Coming to Grips with My Grips

by Rob Kitson

I was listening to "The Load-Bearing Finger", episode 84 of The Accidental Tech Podcst, when they (Casey, John, and Marco) started talking about the usability of the 4.7" form-factor that the new iPhone 6 is sporting. This wasn't the first time that I've heard people on podcasts describe how they hold their phones but it was the first time I'd heard a description of a phone grip while I was laying on my couch, using my phone.

One of the guys, I think it was Casey, was describing how he holds his phone when I realized I was holding mine the exact same way. Then I realized that this was probably one of those "a picture is worth a thousand words" situations, so I figured I'd take some photos of the different ways I hold my phone and put them on Twitter - this post is just a follow-up of those photos.

The photos I took feature my 5s, since I don't have a 6 yet, but I'll post an update when I get my 6-series (I still haven't decided on a size).

One-Handed Use

The majority of my smart-phone screen-time is spent with the phone in one hand or the other. As an ambidextrous phone user, I let the pocket that I'm holstering my phone in determine what hand is driving the phone that day.

I know that some people will ask why I don't simplify my life and just use the same pocket all the time. Beleive me, I wish I could. But as a pump-wearing diabetic, pocket priority goes to my insulin pump whose infusion-site (the place on your body where the pump delivers insulin) finds a new home on my abdomen every few days. These constant relocations mean my infusion-site is constantly switching between my left and right side. I don't wear devices on my belt, so the easiest way to manage the pump and the 3-4 feet of tubing that runs between it and the infusion-site is to simply put the pump in the nearest pocket and stuff the extra tubing in there with it - which displaces the phone every few days.

What I'm physically doing, where I am, and the task I'm trying to accomplish, all come into play when I'm deciding how I'm going to hold my phone when I take it out of my pocket: * Am I doing something active? * Am I in a crowded place, with bunch of trustworthy people, where I may bump into someone and accidentally drop my phone? * Am I in a part of town where someone may run by and try to grab my phone out of my hand? * Am I casually browsing content? * Am I playing a game that requires a little dexterity?

Passive Grip

The main feature of the 'passive grip' is that you use your pinky as a "load-bearing finger" - supporting the phone by its bottom edge, instead of wrapping it around the side with your other three fingers. It allows you to relax your grip on the phone without worrying as much about dropping it, but it also makes reaching the top of the phone much harder because you have to stretch your hand over it's entire height in order to get your thumb to the top.

I typically use this grip when what I'm doing requires relatively little interaction with the phone, activities like reading (blogs, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and light browsing (web, photo streams, my calendar). Activites that require enough concentration that when I'm doing them I'm usually either sitting, standing in a line, or laying down, so I feel comfortable using a more relaxed grip. I've also noticed that many of the apps that I use leverage gestures, and very little top-opposite-corner interaction so I'm not as concerned about corner-to-corner thumb stretches.

Left-Handed Passive Grip

Left-handed passive grip

Right-Handed Passive Grip

Right-handed passive grip

Active Grip

The 'active grip' involves wrapping all four fingers around the phone, which means how high you hold the phone is decided by where you decide to put your hand and not how far apart you can spread pink and ring-finger. Gripping the phone tightly, though, can make it difficult to hit the bottom-corner where your thumb is; using a more relaxed 'active grip' alleviates this a bit.

I find myself using this grip most often when I'm doing something 'active', like walking or running, for fear of tripping and dropping my phone. But I also find it comes in handy when I'm using apps that require more dexterity (tapping all over the screen).

Left-Handed Active Grip

Left-handed active grip

Right-Handed Active Grip

Right-handed active grip

Two-Handed Use

The only time you'll find me using my phone with two hands is when I'm typing more than a few words. In that case, I typically move my primary-hand toward the bottom of the phone and bring my other hand behind it such that my thumbs are at almost the same level and each bottom corner hits me in the palm of their respective hands. Two-handed grip

Hands-Free Use

Recently I've found myself using Siri, and the improved dictation, more and more often. Last week I dictated 2-weeks worth of action items into OmniFocus while walking my dog. I thought it went really smoothly, even though my dog kept looking back at me thinking I was talking to her.

99% of the time when I use Siri my phone is in my pocket and I simply hold down the middle-button on my headphone remote until I hear the telltale alert, then I tell Siri to do something and wait for her confirmation. The other 1% of the time my phone is plugged-in (on my desk) and I say "Hey Siri" and do the same dance with Siri as when I'm wearing my headphones.