20 tips for your iPhone
The 20 best iPhone tricks you didn’t know existed
The iPhone is an impressive tool with hundreds of brilliant features, but there are several hidden features and tricks that you may not have realised existed – until now. Here, we’ve picked our favourite iPhone tips and tricks that can help you achieve things quicker and easier, and you’ll wish you’d known about them a long time ago.
1. Create custom iMessage replies for calls you can’t answer
Sometimes it’s not the right time for a phone call; and while you could just let calls you don’t want to take go to voicemail, sometimes you want to explain why you’re not picking up. iOS let you quickly respond to a call with a text message.
Depending on which version of iOS you’re running, you either swipe upward on the phone icon that appears next to the unlock slider and choose Respond With Text, or tap the button labelled Message above the Slide To Answer slider.
By default, you’ll get three pre-written options (“Sorry, I can’t talk right now”, “I’m on my way” and “Can I call you later?”), along with a button that lets you enter text there and then. However, you can customise the prepared messages under Settings
> Phone > Respond With Text. You can’t have more than three, however: if you want to add a new one, you’ll have to sacrifice one of the current options. Tap the one you’re willing to lose and type in the new response.
2. Skip calls with Remind Me Later
Alternatively, you can get iOS to remind you to call back later. As with the auto-replies, the way you do this depends on your version of iOS: in iOS 9 you tap the Remind Me button above the slide, but in earlier versions you swiped upwards and selected Remind Me Later. You can choose to be reminded in an hour, ‘When I Leave’ or ‘When I Get Home’. Make sure your address details are up to date in Contacts, so your iPhone knows where home is. The timings will be based on your GPS movements.
3. Create custom ringtones and alert tones in iTunes or GarageBand
You can create ringtones for your iPhone based on any music track in your iTunes library. We looked at this in depth here (the tutorial includes a video to walk you through the process), but to sum up: create a short, sub-30-second duplicate version of the track; convert the file type of this track from .m4a to .m4r; reimport the track to iTunes as a ringtone; sync the ringtone with your iPhone.
Better still, you can create unique custom iPhone ringtones from your own audio creations, and this is especially user-friendly if you do the creative work on the iPhone itself. Create a 30-second track in GarageBand; go to the Share options and choose Ringtone; then assign it to a contact or notification.
4. Set custom vibrations on your iPhone
Want to know who’s calling you without taking your phone out of your pocket? That’s easy – assign a
ringtone to a contact. But what about doing it all silently? Not only can you assign a custom ringtone or text tone to a contact, you can even give them a custom vibration pattern.
Open Phone or Contacts; select a contact, then tap the Edit button in the top-right corner. Scroll down to find the ringtone field; below it is a vibration field. Tap that, and you’ll see an assortment of builtin vibration patterns you can choose from. Further down, though, is the ability to add a custom pattern: tap Create New Vibration, and you can tap on the screen to create your own rhythm. When you’re satisfied (tap the Play button to see what it will feel like), tap Save to set the pattern.
If that’s not enough, you’ll need to go back to the contact and also assign a custom vibration pattern for text messages.
5. Take photos while shooting videos
You’re using your iPhone to film a magical moment, and you wish you could snap a photo at the same time. Don’t stop recording! Just tap the camera button, which appears on-screen in addition to the shutter button as you film.
You aren’t using the iPhone’s true photo sensor; you’re getting the slightly less impressive video sensors instead, but the photos should still turn out pretty nicely.
6. Save battery with Low Power Mode
If you know you’re going to be using an iPhone for a long time, then switch to Low Power Mode by tapping Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode.
Low Power mode reduces consumption by turning off a number of iPhone features. Mail fetches less frequently (push is turned off ), Hey Siri is turned off, background app refresh is turned off and some visual effects are reduced. The screen goes
dark after a shorter period of inactivity. You may not notice the difference (although you may not get a vital Mail or Social Media message unless you check for it). On the whole, though, the iPhone works as normal and the battery will last for much longer.
7. Save PDF to iBooks
You can turn web pages into PDFs and add them directly to your iBooks app. This is handy if you’re reading a long web document, or especially if you’ve found a HTML book online and want to keep a copy of it. When you tap Share, scroll across the apps to find Save PDF to iBooks. Tap it and the web page will be converted and added to your book collection.
8. Set up Do Not Disturb mode
Are you using the Do Not Disturb feature? It’s perfect for insulating you from distractions where you’re trying to work, or get some sleep.
Do Not Disturb can be activated from the Control Centre; swipe upwards from the Home screen (or from within apps, if you’ve allowed that feature) and tap the crescent moon icon in the top row of options. A matching moon icon will then appear in the top bar of your iPhone screen. (Can we take a moment to appreciate how elegantly this top icon ‘waxes’ and ‘wanes’ when switched on and off?) With Do Not Disturb activated, incoming calls and alerts will be silenced.
This is the simple, manual method for activating Do Not Disturb, but we can get more sophisticated than that. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb (in the second bank of options), and you’ll see a range of options, including the ability (under the label Scheduled) to set ‘quiet hours’ each day or night.
9. ...unless it’s an emergency
Do Not Disturb is very handy, but you might worry that it’s preventing an urgent message from getting through. But you can set up exceptions for peace of mind.
Switch Repeated Calls to ON and you’ll be alerted to a second call from the same person within three minutes. You may get the odd trivial call breaking through, but most midnight callers get the hint if their
victim doesn’t pick up first time. Someone with urgent news would be far more likely to try again.
You can also specify exceptions for certain people. Tap ‘Allow Calls From’ to allow this to be overridden by calls from Favourites.
(You can add people to the Favourites list in the Contacts app. Select a contact, scroll down to the bottom of their listing and tap Add to Favourites. But removing a contact, or changing the order in which Favourites appear in 3D Touch sub-menus and the like, can only be performed from the Phone app - select the Favourites tab along the bottom and tap Edit at the top of the next screen.)
10. Quickly add symbols
You’ve probably been using your iPhone’s keyboard for ages without realising that it’s actually easier than you thought to add symbols to your messages.
Instead of tapping once on the 123 button, once on your chosen symbol and then once again on the ABC button to go back to the conventional keyboard layout, you can do the whole thing in one gesture.
Tap and hold the 123 button, slide your finger to select the symbol you want to insert, then release. Once it’s been added, your keyboard will automatically revert back to the letters keyboard. One tap instead of three: that’s some serious time savings right there.
Oh, and while we’re talking symbols: hold your finger on the symbol for a second or two and you’ll see any alternative (usually related) symbols that the button can offer instead. The dollar key also offers pound, euro and yen symbols, for example.
There are many additional symbols hidden within your keyboard that you may never have discovered.
11. Double-space for full stop
This one might sound simple but it’s a tremendous time saver that a surprising number of iPhone owners still don’t know about. Instead of going to
the symbol menu to find a full stop at the end of a sentence, you can just double-tap the space button. It’ll add a full stop to the end of the word you’ve just typed, then a space, and then set you up ready to begin the next sentence with a capital.
(You don’t have to do this particularly rapidly, but if you leave a lengthy pause between the spaces this doesn’t work – iOS grudgingly accepting that you do want to type two consecutive spaces like some kind of grammatical barbarian.)
12. Shake to undo
This one can be a little awkward at times but it can be a bit of a life saver. If you’ve just typed a long sentence and accidentally deleted it, or made some other catastrophic error, you can give your iPhone a shake to bring up the undo/redo dialogue box. Just make sure you’re holding on to your iPhone tightly before you shake it.
Since implementing this feature Apple has added an undo button to the system keyboard, thankfully, but this only appears when the iPhone is in landscape mode. If you can’t be bothered to type like that, get shaking.
13. Tap to top
Just scrolled down a really long list in Notes, or worked your weary way through a ton of
emails? Instead of laboriously scrolling back to the top, you can jump there immediately by tapping at the very top of the iPhone’s screen. We’d rank this tip with the double-space full stop: it’s reasonably widely known, but for everyone else it’s a game-changer.
And it’s not just Notes and Mail; tap to top works in most iPhone apps. (It doesn’t work in the ESPNcricinfo app, we’ve noticed, but that app offers a little upward arrow icon that does the same thing. If tap to top isn’t working, check for some equivalent function.)
Some apps, cleverly, offer an undo on this function, just in case you tap it by accident and lose your place in a long article. The excellent Instapaper pops up a Return to Position command, for instance – and if the menu bars have disappeared you have to tap the top of the screen twice to activate the feature in the first place. Experiment to see if the app you’re using offers some other variation on or evolution of this handy feature.
14. Quick-delete in the Calculator app
If you use the calculator app a lot, you might like this handy and little-known time-saving trick. The Calculator app, like real-world calculators, doesn’t have a delete button, which can be annoying if you’ve just typed out a long number and made
a mistake right at the end. Fortunately you can swipe across the number in the black area at the top – left or right, it doesn’t matter – and for each swipe, a single digit will be removed from the end of the figure.
15. Stop music with a timer
This is a cool trick for those of you who enjoy falling asleep to music. The problem with that is it’ll still be playing when you wake up in the morning, and you’ve probably just drained most of your battery in the process. Using the hidden ‘Stop Playing’ timer, you can choose how long you want the music to play for as you drift off to sleep.
To set up the timer, go to the clock app and then tap ‘Timer’ in the bottom right of the screen. (You can access this from Control Centre: swipe up from the bottom of the Home screen and tap the stylised clock face on the bottom row.) Choose how long you want your timer to last for and then tap ‘When Timer Ends’. Scroll down to the bottom of the menu and select ‘Stop Playing’.
Press start on the timer and then begin playing your music from the Music app. When the timer ends, the music will fade to a stop. This trick will also work for audiobooks and other media.
16. Get your iPhone’s flash to blink when you get a message
If you find that the vibration or sound that your phone makes when you get a message is not always enough to attract your attention, there’s another element that you can add to the alert: light. By going to Settings > General > Accessibility and scrolling down to the ‘Hearing’ section (this feature is designed for people with hearing impairments), you can turn on ‘LED Flash for Alerts’.
Now every time you get a notification, the flash next to your iPhone’s rear-facing camera will blink.
17. Triple-click Accessibility shortcuts
Another accessibility setting that could come in handy is the Accessibility Shortcut, which can be found by going to Settings > General > Accessibility and then scrolling right down to the bottom. Tap ‘Accessibility Shortcut’, and you’ll see a menu of options. Ticking selected features in this list allows you to activate them easily by triple-clicking the Home button. You can invert the colours of your
iPhone for better visibility in low-light, zoom in to tricky-to-see parts of the screen and more.
(If you’ve selected more than one accessibility feature to be accessible via triple-click, a dialogue box will pop up and ask which one you want – it doesn’t apply them en masse.)
18. Find words or phrases on a web page
If you’re looking for a particular word or phrase on a web page, you can find it by typing the word or phrase in the URL/search bar at the top of the screen. (As soon as you tap on the top bar the page you were on will be replaced by a screen filled with your Favourites, but don’t worry – you’re still on the web page. It’ll return as soon as you tap off the top bar or run the in-page search.) You’ll see a list of web search results – and search results from the App Store, Wikipedia and so on if applicable, but you need to look at the bottom of that list for a section labelled “On This Page”, with the number of matches.
Tap it, and you’ll see that the results are highlighted on that particular web page in yellow.
Tap the arrows at the bottom of the screen to go to the next instance.
19. Use your headphones to take a selfie
Selfies continue to be all the rage, as we’re sure you’ve noticed, but if the quality of your selfies is a concern, try this handy trick.
A decent proportion of iPhone owners know that you can activate the camera shutter by pressing one of the volume buttons (volume up or volume down – doesn’t matter which) instead of the onscreen button. This tends to produce less camera shake. But a still better option for selfies – and one that is far less widely known
– is to use the volume button on an attached pair of headphones. When the camera app is open on your iPhone, you can use the volume button on an attached pair of headphones to take a photo. Not only does this reduce shake even more than using the iPhone’s volume button, but it also means you can take a more natural-looking photo from further away or take a photo hands-free.
20. Switch direction in Panorama mode
You can change the direction of your Panorama photograph in the Camera app by tapping the arrow that appears in the middle of the screen in the Panorama mode.