A good grip accessory and a few hidden software settings can make using a large phone easier on your thumbs
Phones are getting bigger and heavier every year. Six-inch-plus screens are great for displaying easy-to-read text and watching videos. But they make one-handed swiping and typing tough—not just for people with small hands, but also for those with normal-size mitts.
In some cases, depending on how you use your giganti-phone, you could even cause yourself pain and injury, hand surgeons say.
“Texting thumb” is caused by repeatedly raising the thumb to type and hinging your wrist to hold your phone, said Andrew Li, assistant professor in hand and plastic surgery at the University of California, Davis. To prevent smartphone-related injuries, he recommends giving your hand a break from continuous texting and scrolling, ideally every 15 minutes.
What about a smaller phone? Apple sells the smallish iPhone SE and even smaller iPhone 13 Mini, though analysts predict the Mini model’s days are numbered. On the Android side, there are few name-brand options with screens smaller than 6 inches. There is the adorable, credit-card-size Palm, but it isn’t powerful enough for most people.
I can’t shrink your phone, but I can guide you to accessories and settings that can make your big phone easier to use.
Get a Grip
Be conscious of how you hold your phone, said Brandon Donnelly, an orthopedic hand surgeon based in New Orleans. Swiping and typing in the same hand or even holding your phone to your ear, with your elbow bent like a V, for long periods can cause numbness or tingling. Phone grips, he said, could help with adjusting hand position and reducing strain on the thumb. Some grips double as a stand, so you can give your hand the rest that Dr. Li prescribed.
I tried five types of grips that can attach to the back of your phone. All these accessories helped my thumb reach the far corners of a too-big phone—but some got in the way of wireless charging and the MagSafe magnetic accessory system found on newer iPhones. Here’s what you need to know:
PopGrip for MagSafe ($30): This PopSockets grip, which magnetically attaches to the back of a MagSafe-enabled iPhone, is surprisingly secure, surviving multiple shake tests, but it easily comes off if you want to charge your phone wirelessly. (MagSafe phone cases have extra magnetism so that accessories including this one stick well; on a bare phone, the PopGrip came right off.) PopGrip also doubles as a stand, at least in landscape mode, so it’s good for watching videos. My primary issue is that the accordion-style grip is hard to pop open with just one hand.
PopGrip Slide ($17): The PopGrip Slide is secured by two arms that expand to hug the sides of the phone. I preferred this PopSockets model because it allows you to adjust the location of the grip. When it’s positioned lower, my thumb can more easily reach most apps’ navigation bars. Just note: The Slide with square edges is for iPhones and the kind with curved edges is for devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy S22. Buy the wrong grip and it could go flying off.
Speck GrabTab ($9.95): PopGrips can feel bulky in pants pockets. Speck’s GrabTab has a slimmer profile, and a nice loop to slide your finger into. The card-size grip attaches to a phone or case with an adhesive. The grip also doubles as a stand in either orientation. You can get wireless charging to work with the GrabTab, but because of the extra heft, you need to be more careful with placement. Make sure you see the charging icon on your phone before walking away.
LoveHandle ($10): This elastic strap, attached with an adhesive, was the most comfortable low-profile grip I tested. But it can’t be used as a stand, and it doesn’t work with wireless charging.
Lamicall Ring Stand ($8.49): The ring style is a more sleek low-profile option that can be used as a kickstand in either orientation. But it’s also incompatible with wireless chargers.
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have smartphone settings to bring hard-to-reach screen elements closer to your fingers.
On the iPhone, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch and turn on Reachability. Once enabled, hold the phone in portrait orientation. If you have a device with Face ID, swipe down on the bottom edge of the screen, over the bar, and the top half of the screen will drop down. If you have a home-button iPhone, double-tap the button.
To move the keyboard to the side for easier typing, tap and hold the emoji icon when the keyboard is on screen. If you have multiple languages enabled, tap and hold the globe icon then tap one of the keyboard layouts.
On a Samsung device, go to Settings > Advanced features and enable One-handed mode. (On other Android devices, go to Settings > System > Gestures.) Shrink the screen so it’s within thumb’s reach by swiping down on the bottom edge of the device or double tapping the home button.
Right now, I’m trying out Dr. Li’s other advice, which is to use voice-to-text as much as possible.
“For my own hand pain, I started using the dictation function,” he said, before quickly adding a caveat. “But don’t forget to spellcheck—I accidentally called someone a whetstone.”
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