11 Best iPhone Tricks You Didn't Know Existed

11 Best iPhone Tricks You Didn't Know Existed

Apple’s iOS has tons of features, so many that no one could ever use them all. And many aren’t obvious. We’ve rounded up 11 useful and novel features that are either buried deep or hidden in iOS. Some of these also work on an iPad.

1. Control Your iPhone or iPad with Head Movements

You can use head movements to control your iPhone or iPad. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control, and turn it on. Then go to Switches > Add New Switch > Camera. Then select Left Head Movement or Right Head Movement. You can then select from a range of actions that will take place with a left or right head movement, such as increasing or decreasing volume, bringing up the app switcher, bringing up Siri, and many more. Blue bars will appear around the borders of the items in the display, indicating that the FaceTime camera is ready and waiting for your head movements. I set mine so that a left head movement turns up the volume.

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2. Customize Vibrations

You can set up customized vibrations on your iPhone so that you know who’s calling or texting just by the particular vibration. Go to Contacts and select a contact, then tap the Edit button at top right. Then scroll down to the vibration selection and tap it. You can then choose from a number of different built-in vibration patterns or you can create a new one by tapping Create New. Then tap on the display to create a new rhythm. Tap the Play button to see if it’s what you want, and if so, then tap Save. 

3. Have Your Camera Flash Blink When You Get a Notification

You can set your iPhone’s camera flash to blink when you get a notification. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Hearing and turn on LED Flash for Alerts. 

4. Speed Up Your Display

Whenever you tap an icon on your iPhone or iPad, you see it expand to fill the screen. That transition effect just takes an instant, but if you’d like to see your apps snap open more quickly, you can turn off these transition effects. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion, and turn it on. Your display will seem snappier. This setting is also useful if you get motion sickness from the parallax effect of the home screen icons floating above the background.

5. Take a Photo While Shooting Video

If you’re shooting a video on your iPhone and would like to take a photo at the same time, you can simply tap the camera button. Your video will continue to record, but you’ll also now have a photo. Note, though, that this photo may be slightly lesser quality than a regular photo you take with your phone because it is using the video sensor rather than the photo sensor.

6. Take Photos in Burst Mode

iPhone Burst Mode lets you take multiple photos at once. For example, taking a photo of someone giving a presentation is very difficult, because the person’s eyes might be closed or he or she may have an odd expression. But if you use Burst Mode, you’ll be able to select one that looks right. To take a photo in Burst Mode, simply hold down the camera button when you take a photo. To view photos you’ve taken in Burst Mode, select the photo, and then tap Select in the tool bar.

7. Search a Web Page

If you want to find a specific word or phrase on a web page, enter it into the search bar. As you do, the screen will show the usual list of automatic suggestions. At the very bottom of that list is the option “On This Page.” Tap that, and Safari will zoom to the word or phrase you’re searching for and highlight it. If there are multiple occurrences, you can scroll through them by tapping the up and down arrows in the lower left corner.

8. Quickly Request Desktop Version of a Page in Safari

Many websites sense that you’re using a mobile device and give you a site tailored to the mobile experience. But I find that Yahoo’s mobile site messes up the organization of my personalized Yahoo page. So I always request the desktop site. With iOS9 you can do that quickly by holding down the reload icon on the right side of the search bar, and then tapping Request Desktop Site in the menu that pops up. I find this desktop feature works much better in the most recent versions of iOS.

9. Reopen Recently Closed Tabs

If you inadvertently close some tabs that have content you would still like to access, you can reopen recently closed tabs by tapping the tabs icon at the bottom right on your iPhone and then holding the + icon. (The + icon is located at the right of the tool bar at top on the iPad.) This will drop down a list of your recently closed tabs.

10. Use Hidden Keyboard Symbols

The virtual keyboard has many hidden options available to you that you can invoke simply by tapping and holding a symbol. For example, if you tap and hold the $, you’ll see options for the symbols for other currencies as well as the ¢ sign. Holding the hyphen gives you options for an en-dash, em-dash, and bullet. Other keys that have hidden options include the ampersand, period, quotation marks, question mark, forward slash, and exclamation mark.

11. Hide Apple’s Default Apps

People sometimes complain that they can’t delete icons for those Apple apps that they don’t ever use. One common approach is to sequester them in a folder. But an even better trick available for a few of the apps is to use the Restrictions feature on the iPhone and iPad. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and tap Enable Restrictions. Then it will ask you to set a Restrictions passcode. Enter a passcode and then turn off the apps that you want to hide. They include Safari, News, FaceTime, and Podcasts. 

Top Image Credit: sergey causelove / Shutterstock.com

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.