I only just discovered this new feature in iOS 17. Assistive Access gives you a simplified, focused interface with access to only the apps and features you choose to enable. It was designed for people with cognitive disabilities, but there are plenty of other uses.
I’m thinking it could be an excellent way to setup an iPhone for a child. You could configure it so they only have access to Messages and the ability to make calls, for example. With no way to use other applications without first entering an Assistive Access-specific passcode.
Last night I set it up on my iPhone to only have access to Camera, Day One, Home, Photos, Things, and Messages — only listing my wife as a contact I’m able to send messages to. The idea being that I could enter Assistive Access when I wanted to spend less time on my device and be more present with the family. I’d still have access to the most crucial features, like taking photos and videos, but everything else would be hidden.
I do have a few gripes with the feature for my use case, though.
Some applications are built with Assistive Access in mind. Those applications offer an entirely different user interface than what you get from the app in the traditional iOS Home Screen experience. I wish that there was an option to just use the non-Assistive Access version of each app.
Of the apps I’m using, Camera, Photos, and Messages all use an alternative interface in Assistive Access. They’re mostly fine, but I really wish I could disable it in the Camera app. You don’t have the option to zoom, you can’t switch lenses, you can’t take photos in portrait mode, etc. — there’s a whole host of features that I wish I had access to that aren’t available. I’ve considered installing Halide or another third-party camera app for the additional features, but I generally find them difficult to use when compared to Apple’s Camera app.
The other complaint I have with Assistive Access is the giant “Back” button displayed along the bottom when you’re inside of an application. I’m sure it’s great for some users of the feature, but I would like to see an option to display something a bit more elegant — maybe show an old school iPhone home button instead?
Lastly, it doesn’t seem that there is a way to use Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers at all while in Assistive Access. It may sound like that would defeat the purpose, but I often have music playing on a Bluetooth speaker when the family is on the back deck or I play music over AirPlay to the HomePod in the kitchen. It would be rad if you could choose within Assistive Access’ settings whether that is available or not.
Ive seen others using a dumb or light phone for this type of use case. But whenever I’ve looked into that as an option the limitations were a bit more than I would prefer. There was always something that I need that these devices just couldn’t do or it would be too cumbersome to setup and use.
Using Assistive Access on the iPhone I already have seems like the perfect solution. I don’t have to buy an additional device and I have much more control over what I do and don’t have access to.