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The ultimate iPhone tips, tricks and hidden features guide

Just bought yourself a shiny new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, or maybe you’re rocking an older model? Want to learn your way around Apple’s best iOS features and get the most from your smartphone? Our in-depth iPhone tips and tricks guide reveals plenty of secrets and nifty hints to make you a master.

Apple has just launched its fresh new iPhone 8 and the super-size iPhone 8 Plus, which come packing even stronger camera tech and a more feature-crammed version of Apple’s iOS software than ever before. Maybe you’ve just treated yourself to one of these premium blowers, and you want to get started with it.

Or maybe you’re rocking last year’s iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, or an even older handset – after all, these mobiles tend to age quite gracefully. 

Whichever iPhone you own, this tips and tricks guide aims to show you – in clear terms – how to get the most from your Apple handset. From setting it up to learning your way around the menus, to discovering some of the more secretive features, we have you covered.

All you need to know about iOS

A good place to start is Apple’s iOS software, which provides a reasonably intuitive user interface that hides quite a surprising amount of complex features and settings.

Jargon buster: What is iOS?

iOS is just a quick, fancy way of saying ‘iPhone Operating System’. In other words, iOS is the main bit of software that runs on Apple’s mobile devices, i.e. iPhones and iPads. This is what you see when you boot up your phone; it’s your desktops and settings and notifications and everything else. On top of this sit your apps, which iOS helps to run smoothly.

Check out our what is iOS explainer guide for the full deets.

What is the latest version of iOS?

Right now, the latest version of Apple’s OS is iOS 11. This version comes pre-installed on the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, although you can download it and install it on older iPhones also.

How can I update my version of iOS on my iPhone?

Updating iOS on your iPhone is a pretty simple process. All you need to do is head to your device’s settings and search for a waiting package, which is then downloaded and installed on your handset. It’s all done wirelessly, so you don’t even need to plug your iPhone into a computer. Just make sure you’re connected to WiFi first, so your mobile data allowance doesn’t take a pounding.

Have a gander of our how to update your iPhone feature if you need full instructions.

Read next: What is the next Apple launch event, and when will we see new iPads, iPhones and other tech?

Apple IDs

If you want to download apps and iTunes media onto your iPhone, you’ll need to setup your own Apple ID. This is basically a free account which links your Apple devices and helps you to securely manage your iPhone. For instance, an Apple ID can be used to track down a missing handset, via Find My iPhone.

Check out our full guide on creating an Apple ID for in-depth instructions and all you need to know.

Apple iCloud

You’ll find all kinds of online ‘cloud’ services are now being offered to consumers, which can be used to safely backup your personal files. Google has Drive, for instance, which offers Android users a means of syncing and sharing their documents, photos and so on.

Apple’s version of Google Drive is called iCloud. This handy cloud-based service also allows you to sync all of your personal data between your different Apple devices, as well as sharing content with family and friends. There are security benefits and plenty of other reasons for signing up too.

Chances are Apple will pester you to activate iCloud quite soon after you turn on your iPhone for the first time. Once that’s done, you’ll then be bugged to upgrade to a premium iCloud account, as your free space will be quickly filled by backups.

We’ve covered all of this and more in our full iCloud explainer guide. Bear in mind that Apple users can still use a rival service such as Google Drive, which is free (with a much bigger storage allowance) and pretty good.

What is the iPhone’s Today View?

Swipe your finger right from the lock screen or your first home screen to reveal Apple’s nifty Today View. This offers a scrollable stream of everything you need to know at a glimpse, including the latest headlines, social media buzz, calendar entries coming up and so on. Best of all, it’s completely customisable.

To add a new ‘widget’ to the Today View, remove an existing one or change their order, simply scroll to the bottom. Down here you’ll find the ‘Edit’ option. If you poke the minus icon next to any existing widget, it will disappear. You can also add new ones by tapping the plus icon next to them at the bottom of the list. And to change their order, just hold the icon that looks like three lines and drag it up or down.

What is the Control Center?

The Control Center is basically a one-stop shop for all of your toggles, which might be needed on a regular basis. From here you can activate or deactivate the likes of Bluetooth, WiFi, Airplane Mode and so on. You can also quick-load features such as the camera, change the screen brightness and control your media playback.

How do I use the Control Center?

All you need to do to call up the Control Center is place your finger just below the iPhone’s screen and then swipe up the display. The dashboard will be dragged onto the screen. Note that you can even do this when using apps.

Prior to iOS 11, the Control Center used to be spread over two separate panels. With the latest version of Apple’s OS, it’s all neatly packed onto one. That’s because you can now 3D Touch certain sections to bring up more options. For instance, 3D Touch the screen brightness toggle and you’ll have the option to activate Night Shift and True Tone modes.

You can also personalise the Control Center now, by heading to Settings > Control Center > Customise. This allows you to switch out the shortcuts that appear at the bottom of the screen, to add the likes of screen recording and the new Do Not Disturb driving feature.

What is 3D Touch?

If you own an iPhone from one of the last couple of generations, such as the iPhone 7 or 8, then your screen will support 3D Touch. This is a pressure-sensitive display which can register how hard you’re pressing on the glass, and then act accordingly.

Even in 2017, this feature is criminally underused. That said, it can be used to call up special app shortcuts, reveal live photos in your gallery and so on. Try pushing hard on the Photos app icon, for instance, and you’ll see your most recent photo, any memories that you’ve set up, and a search bar for quickly hunting for a specific snap.

Need to know more? Our 3D Touch guide reveals everything.

How to setup Apple Pay on your iPhone

The Touch ID fingerprint sensor that’s built into your iPhone’s home button is a quick and secure way to unlock your device, replacing the old PIN method. However, this nifty button can be used for more than unlocking your mobile; it can also be used to validate your Apple Pay, iTunes and App Store purchases.

Jump into the iPhone’s settings menu and then head to ‘Touch ID and Passcode’. From here you can choose exactly what the Touch ID scanner can be used for, including Apple Pay and App Store purchases.

With that done, head to the Wallet & Apple Pay section of the settings menu. From this menu you can add a credit or debit card, to use with Apple Pay. This allows you to pay for low-cost items with just a tap of your iPhone to any wireless receiver in a store.

Note that the Apple Watch also supports Apple Pay these days.

How to wirelessly charge your iPhone 8 or 8 Plus

The new glass-backed iPhone models support wireless charging, so you no longer need to fumble a cable into the Lightning port every time you need to juice up. All you need is a Qi charging pad and you can simply rest your iPhone 8 or 8 Plus on the surface to recharge.

Apple will release its very own AirPower charging mat early in 2018, which can power up your iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods all together. However, in the meantime check out the Mophie and Belkin charging pads, which can be purchased directly through Apple’s store. You’ll also find Qi pads cropping up in UK cafes and restaurants, to keep you fully powered on the go. Check out our guide to wireless charging for full details.

Master the iPhone camera

Your iPhone boasts a pretty solid camera, even if it’s a couple of generations old by now. If you have one of the new Plus models then it’s even better, boasting a secondary telephoto lens that offers an up-close view of your subject with no loss in photo quality.

Of course, like the rest of Apple’s smartphones, the camera hides some of its best features away from view. To get the most from it, you’ll need to check out our in-depth iPhone camera tips and tricks guide.

Master the iPhone keyboard

The virtual keyboard on your iPhone is smarter than ever in the latest versions. Here’s a couple of our favourite tips and tricks.

How to use the iPhone keyboard as a trackpad

Composing an email on a phone can often be fiddly, especially when you want to skip back and forwards through the message. Thankfully Apple has added a secret feature into the virtual keyboard, to help out; as long as you own one of the later iPhone models, with a 3D Touch screen.

Poking the cursor to the precise bit you want to edit can often be a challenge, so try pushing hard on that keyboard instead. The iPhone’s 3D Touch screen will register this and you’ll see the keyboard turn blank. Without lifting your finger from the glass, try swiping around the blank space. This moves the cursor around your message, as if you were swishing your digit around a touchpad.

This feature even lets you highlight chunks of text. Just ease off the pressure without completely lifting your finger and then push hard again, and the current word underneath the cursor will be selected. Just move around to extend this highlight.

How to make the keyboard easier to use with one hand

Now that the latest iPhones are absolutely huge, you may struggle to type on the keyboard with a single hand. Thankfully Apple has realised this and so added a little help.

Just press and hold your finger on the emoji key and you’ll see a little window pop up. This gives you the option to shrink the keyboard towards the left or right edges of the display, depending on which hand you’re using to type. To restore the board to its former glory, just tap the arrow that fills the blank space.

iPhone’s best hidden features

Although you don’t need to venture too deep into your handset’s settings in order to use it, you might stumble across some pretty cool features if you do a little snooping. Some of the following tips and tools really are buried away, however. Hence we’ve revealed some of our favourite secret features for you to try out on your iPhone.

How to quickly restart your iPhone when it locks up

Has your shiny new handset locked up, refusing to respond to anything? Owners of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus can now easily restart their devices, using Apple’s new shortcut command.

Just press and release the volume up button and then do the same with the volume down button. Straight away press and hold the power button on the opposite side and your handset will reboot, ready for action. Note that you’ll have to hold down that power button for a few seconds until the screen flashes off and the Apple logo pops up, signalling a restart.

How to set up a multi-room speaker system with AirPlay 2

The latest version of AirPlay in iOS 11 allows you to beam your music and other audio across multiple speakers in your home. Perfect for parties, when you want your tunes synced across several rooms.

For this to work of course you’ll need some speakers that are AirPlay 2–enabled. Once these are distributed around your house, just head to the Home app in your iPhone and connect to each speaker in turn. You can name them and add them to a specific room, at which point they will appear in the app alongside your other smart home accessories.

Now you can play your music in a certain room or throughout the house, on multiple speakers at once. At any time you can tap the speaker accessory tile in the Home app to pause or resume whatever you have blasting. You can also control your multi-room setup via Siri, if your hands are busy.

How to quickly call emergency services with Apple’s SOS feature

Apple’s new SOS feature allows you to contact emergency services with a couple of quick shortcuts, rather than fumbling around in the phone app. Note that this feature appears in iOS 11, so you might need to update an older iPhone to get the SOS tool.

Head to Settings and then Emergency SOS to set this feature up. By default, the iPhone will call for help if you press and hold the power button and either volume button for a total of six seconds. Inside of the settings, you can also make the iPhone call emergency services if the power button is tapped five times quickly. You can deactivate auto call, so the phone will prompt you before placing the call. And you can also link to Apple’s Health app, so the SOS feature gets in touch with your emergency contacts as well.

How to change the feedback level of the TouchID button

The iPhone 7 and later models feature a spangly new TouchID button, which isn’t actually a button at all. When you ‘push’ it, that clicking sensation you get is actually just vibration (or ‘haptic’) feedback. Clever, eh?

If you’re not satisfied with that feedback and would like a softer or harder vibration, you can tweak this from inside of the iPhone’s settings menu. Head to the General section, followed by Home Button. In here you can choose between three different levels of feedback.

The iPhone’s hidden kids mode

Don’t trust your sprog with that expensive mobile of yours? No fear, you can stop them from ‘accidentally’ buying loads of apps or watching mature content using some hidden iPhone features.

In the iPhone’s settings menu, head to the Restrictions section (which is protected by your PIN, to prevent unwanted access). From here you can disable key apps and features such as Siri, AirDrop and CarPlay. You can also prevent the installation and deletion of apps, ban all App Store purchases and plenty more besides, which is great news if you’re temporarily passing your shiny handset to junior to keep them quiet.

If you’re actually buying your lucky little tyke an iPhone to use full-time, you might also want to set which content can be beamed to their eyeballs. For instance, you can prevent movies above a certain rating from being downloaded, and even restrict what websites your child can browse. All from the Restrictions section.

Make your iPhone flash when a message arrives

If you’re constantly missing notifications, you can make the iPhone’s camera flash ping on and off to alert you to any new stuff awaiting your attention. Not subtle, for sure, but definitely effective.

To activate the notification flash feature, go to the iPhone’s settings menu. Now go to General, and then Accessibility. In here you’ll see the LED Flash for Alerts entry – just give this a tap to activate it. Be aware of course that your handset’s battery life will take a hit if the flash is constantly going off.

How to turn your iPhone into a personal WiFi hotspot

If you’re on the move and you need to get online with your laptop or other devices, you’ll probably want to hunt down a WiFi network. However, your humble iPhone can actually work as a personal, private WiFi hotspot, if you mobile contract allows.

Head into the iPhone’s settings menu and go to the Personal Hotspot section. All you need to do is hit the toggle switch inside here and a signal will be broadcast. You can also change the password of your private network by giving that a tap beneath, and setting it to whatever you like.

Now just browse for the WiFi signal on your other device and connect by entering that password. You’ll be online in moments.

How to use WiFi and mobile data at the same time

Is your WiFi network a bit ropey, giving timeout messages while you’re browsing the web and refusing to download anything? To counter this, you can use Apple’s ‘WiFi Assist’ feature to use both WiFi and cellular/mobile data at the same time.

This will of course eat into your data allowance, so only use this option if you’ve got plenty of GB to spare.

To activate WiFi Assist, just head to the iPhone’s settings menu and then tap ‘Mobile Data’. From here scroll down and you’ll see the WiFi Assist option, which can be activated with a swift tap.

How to see your battery percentage on the main screen

At the top right corner of the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus’ screen, you’ll see a battery meter. This gives a rough indication of how much power you have remaining, but for a more accurate measurement, head to the iPhone’s settings menu. From here, scroll down to ‘Battery’.

You can now tick the box which says ‘Battery Percentage’ to permanently display how much battery charge is left in your mobile in that top bar.

How to use your iPhone for DIY

Your iPhone has quite a few hidden tools and tricks, as you’ve no doubt learned by now. However, one particularly strange one is a built-in spirit level, which can be called up from within the iPhone’s Compass app; just swipe your finger left across the screen and up it pops. Now you can see the exact tilt of those shelves, to make sure they’re perfectly straight.

How to change the screen timeout length on iPhones

As the default screen timeout of Apple’s iPhones is just a minute, chances are you’ll often see the handset hibernate when you’re in the middle of something. This can be easily dealt with, however.

If you’re on iOS 9 or earlier, head to the iPhone’s settings menu, followed by General and then Auto-Lock. However, in iOS 10 and above, the Auto-Lock setting has moved into the Display & Brightness menu.

Boost the time up to five minutes and you’ll rarely see the iPhone hibernate when you’re busy using it.

How to connect an Apple Watch to your iPhone

If you’re lucky enough to have the funds for a new Apple Watch as well as your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, then check out our full Apple Watch starter’s guide. This tells you how to set it up, connecting to your iPhone as well as personalising your watch face and other handy hints.

When you’re all set up, check out our Apple Watch tips and tricks feature, as well as our guide to the best Apple Watch games, to get the most from your new wrist rocket.

Read next: Apple AirPods: UK Price, Availability & Do They Work With Android Devices


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