My experience with Apple's alternative iPhone interface in iOS 17
The iOS interface has been a part of iPhones for over 15 years, but what many people don’t know is that Apple introduced a new interface within iOS 17 called Assistive Access. This feature is part of the Accessibility options in the iPhone’s settings app and is designed to help less confident and able users interact with their devices.
To set up Assistive Access, users need to open its dedicated section in the Accessibility settings menu. They will also need to have an Apple ID set up and can choose to use their existing security methods or set up a new PIN code specifically for Assistive Access.
Users can choose to display their apps as a list or in two columns. While the list option allows for more apps on-screen, the grid format makes app names and icons easier to read.
Apps that are available in Assistive Access need to be selected beforehand, with optimized and non-optimized apps flagged during setup. Some apps, like Apple Music and the Calls app, can have their accessible features limited during setup.
Once Assistive Access is turned on, the iPhone will reboot with a new, simplified lock screen. Apps will either have a redesigned interface to fit in with the new layout or appear in a windowed mode with a back button at the bottom of the screen.
Assistive Access limits access to the App Store and the Settings app, but users can still adjust brightness, text size, volume, enable Airplane Mode or dark mode, and make emergency calls through the power button menu.
While Assistive Access is a step forward for accessibility options, there are some limitations. Users still need some familiarity with using an iPhone the regular way, and supporters may find themselves providing more tech support than expected. Customizability and greater access to under-the-hood settings are features that many hope will be added in future updates.
Despite its potential benefits, Assistive Access hasn’t received much attention, and many people are not aware of its existence. It is encouraged for users to try out Assistive Access themselves or show it to someone who could benefit from using it. With further improvements, Assistive Access could fulfill its goal of making it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to use the iPhone independently.