My iOS wishlist: the ability to disable the touch screen

App Developer

It seems like it would be useful to be able to disable the touch screen in a variety of situations. Two of the most common are the situation where you want to type on a braille or QWERTY keyboard and leave the phone in your pocket. Unfortunately, it is too easy to accidentally touch the screen and throw you out of place.
Another good example is using the "Read All" command to read an article. It would be nice to then put the phone in your pocket and move about, but it is, again, too easy to accidentally touch the screen.
A third situation is when watching video on something like Youtube although I have discovered that I can pause the video in Netflix with the Headphone media button, lock the screen, then resume with the headphone button, and it plays, so this is helpful in this situation, but the first two examples are still problems.
It would be nice if there were a command to disable the touch screen until some other action occurred.
How are others dealing with these kinds of situations?


#1 Good idea but...


Good idea but how would this work for a sighted person? From Apple’s point of view, they will make their product as accessable as possible. With that in mind, how can a sighted person read or type on their device while it is in their pocket?

I thought about this when I got my first pair of made for iPhone hearing aids. I can listen to audio books, music, messages as well as read email while the phone was in my pocket. To create an app that would allow you to perform tasks while the screen is locked would not only be challenging, but I doubt it will pass Apple certification. Another thing to consider is a hot phone because the screen is on the whole time or a quickly depleted battery for the same reason.

#2 I love that idea. There are

I love that idea. There are many times when I find myself in the exact situations you mentioned.
To the other commenter, it would be an accessibility feature, no different to any other when the phone is modified in its behaviour I would think.

#3 Some suggestions

Well, failing this feature existing, I do have a couple of suggestions.

You can use a case that covers the screen, I use a case like this with a lanyard around my neck when I'm wandering around at home.

The Youtube app itself doesn't run locked anymore I don't think unless you pay, but you could try an alternative player like youplayer and see if that works.

The final one is the speak screen command. You can set this up in the accessibility settings. Set the speech rate and voice the way you like them and then swiping down from the top of the screen with two fingers will do the equivalent of a read all in articles in Safari and books in ibooks and a lot of other places. The difference is this will run with the phone locked.

Hope some of this helps.

#4 Thanks

App Developer

These are all good suggestions and points. I have been resisting a case, because I love the size and feel of the phone, but one with a cover is certainly an option I have considered. Does the cover get annoying when using the phone for all other activities? Putting the phone in the pocket with the screen out can also work sometimes.

#5 Well I admit I've pretty much

Well I admit I've pretty much always used a case, so I don't really know how much trouble you'll have.

The one I'm using is a pretty minimalistic case where the part that folds over the screen looks like a wallet i.e it has places for cards and notes etc. At first it was a bit annoying I admit but I'm used to it now.

Probably try a cheap case and use it for a few weeks and see how it works for you.

#6 Why disable the touch screen at all?

Hi. I'm still not understanding why you want to disable it. We've all been in the situation of wanting to lock the phone when reading something, or watching a flick, bumped the screen too. Part of why the touch screen is so sensitive, is the focus of Voice over. It's very easy to touch somewhere, not realizing you weren't in the right place. I'm not agreeing with you on the pocket situation as i've used a bluetooth keyboard for a long time and never had anything happen. I admit i'm a woman so if you are of the opposite gender and have pockets a six, even six S plus will fit into, you have my jealousy. For reasons I can't fathom, women's pockets are shorter then my attention span. Now let me play devil's advocate here: you get your wish, you disable the screen by four taps of the Home button, or some such unknown gesture. Let's also admit there's aBluetooth and braille display equivalent gesture to go along with the touch screen one. Would it not be a hassle to have to do this, in adition to typing in the text, or entering an email message? Let's also not forget that you are speaking a little as though you'd like a "forms mode", or some such similar behavior windows and screen readers of that variety do right now. I admit for the first few times, I was a little thrown off having to use the Mac, not seeing the telltale announce of "Hey dork, type text in here." As soon as I wrapped my head around it that for the most part editable text fields don't need such a glaring obvious symbol, I mean we are human, I enjoy the fact that Apple proves we are smart enough to recognize a form field when we see it. Having said all of this, I'll say one more thing as I see by your badge that you're a developer. If you want to develope an app, and want a "touch screen disabled," feature soa self voicing app can begin, I see little resistance on that front. Certainly times, people and tech changes fast, so maybe i'll be in the minority of not really wishing this comes to pass. I'll accept whatever comes down the pipeline of course, unless it's so dissatisfying I choose another platform.

#7 Simple solution

Simple solution to the pocket problem: turn the phone screen outward, rather than inward. The iPhone and iPod touch screen is capacitive, not resistive. It responds to your touch based on your body's minimal electric contact, not to pressure. Therefore, turn the screen so it won't touch your skin and voila, it won't activate. I do this all the time. One thing though, make sure to turn on lock orientation so it doesn't try to rotate from portrait to landscape and back when you move around. When putting it in your pocket, hold it by the sides rather than the front and back. Easy.
Another solution would be to have a case with a retractable screen cover, though I'm not overly fond of massive cases like that.
I do wish we could lock the device when reading to save battery life, but that's another issue entirely from what you're saying.

#8 Guided Access

Hey! There's a feature called "guided access" you might try.
It allows you to temporarily disable the touchscreen and/or buttons on the device.
The only annoying thing is you have to turn it on and off as you switch tasks, but you can add it as an Accessibility Shortcut so it's easier.

But they really should add that feature.

#9 Great idea!

I absolutely agree that would be a nice enhancement. For anyone who has used ZoomText, a combo magnifier/screen reader for the PC, it has a feature called background reader where you can activate it for an app, document or the clipboard and it will read continuously as you do other things on the computer. It has it's own hotkeys to stop or pause playback. Something like that in VO would be cool, or simpler yet, an option of needing to do a certain gesture, 2-finger quadruple tap or something, to stop speech.

It's not too big an issue for me, and the above suggestion of carefully placing the phone in your pocket with the screen facing away from your body usually works, though it's not infallible. the greater problem with VO is it's lack of cursor persistence, meaning if you're reading something in Safari for example and need to switch to Messages to send a text, when you return to Safari, the VO cursor is back at the top of the page. Wouldn't it be a simple save state kind of thing for it to retain it's position in a file or page?

#10 No Touch Mode

App Developer

Yes, it would be helpful for the mode to have some basic control that would not interfere with the reading or playback yet let you easily adjust or stop it. With the audio playback, you could still use the two finger double tap or the media control on a headset or speaker, but when you start VO reading, you need a two finger single tap to pause and resume, and maybe it would not hurt to let that gesture remain active in the touch off mode.
Once you activated Touch Off, there needs to be a simple way to turn it off. Perhaps pressing the Power button or Home could exit, but this breaks every user interface guideline Apple ever wrote.
I don't think this would use any more power than using the phone without it. If you also had Screen Curtin on, as many already do, the power savings could be substantial. I use the device pretty heavily throughout the day now taking notes, calendar, audio with Screen Curtin on, and I get pretty much a full day most of the time.
I agree that VO not preserving its cursor position in web pages is a big problem. This is a pretty basic feature in most of the screen readers.
I am very grateful the phone fits in my pants pocket. I cannot imagine going anywhere without it there. I even have to keep it oriented the correct way which is one reason positioning it with the screen out gets confusing once it stops reading and you forget which way it is oriented the next time you use it.
In some ways, this mode would be similar to locking the screen in that you could handle the device without accidentally activating anything or interrupting playback of reading or video, but for the case where you want to use it with an external keyboard or braille display, it remains receptive to input. The ability to lock the device during VO reading or video playback would be fine with me, too, though, and it would certainly be more simple from the user's perspective.
If you did implement a mode like this, it would almost have to be part of VO, but it would also need to be simple to operate. I wonder if VO could capture the Power button and enable the mode during the conditions that VO was running, and either video playback was in progress or VO was reading with the Read All command. To the sighted user, it would look like the phone was locked. Once any of those conditions became false, the mode would turn off and the screen would lock.

#11 Good point but ....

Obviously, you do not have kids at the moment. :)

Otherwise, you will understand.