone 6 and 6 plus is called Reachability. The screen will lower in order to allow you to reach buttons and objects towards the top. You enable Reachability mode when you double-tap (not double-click) the Home button. Instead of plain black, iOS uses a darker version of the background photo. In the Home screen, however, the background stays put, while the icons move down. Things go back to normal after a few seconds of inactivity or touching the space on top.

iPhone and Lumia one handed

Going further

While we like one-handed mode on Windows 10 Mobile, we think it can be better. Instead of just a plain black space, we'd like the ability to see our background image instead. Also, on bigger devices, it'd be nice to have the screen shift towards the left or right in addition to moving down. You can see a similar behavior in the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

Some readers at the Windows Central forums are really happy with the new one-handed-mode feature. How do you feel about it? What are some improvements you'd like to see?

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

  • Or you can use WP8.1 which was properly designed for one-handed use.
  • Not for large phones. I have the 1520 and my hands are big enough but others struggle with my phone more when it was on 8.1
  • that guy is the correct guy. I have 10 on a 920 and one handed is cool, but not needed. I am not going to, but it makes me want to put it on my 1520 now. Think i might on the next build barring limited issues.
  • My hands ate big enough for the 1520... More worried these two new phones will not be big enough lol!
  • Same here I'm so used to my 1520 Might not get the 950xl. they are about the same but i will get Band 2. I go a 640xl not a bad phone. I'm running win 10 on that Screen should be in for my 1520this week
  • ...says someone who has never used WP8.1 on a Lumia 1520.
  • I did and didnt have a problem using the 1520 one handed. Go to a W10 style app like Smartglass though with the hamburger menu and its slip and slide city trying to adjust the phone in your hand to reach menus hidden there. Not sure how anyone can infer that 8.1 is worse than 10 for one handed use. And this kludge can hardly be called a solution when it still doesnt allow you to hit points on the opposite side to where your hand is holding the phone.
  • Now I understand why Daniel have to drink whiskey before read the comment section... "boohoo they are solving problems they created themselves" TRUE, but you guys are missing the point that W10M was made with a different UI for a REASON, that is to make the UI more familiar to android and ios users, so they won't feel SO lost with the new system. Not to mention that this way it would be easier to port apps with project Astoria. People don't like drastic changes and Microsoft knows that VERY well (e.g the address bar on Edge and hamburger menus). If you guys didn't had a problem with the wp8.1 UI on the 1520, then let me challenge you: With the little finger supporting the phone at the bottom,try to reach the action centre on a 1520. I have a 930 and I can't...
  • You can make the UI familiar without flushing all that was good with 8.1 down the toilet. Also adapting a bad UI isn't winning anyone over who came to the platform because it was unique and stylish and those that were thinking of switching will likely be turned off. Might as well stick with Android or iOS than with a poorly made wannabe OS.
  • Yea, all they need to do is add an option to use pivots instead of the hamburger thing. That way only those that need the hamburger (ie. people transitioning from Android) will have to put up with the seemingly intractable issues it causes.
  • Win10, creating "solutions" for problems that didn't exist until Win10. Having used 8.1 on a variety of devices (1520, 830, 920, 630, 520), I have not had a single instance were pulling the screen down for one handed use was desired. I use my device with great frequency, in a variety of environments and this situation has never arisen. We want ever larger screens, just to make it so we use half of the display area - this is not a suitable solution. Either get a display/device that is complimentary to the size of the user or use two hands. In what all important circumstance is one-handed use of the device that necessary that it cannot wait until the second hand is available? At best, I can see this 'feature' as an accessability option, like high contrast or magnifier - not something geared toward general use. If not an accessability option, it is simply for the lazy.
  • @ubertoast
    It has nothing to do with waiting to hold the device with two hands. I have used all types of phones from small to large and have never used both hands. I despise using both hands. It feels weird to me. Yes, I too have large hands. And I type pretty quickly with my thumb. Plus, even if I'm in my car I don't need any hands to reply to text. I can just state my comment. No hands required. :)
  • I too use hands free functions in my car (MS Sync), otherwise I predominantly use my phone with a single hand, rarely, if at all, use it two-handed. Your point is that choosing a large device (or device that is disproportionate to the user) and choosing to exclusively use the device with a single hand warrants added feature to cater to a choice that deliberately hinders the use of the device? While I am not against having more features and capabilities, this seems like what I already stated - catering to laziness.
  • How about the split screen? It will be on the win mobile 10?
  • The only split screen will be Continuum. Techically that's 2 screens :)  
  • Ah, the arrogance and condescension of Daniel Rubino. Very helpful. I didn't realize the whole of the Windows Mobile ecosystem was the 1520.
  • You mean an OS with actual thought put into the UI? Totally alien to the current clueless designers at MS.
  • Way to judge an incomplete piece of software! Cookie for you!
  • Incomplete software, prerelease, it's a beta, coming soon... yeah yeah. Give me that cookie.
  • Ummm.... that is exactly what it is. "Incomplete software, prerelease" it is a beta. And it is coming soon. So.... I don't get your point.
  • Yes, it's a beta and it's going to be released soon. So unless they plan on scraping the hamburger menus and other dumb UI mistakes what you see is what you're going to get. The point was to get the cookie.
  • First of all. Haha. Now I wish I could give you a cookie. Second, no, it is not what you see is what you get. How many builds before the address bar was back on the bottom? Or the other apps that removed the hamburger menu (dammit I don't remember specifically what, but there was an article here about it) and added the ellipses back on the bottom. Bottom line, it isn't finished yet.
  • And then mail/calendar which use both elipses and hamburger.
  • How about you post your concepts for universal apps UI or better yet make suggestions on the user voice and let people vote on those?
  • If not mistaken, all those he mentioned are already in user voice, that too with thousands of votes.
  • Actually, it is alpha...
  • It may be pre-release, but they aren't going to completely redesign the UI. That's mostly set by now. Hamburgers are here to stay, two-handed use is here to stay. The claim was even made by Flock of Seaguls at Build this year that most people use their phones with two hands. I'm not sure who these most people are because I and most of the people I know are always using their phones with one hand unless they are typing a long email. Changing the UI from a one-handed focus (WP8.1) to forced two-handed use (W10M) is a failure in design in my opinion. I rolled back to WP8.1 because I couldn't stand using W10 on my phone. I like it on the desktop, but not on my phone. They have a long way to go to make it an appealing mobile OS in my opinion.
  • It's set to be rather incomplete at release too, Xsled, if other editions of W10 are anything to go by. At what point should we judge it do you think? Once W11 has come out so we can be sure W10 is complete?
  • Nope I like W10M better. Just saying.
  • W10 is better and it's still beta. Once it is RTM and future updates/optimisations occur it will be even better still. I love this function on my 930, makes one handed use a breeze.
  • OS UI elements aren't the only things that can be hard to access on a bigger phone. So no, that's not a solution at all. You can still have an issue with reachabilty in 8.1.
  • People like 5+ inch screens and not everyone has big hands.  Windows 8.1 didn't help me at all.  In fact typing with my thumb was impossible.  I could not reach the end of my screen and mine is only 5 inches.  There is no true one handed phone for everyone, only the big handed people.
  • Well, if your fingers weren't so 'poopy'...
  • Slidin all over the place...nasty...make a sammitch
  • whoops, I just realized....  I opened a feedback ticket that my tiles are always brown no matter what color I select. 
  • I wish it displayed some useful information in that black space.  It seems like a waste to me.
  • This^^ also just leave the background picture up there.
  • I would rather have content there. Quick view stuff. Calendar, weather. Whatever.
  • That's a great idea!
  • Yeah, they could use it for notifications and other stuff...
  • I agree with that, he has a great idea. Microsoft have me scratching my head sometimes with all of those "geniuses'" there.
  • Or better, would be to give you the option to put an open application like the desktop snap assist.
  • Snap assits is a feature possible with keyboard on windows pc. Microsoft shyd find more ways of multitasking on win10 mobile.
  • Indeed! Snap especially for 5+inch phones, phablets (and upcoming small tablets running W10M) is a must! If Microsoft is aiming W10M as an OS champion of productivity, multitasking features such as Snap + Snap Assist is something they shoudn't forget. I don't think its not that impossible to implement as Universal apps are adaptive. This is even a need for tablets running W10M, which we still don't have any news about it unfortunately.
  • Knowing MS they'll put advertising there.
  • Look if you're going to keep trolling around just leave Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • If Microsoft were Google sure, but Microsoft doesn't put enough money into ads for it to be worthwhile. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Rudy Developer of 6tin has suggested to Microsoft either Cortana highlights pop up or something that a user can choose like weather info, etc
  • I personally fine with blank black space over there, looks clean and its temporary anyways, but having some info there would be useful indeed. Maybe similar to glance that it has to be minimalist and mostly text with some wireframe icons, all in gray color instead of white that fades in. They could based off the codebase from Glance or from Lockscreen portion where we can see detailed info at the bottom of Clock. For me it has to be simple but useful enough.
  • It's better looking on iOS just because they leave the background up there and just drop the icons witch to me looks better that way. Just leave the background up. Just saying.
  • But on devices with oled screens, in the night this future comes in handy (especially when browsing the web where the whites are too much for your eyes to handle!) :P
  • I can see where this will come in very handy (see what I did there?).
  • Very thumby :)
  • Thanks microsoft for bringing this function to devices with smaller than 5 inch screens! I find myself using it more and more when I am litteraly bored to use my second hand to adjust the grip and press content on the upper half of the screen! :P I'm really digging this!
  • This ^^^ especially useful on my 930.
  • The master Rudy Huyn had some nice suggestions,
  • Totally agree with the comments made towards the end of the video. Although this is a new feature to Windows 10 mobile, it would be nice to see Microsoft do something with that extra blank space, for example, showing the weather or quick news, possibly something from Cortana.
  • Or the action centre? :D
  • I use this feature to bring up the ation center on my Lumia 830
  • I hope they soon fix the issue that when in one handed mode and you are closing apps, pressing the X brings you right back to full screen.
  • I'm an expert at one-handed mode. 
  • ....hmmm
  • I am an expert at two handed mode. Switch hands without missing a beat! :)
  • Did you mean "without missing a stroke"? Because that would have been more funny...  
  • That is actually my normal joke, just wasn't sure if it was appropriate here. Though, not sure why I thought that. There is a lot worse in these comments. Great catch though! :)
  • Be careful using The Sleeper in one-handed mode. Best add a protective case to the phone and be over soft ground. Great effect though, like otherworldly possession.
  • It's handy but I never remember to use it. I need to learn to use it.
  • Split screen options in that black space would be awesome...
  • But we cant pull down action centre from half of screen
  • Well spotted, I would not have thought of doing this, but it works. WC should include this in the video and article. Very useful. Thanks :)
  • Woah.. Cool
  • yes we can pull down the action centre in this mode from the day one. check out this video here:
  • Khoảng trống phía trên vẫn chưa có hình nền . Cho nên nhìn khá thô sơ :)
  • I think it's a cool feature, I also think there are tons of great features in windows 10 mobile. I'm running it on a Lumia 640 and I have only a few issues...good job
  • Hey, my old Lumia 920 has it now too. ;) Steps in the right direction. Add background picture or a small set of dedicated apps such as calendar or one of the inspirational quote apps and we've got a winner here. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • This!
  • I think it's tacky
  • Maybe if they put the important contact for the person or smthn ir would be awesommmmmeee Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Funny this article showed up, I mistakenly pulled up one handed mode and didn't know what I just did. Then I see this article.
    Anyways i wonder if we could get a setting to make a short hold on the home button do different actions? Maybe bring down the notification center? Not going to lie it's a reach to find a finger to all the way up there.
  • It's funny because I browsed the other day the user feedback app and a person had written that ''I found a bug, when long pressing the win key, the screen pull down to half''   You can also long press the win key and then pull down the notification from the middle! :P Or you could dive deeper and try to find this future through reg edit (on XDA forums), I was able to make my 730's screen to show content like the 1520 or 640xl (with 4 apps in the app switcher and all..!)
  • I love one handed scrolling on W10 mobile.
  • I think since this is mostly for bigger screen phones maybe just a black screen is the right idea. Black being displayed takes lil power to display. Turning this to multi use save more power when desperate :P
  • Only on an AMOLED panel. IPS panel lights up black the same as any other colour.
  • They can use this as task view button in w10 desktop.. What if all the minimized apps fill the blank space.
  • And it would be great if we can view Two apps side by side
  • Much easier for me to just use my other hand. One-handed use has never been a big deal to me. I guess it may come in handy when my other hand is busy and I remember its there. Currently, it doesnt really work well on the start screen - for some reason I cant scroll all the way to the bottom of my tiles.
  • That's the purpose anyway. It will just bring the display half. Not like. Emm not sure how to explain. But the thing is, if it's at the bottom, why use this feature? U can still press it with onr hand.
  • Or design a better UI that negates the requirement for such clunky workarounds.
  • As already explained up top by many, still not great on a 1520. This is awesome to me. Edit: And, holding the windows button for a split second is far from clunky, unless you are referring to something else.
  • I don't understand this. Easily reachable UI elements do not negate the need of this feature.
  • the black space should show the task view and then selecting any app should work as snap assist.
  • Snap assist is not yet here.. So lets dont talk about it.. The black space can be used in a productive way.. Like setting an app to show some details.. Such as Weather app tile.. Rudy Huyn did tweeted some photos few days before to show how MS can use that wasted space..
  • People would mainly use it for reaching out to the contents on the top of the screen. so I don't think anyone would care to look at wheather or any other info there at that time.Mostly will go will simply be useless(as we can see wehather or similar info on apps livetile itself). So they can either just fill it with background pic or just leave it until they come up with something potentially useful something like split screen.
  • Allow users to set the distance it drops down for theireir tastes.
  • You are asking too much..