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I've noticed that my iPhone 4's home button does not work very well. Sometimes I have to press it multiple times, or press it very hard to get it to register a click. Sometimes it will detect a double-click even though I only press it once.

After several clicks, the button seems to loosen up and work fine for a while. But the next time I take it out of my pocket, it will be flaky again.

The obvious solution is to take it in to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store and ask for repair/replacement. But there are a couple of problems with that:

  1. The Apple Store is 90 minutes away, so I'd rather not make the trip unless I'm pretty sure I'll get a resolution.
  2. Due to the "loosening" effect described above, I'm concerned that it will appear to be working just fine when I show it to the Genius.

So, does anyone else have experience with this problem? Did you get it fixed at the Apple Store, and if so, did it seem to be a common problem? Is there any way to fix it other than by taking it to the Apple Store?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Take it to the Apple Store. Tell them exactly what is going on and that it's a real problem for you. Even if they can't recreate the problem there in store, they will replace the device. I had a similar issue with my iPad. I took it in and explained everything and even though they couldn't replicate it they replaced it.

If anything, they will help you get a resolution. I've never gone into an Apple store with a problem only to have them tell me "Sorry, nothing we can do."

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4  
I took it to the Apple Store. They gave me a new phone. –  Kristopher Johnson Apr 18 '11 at 22:41
    
That easily? :O –  XAleXOwnZX Nov 6 '11 at 20:33
1  
Yep, that easily. I told them what the problem was, they looked at it for a minute, then told me they'd replace it. –  Kristopher Johnson Nov 7 '11 at 16:06

I know this question has been answered, but I wanted to offer up some useful information that I learned from the Apple Store. The home button on my wife's iPhone 4 was acting flaky, so I brought it in to a technician. After asking me whether I've tried a soft, hard and factory reset, he notified us that the phone was out of warranty, and it would cost $149 to replace it. But then, he also offered a workaround that I was not aware of: AssistiveTouch.

Basically, this allows you to access some system-level functions from an onscreen menu. In particular, this gives you a software home button, and it's baked into iOS5! It even responds to double and triple taps. If your home button is flaky or broken, this is a robust workaround. This also comes in handy if any of your other hardware components are broken; you can mute/unmute, do a "shake", adjust volume, rotate/lock screen.

To access it, go to Settings->General->Accessibility:

Scroll down to the Physical & Motor and tap AssistiveTouch:

You will get an overlayed touch target, which opens a menu where you can operate the home button, among other things:

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1  
This is a sweet workaround!!! –  user1266515 Aug 20 '12 at 13:56

I've seen many "flakey" home buttons be a problem with the software and not a real hardware issue. Getting it into the hands of a Apple Store technician is great as they are trained to work with you to isolate the issue to hardware or software and reach resolution or a plan to isolate it further. I would be prepared to let them erase the device (have a portable or backup made at home before leaving for the store) so they can eliminate software as a cause while you are in the store. That saves both of you a return trip or loss of data/contacts/apps.

Since they see hundreds of devices a week and have no incentive to not swap your phone if it's really a hardware issue, they will often see minor physical things before most end users will.

As to flakey software, oftentimes a physical home button press gets delayed or lost due to the OS doing a task (garbage collection / memory warning) or a runaway process taking lots of CPU.

Here is the procedure I use to be sure it's a bad home button hardware if I'm on the fence taking an iOS device in for service and it's not convenient to simply erase the device and set it up as new to get the cleanest OS setup possible.

  1. Turn on airplane mode - this isolates the phone from wifi and cell tower.
  2. Do a clean shutdown with "slide to power off" and the red slider - then reboot the phone and don't slide to unlock.

This creates a very minimal system with only the core system running. You can repeatedly alternate the sleep/wake and home buttons. Play around a while - light presses, slow presses, firm presses. Find how little pressure is needed to activate the home button.

If the button is failing - you will get failures in this minimal system. One out of ten or one out of 100 or 50% of the clicks will fail. You will be able to quickly determine a spring failure from a contact failure from any other hardware failure in 10 minutes of testing. You also have a repeatable test case to show/demonstrate the failure and not get to the store with a "ghost" problem that can't easily be reproduced.

If the button isn't failing - you will know it in your bones - the hardware button on the iPhone doesn't just get tired or fail - it's a very simple contact and spring mechanism. When it breaks, the most normal failure mode is total failure.

If it's not failing - then you have a software issue - something is bogging down the system so that the hardware signal is getting delayed. Perhaps a call to AppleCare or a visit to the Genius Bar is also very good for fixing software too.

So to sum up - do get help either way. Your phone should be responsive to home button presses. With a little knowledge, you'll quickly figure if it's one bad app - the phone needing a restore and set up as new - or a hardware repair. I wouldn't restore the phone just before taking it in - that will erase two weeks of error logs that might help point to the problem - but be prepared to let them wipe the device if needed to rule out software.

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You may want to read this fix:

Fix:

Turn off ‘Triple-click Home’ (this feature is off by default) > Settings > General > Accessibility > Triple-click Home.

If does not work

Reset your device by pressing and holding the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button at the same time for at least 10 seconds until you see the Apple logo.

This is how I fixed my problem.

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In my case, the button wasn't "slow". It didn't work at all sometimes, and it was clearly a hardware problem rather than a software setting. –  Kristopher Johnson Nov 4 '11 at 18:00
1  
Please summarize the contents of the linked page and do not just post a link. Links often decay over time. –  Daniel Lawson Nov 4 '11 at 18:53

You mentioned the following symptoms, which I've been noticing on my iPhone as well:

  • "Sometimes I have to press it multiple times, or press it very hard to get it to register a click."
  • "After several clicks, the button seems to loosen up and work fine for a while. But the next time I take it out of my pocket, it will be flaky again."

Since I ruled out the unlikely event that something is broken, I suggested that I must be some dirt or dust.

The little area around the home button can get dirty - just like the slots for the speaker at the top and bottom.

I fixed it fast by:

  1. Shutting down the iPhone. (Not really necessary though.)
  2. Applying WD-40, a "penetrating oil and water-displacing spray"1
  3. Pressing the home button multiple times during cleaning in order for the liquid to get distributed quicker.
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1  
The notion of spraying WD-40 into my iPhone gives me a severe case of the willies. –  zigg Jul 7 '13 at 16:19
    
@zigg Why though? WD 40 is not conductive, so what else would you fear? This solution has worked incredible well. –  gentmatt Jul 9 '13 at 13:55
    
I'd expect the residual WD-40 to mix with dust over time and create another problem, primarily. –  zigg Jul 9 '13 at 14:05
    
@zigg Maybe, dust can get out as it can get in. This solution does not clean the inside, but fixes the problem in a safe way without the requirement to open the device or go to an Apple Store (which can be expensive). I'd also expect that WD 40 actively hinders dust from accumulating again in the applied areas. –  gentmatt Jul 9 '13 at 14:17

I had the same problem with my iPhone 4, having to press the home button very hard and many times to get it to respond.

I fixed the problem by applying Isopropyl Alcohol to the edges of the home button.

  1. Power off the phone
  2. Apply the alcohol to the edges of the button
  3. Rapidly press the home button in and out 50 times
  4. Roll your thumb over the home button for 20 seconds, ensuring that the alcohol gets worked into the contact points of the home button
  5. Leave the phone to dry for 20 minutes
  6. Switch it back on

When I did the above, my home button works perfectly like the phone was brand new again.

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