How to turn off a Face ID iPhone

If your iPhone uses Face ID, turning it off is way harder than turning it on. The “off” procedure is completely different than what you do to turn it on. Here’s what to do.

If you have a Face ID iPhone– that is, an iPhone that doesn’t have a Home button– you may have tried turning it off by pressing and holding the button on the right. That’s what you did to turn it on, and it worked with older iPhones– the ones with Home buttons– but it doesn’t with the newer ones like the X, the XS, the XR, the 11, and the 12.

Why would you turn off your iPhone? Can’t you just let it go to sleep? Good questions. Most of the time, you can just leave your iPhone on, and let it go to sleep, and everything is fine. If the iPhone isn’t working right, the old “turn it off, then turn it on” would be in order for sure, and there are some other occasions when you want it off, but most of the time feel free to leave it on and let it go to sleep.

There are two ways to turn off a Face ID iPhone, and here they are.

1. The Texas Three-Step

Perform these steps in quick succession:

  1. Click the Volume Up button
  2. Click the Volume Down button
  3. Press and hold the Side button until you see “Slide to power off”

It looks like this:

First Volume Up… the Volume Down… then Side button

Note: if you continue to hold the Side button after “Slide to power off” appears, your iPhone will eventually turn off. But what it’s really doing is restarting. The screen will go black, then you’ll see an Apple logo, and then your iPhone will complete the restarting process. This is a “hard restart” and it’s just what you need when your iPhone’s screen won’t respond. Most of the time, however, you’ll be able to “Slide to power off,” which is gentler.

(Want to learn the Texas Two-Step? Click here.)

2. The Thumb and Finger Squeeze-a-roo

If you hold either volume button and the Side button at the same time, and you hold them long enough, you’ll get a “Slide to power off” screen, with a little bit more: the Emergency SOS option.

After pressing one of the Volume buttons and the Side button at the same time, and HOLDING

If you want to contact your local Emergency Services (911 in the United States) you can either slide “SOS” to the right, or simply keep holding down whichever Volume button you chose and the Side button. Eventually you’ll hear and see a countdown, and when it reaches zero the call will be made for you automatically.

On older iPhones you trigger the Emergency SOS feature by pressing the Side button (or Top button, if your iPhone has one) five times. It was maybe a little too easy to do so they changed it to “Side button plus a Volume button.” It’s still too easy to do, and you might do it by mistake when pulling your iPhone out of your pants pocket. In addition, you’ll be pressing Volume Up and the Side button every time you take a screenshot– the exact same move, without the “hold” part. Highly prone to accidental 911 calling.

Yes, this is probably a bad idea by Apple (I’ve emailed Tim Cook about it). You only need to trigger the Emergency SOS feature once to learn how long to hold the buttons when taking a screenshot. “Less time than that” is the answer.

You wouldn’t think that turning the iPhone off would be so different than turning it on, but it is. Personally, I think it’s way too difficult, and not obvious or “discoverable” at all. A rare misstep by Apple.

Author: Christian Boyce

Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone expert specializing in teaching people how to use Apple devices better, to get more done with them, and to have more fun doing it. He bought his first Mac (a Mac Plus) in 1986 and his first iPhone in 2007. He's written books and magazine articles, and given seminars at Macworld Expo, MacFair/LA, and the California Computer Expo. Over 30 years in the business.

2 thoughts on “How to turn off a Face ID iPhone”

  1. Was looking forward to turn off my iPhone11 without it restarting on its own.
    I followed your Texas-Three-Step – and doh – didn’t turn of MY iPhone. Tried 3 times

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      That’s interesting. Click the up volume, click the down volume, press and hold the side button? That SHOULD lead to a “slide to power off.” What do you get when you do it?

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