40 Secret iPhone Features and Shortcuts

There are lots of things that you can do with your iPhone, sure, but we’re willing to be that there are a few more that you either don’t know about or haven’t used before, particularly with all of the additions in iOS 5. Did you know you can put in typing shortcuts similar to Text Expander? Or that you can make custom vibrations for each person? If you didn’t — or just want to brush up on your iOS trivia — hit the jump and find 40 top secret, ultra-cool tips for the iPhone.

Once you’re done becoming an iPhone pro, why not take your apps to the next level with our massive roundup of The Top 100 iPhone Apps!

Camera & Pictures

Want to get the most out of the iPhone’s camera and photos? Follow along as we guide you show you some well known (and not so well known) features of iOS 5 and the iPhone.

1. Use Your + Volume Button as a Shutter on Your iPhone…

Taking a picture by holding your iPhone with just one hand is an easy way to get out of focus images. Fix it by holding your iPhone with two hands horizontally, and then push down the + button usually reserved for raising the volume. Now you’ve got a stable picture!

2. … and Your Headphones, Too


The same trick above works for the volume button on your headphones, too. This comes in particularly handy if you have a Glif or similar tripod mount for your iPhone. If you couldn’t already guess, this works for Bluetooth headphones as well.

3. Add a New Photo Album

If you find that your photo album selection lacks a little pizzaz, feel free to add more using this simple trick. Go to the Photos app, click Edit in the top right corner and then click the Add button that shows up in the upper left side of the screen. Now just title the album whatever you want and you’re golden.

4. Quick Look for Pictures You Just Took

Want to look at the most recent image you shot? Open up the camera app and slide the screen from left to right. It’ll show the last picture taken, and you’ll be good to go.

5. Take a Picture With a Double Tap

Stuck on the lock screen but want to take a picture? Double click the home button and look just to the right of your Unlock slider where you’ll find a little camera icon. Touch it, and away you go to taking pictures.

6. Edit Your Photos

Man, those red eyes in that shot look horrible, right? If only you had some kind of way to tweak your shots so that they looked perfect. Turns out you do, all baked into iOS. Just hit Edit on any image, and you’ll be presented with your tools along the bottom row. They’re not super extensive, but it’ll get the job done in a pinch.

Text & Email Functions

Everyone has to type things out on their iPhone, whether it’s text messages or just responding back to an email. Why not make your life a little bit easier? Here are a few tips that will help you out when you’re working behind the keyboard.

7. Text Expansion

Do you find yourself typing the same thing a million times a day? Go to Settings > General > Keyboard and look for Shortcuts after you scroll down just a bit. Then just enter the phrase and appropriate shortcut, and the next time you type that shortcut the phrase will appear. This is particularly handy for things like BRB or your email address.

8. Go Emoji

If you love using emoticons, add the Emoji keyboard to your setup. Just go to Settings > General > Keyboard, then add the Emoji keyboard. This also works if you want to use keyboard in other languages.

9. Use Extra Characters

Want to make sure the accent mark in Montréal is correct? Just hold down the letter you need to accent, and all of the extra characters will appear. Just pick what you need and go from there.

10. Turn On Caps Lock

If you’re really mad and want someone to get the point, or you just like typing in all caps, turn on caps lock by double tapping the shift key. Now you can type with fury!

11. Look Up a Word in the Dictionary

Stumped on what that word in your favorite novel in iBooks means? Wondering why your friend used such a complex word in a text? Look it up using the iOS dictionary. Just hold down on the word that’s got you befuddled, and then touch Define. Now you know the answer and can respond appropriately.

12. Flag an Email

If you’re one of those people who flags every email that comes through, make your OCD happy with iOS 5’s new flag an email feature. To do so, go to your Inbox, hit Edit then select the email(s) you want to flag. Select the Mark tag in the bottom right corner and then select Flag, and you’re good to go.

13. RTF Emails

For those that prefer their email fancy, RTF is now available. Just highlight the word or words you want to accentuate per your usual steps, then select the arrow and then the BIU button to pick between bold, italics or underline.

14. Read Receipts in iMessage

IOS 5 brought us iMessage, and with it the ability to get receipts when other people read your messages. It’s an opt-in deal though, so to turn it on, go to Settings > Messages and turn on Send Read Receipts.

Siri Only

Siri changed the way we communicate with our iPhones, and is one of the big features for the iPhone 4S. If you’ve got one, here are a few tweaks that should help you out along the way.

15. Tweet With Siri

Wouldn’t it be great if Siri allowed you to dictate your tweets? Turns out you can, but it’s a bit of a workaround. First, read up on sending your tweets via SMS, which is available on Twitter’s site. Once that’s all squared away, just add Twitter as a contact in your Contacts, and then treat the service just like it was any other person that you want to send a message. (By the way, if Siri cramps up on you because you used the word Twitter, change it to something different that you’ll remember and it’ll be fine.) You can do this with Facebook too, The Next Web has a great writeup.

16. Get Siri by Holding Your iPhone Up To Your Ear

Not everyone knows about this one, but there’s another way to call up Siri that doesn’t require holding down the home button. Go to Settings > General > Siri, and then select Raise to Speak. Now the light sensor on the iPhone will detect when you’ve got the phone up to your ear, and Siri will pick up. It’s a handy way to use Siri in public without looking like a jerk.


One of the best things about the iPhone when it first came out was that it provided a really good web experience, where viewers could see full pages, not just mobile-optimized garbage. If you want to get the most out of your web browsing experience, here’s a few tips to make things go a little smoother.

17. Private Browsing

Want to make sure that your information isn’t getting sent out to the Internet via Safari? There’s a quick way to fix that: Go to Settings > Safari and then click the tab for Private Browsing. Now all of your activity on the web is top secret, so proceed at your own discretion.

18. Make a Reading List

If you don’t use services like Read It Later or Instapaper, but still want to read a webpage without advertisements, just check out Reader, built into Safari. Just click on the little Reader button next to the URL and your article will come up stripped of all distractions and in easy-to-read text.

19. Tap to the Top

Doesn’t it suck to scroll through a long webpage and then flip back up to show the Address bar again? Just tap the top of the screen by the clock and Safari will zip back up and reveal the address bar, no problem.

20. Saving Images

If you found an image on a website that you want to save for yourself like a wallpaper or icon, just hold down your finger on the picture for a second or two. A menu will slide in from the bottom of the screen giving you the option to Save Image or Copy it to the clipboard. Once it’s saved it’s in your Photo Library, ready for whatever you want.


There’s a lot you can do in iOS just by playing around with a few settings. Don’t believe us? Let’s show you, then.

21. Update Your OS

One of the nice benefits in iOS 5 is over the air updates, and if you want to find out if you’re eligible, it’s as easy as cracking open the Settings app. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and you can find out if you’re in the clear, or needing to update.

22. Adjust Your Notifications

You’ve probably already played around with your notifications, but there are tons of different ways to manipulate your apps and how they alert you, making it just about perfect to make each app function properly. To get there, it’s Settings > Notifications, and there you can adjust what’s in the Notification Center, and then get even more specific and tell the OS how you want each app to notify you. Everything is clearly described, so you know what you’re getting into beforehand.

23. Custom Vibrations

One often forgotten customization available in iOS 5 is setting your own custom vibrations. To do that, first go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on Custom Vibrations under Hearing. Then, go to Settings > Sounds. Scroll to the bottom, and there’s Vibration Patterns. Tap it, and now you can make your own custom vibration on the bottom of the screen. Just tap on the glass the pattern you want, holding down your finger for longer notes. Then you can assign these vibrations to a contact, or use them system wide.

24. Set Your Camera Flash For Alerts

That LED in the back of your iPhone isn’t handy for just taking pictures in the dark, it can also be used for a notifying beacon, similar to the LED on most BlackBerry phones. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on the slider for LED Flash for Alerts, and the next time something comes in, the LED will flash accordingly.

25. Customize Your Alert Sounds

Who wants their iPhone to sound like everyone else’s? Not us, so we customize our alert tones using this simple trick. Go to Settings > Sounds, and now everything from your Calendar notifications to Ringtones can be customized, just pick what you want and there you go.

26. Automatic Downloads

If you have multiple iOS devices, or you purchase things on your computer as well, one option for keeping things in sync is to allow Automatic Downloads of your Music, Apps and Books. To get there, go to Settings > Store and check off whichever of the three you want. Now all of your stuff will work in harmony. How very zen.

27. Fun With AirPlay

If you have an iPhone 4S, iOS 5 brought mirroring to the table, making it possible for you to display your iPhone’s display on your AppleTV. To do so, double tap the home button to bring up the multitasking bar, then swipe to the right twice. Tap the AirPlay button and select what AppleTV you want to deliver to, then check off Mirroring. Now what’s on your iPhone will be on your AppleTV at the same time.

28. Change Your Default Alert Times

If you use your Calendar app, then you know that there are default alerts built into the system, but did you know how to change them? Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts & Calendar > Default Alert Times (which is close to the bottom) and adjust your times accordingly.

29. Change Your iCloud Storage Size

If you find yourself always bumping into the size limit on your iCloud account, you can up the storage levels right on your iPhone. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Buy More Storage and select what level you want to use. You can also downgrade sizing if you think you have too much, too.

30. Tweet It

Twitter is now integrated into iOS 5, so if you ever feel the need to send that pic of Grandma drinking a bit too much wine off to the Internet, now’s your chance. First, setup your Twitter account by downloading the official Twitter app, then go to Settings > Twitter and enter your username and password (if you have more than one Twitter account, no worries, it’s all supported). Now whenever you take a picture, you’ve got the option to send it to Twitter without ever opening the official app.

31. Dissect Your Storage

We’ve got lots of apps that all vie for space on our iPhone’s flash drive, but what if you could find out who was using what? Go to Settings > General > Usage and there’s a list of all of your apps, and how much space they’re taking up. This way, if you find yourself low on space you can delete the offending apps entirely, or just preen them down using the app itself.

The Stuff That Doesn’t Fit Anywhere Else

There are lots of other good tips floating around in iOS, but not all of them are big enough to denote their own category. That’s why we’ve created this one; it’s a general grab bag for whatever other secrets don’t fit somewhere else. Get it? Good. Here you go.

32. Get Week View By Turning Over Your iPhone

It’s new in iOS 5, and it’s fancy. If you want to check a rolling week view of your calendar, just turn it over to a horizontal orientation. Then you can scroll up and down to see hours, or left and right to move through weeks. It’s pretty handy to have when you just want to see what’s coming up in your week.

33. Get Hourly Weather Reports

This one is easy. Pull up the Weather app to get your weekly weather report. Tap anywhere in the week and the current day will expand to reveal the hourly forecast for the rest of the day. It doesn’t work days in advance, but then again, neither does the local weather guy.

34. See Street View in Maps

Pull up Maps and search for something — anything — and you can usually see a little orange dude that shows up on the left side of the destination. Touch that and you go to street view where you can rotate 360 degrees. But what if you don’t have a search destination or just want to see a random area on street view? Just drop a pin. Usually that orange dude will show up again and you can scope out the area before you head down.

35. Take a Screenshot

All these pictures up above? They were all taken using this little trick. Press the home button and the lock button simultaneously and the screen will flash white. As an added bonus, if you have Photo Stream via iCloud, all those images go right into your stream (which is great if your business is posting screenshots like ours is).

36. Location Based Reminders

One of the big selling points with Siri was integration into the new Reminders app, but there’s some cool GPS features built in, too. Make a reminder, and then select to remind you At a Location. You’ll be presented with your current location and the options When I Leave or When I Arrive, or you can just make a custom spot up of your choosing. Just know that this can eat up your battery life because the GPS will be on all the time.

37. Add Twitter Handles to your Contacts

There are two ways to handle this one (see what we did there?). If you start at Settings > Twitter, you can click on Update Contacts and all of your current contacts in your address book will be trolled and connected to their appropriate Twitter accounts. If you want to do it manually (or Twitter can’t find it for you), then go into the contact, hit Edit and then Add Field. Scroll down and you’ll get to Twitter, and then you can manually enter the info.

38. Perform a Hard Reset

Sometimes nothing seems to work on your iPhone, and apps are giving you problems. The answer is a hard reset, which shuts the iPhone off completely — even mid task — and then restarts it. To do this, hold down the lock and home buttons simultaneously for at least 5 seconds, or until the Apple logo appears. When it boots back up, it should be good to go.

39. Give Your Contacts Nicknames

We’ve all got friends that we call by their nicknames, whether it’s KJ, Little T or Jackstands, and sometimes we can’t remember their actual name. To fix that, you can add their nickname into Contacts pretty easily. Go to the contact, hit Edit, then Add Field. Right there at the bottom of the first box is Nickname. Once you get back to the main Edit screen, just add in their nickname and now Siri will recognize it, as will Voice Command.

40. Customize Your Music Controls

There’s only so much room on an iPhone screen, and that’s problematic with the Music app. Some people prefer to search by Artist, others by Playlists, and some don’t even listen to music and just focus on Audiobooks and Podcasts. To customize your Music app, just open it up, hit More then Edit. You’ll see a whole grouping of icons, and then you can drag them to their new location on the bottom of the screen. Fancy.

Got Any Other Good Tips?

If we forgot one here, or didn’t include one of your favorites, feel free to leave us a comment below! The more secret tips we can amass here, the better it is for all iPhone users, right?

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