Watch someone else use their iPhone for a few minutes and you’ll quickly find that they do a lot of things very differently from you. You might discover interactions you’ve never seen before, and you probably have a lot of suggestions for them.
It’s no surprise that the average iPhone user doesn’t use many of its best features. Modern smartphones have become extremely powerful and complex devices, and unless you pay close attention, you simply won’t know all they can do. So let’s learn some new ones. Here are 10 iPhone tricks and features that a surprisingly high percentage of users seem to completely ignore. These tips should work on most modern iPhones (those made in the last few years) and assume you’re running at least iOS 15.
Silence unknown callers
Spam calls have gotten completely out of control. If you’re like me, you have at least three or four a day, and they watch as if they were from a legitimate phone number.
Your iPhone can help! Open Settings > Call and look for the Silence unknown callers option.
When you enable this option, phone calls from unknown numbers will not be blocked but will go through silently. No ringtone, no vibration, just straight to voicemail. You will receive a notification (also silent!) indicating the number of the silent call. But don’t worry: your contacts’ phone numbers as well as recent phone numbers outgoing Siri calls and suggestions will sound normal.
Move text cursor freely
Whenever you type text, just press and hold the spacebar until all the letters disappear from the keyboard.
Now hold down your finger and drag it in any direction to move the text cursor wherever you want, like using a small trackpad. It’s a much easier way to save and fix typos or overzealous autocorrect.
Configure Back Tap Shortcuts
Open Settings > Accessibility > Touch and seek Press return. This handy setting lets you set a shortcut to a particular app or feature when you double or triple tap the back of your iPhone. And yes, you can set separate shortcuts for double-click and triple-click.
Back Tap is one of the iPhone’s most useful features, and it’s a shame it’s buried deep in the Accessibility settings. An easy-to-use shortcut to any app you want (or useful features like Screenshot) that you can run with one hand, no matter what app you’re using? It’s great for everyone!
Play background sounds
Do you find it easier to stay focused with a bit of background noise? Does it help you relax or fall asleep?
There are plenty of apps out there for this stuff, but your iPhone has some nice options built-in! Open Settings > Accessibility > Audio-visual and look for the background noise option. Here you can turn them on, adjust their volume and choose from six different sounds. You also get other options like the ability to stop the sound when your iPhone is locked, or play it (or not) when other media is playing.
It’s kind of a drag to dig into the accessibility settings whenever you want to turn that on or off, so it’s a perfect candidate to set on your Back Tap (see above).
Select text in Photos or Camera
Live Text is one of the best features of iOS 15, and it hasn’t gotten enough attention.
If the Camera app is open, just point the camera at anything with text in it and you’ll see a yellow bracketed box appear around it, with a small yellow button in the bottom right. Tap that button and you’ll freeze the text box, after which you can just long-press and then drag your finger over it to select it and copy it, translate it, look up a definition, whatever!
It also works in the Photos app. In any photo that contains text, you’ll see the little “brackets with lines” icon in the bottom right. Tap it and all the text in the image will be highlighted, after which you can select it to copy, translate, search, share, whatever.
You can even drop text directly into Notes this way. Just open a note, tap the camera icon and select “Scan text”.
Research everywhere for anything
The search function on your iPhone is much more powerful than you think. It’s surprising how many people don’t even know it’s there, let alone make full use of it!
Simply swipe down from any home screen, i.e. touch somewhere in the middle of the screen and swipe down slightly. If you swipe down from the edge, you’ll open your notifications or control center.
Type anything in this search field and it will search everywhere for that. You will get apps installed on your iPhone, website search suggestions, matches in your photos, relevant knowledge from Siri knowledge base, apps in app store, apple music matches, matches in your messages, and much more.
At the bottom of the results is the search option in apps, in case you want to find your search query in Mail or Calendar or what have you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen experienced iPhone users fumble for 10 minutes to find that picture or message thread or whatever, when a five second search is all they need .
Your iPhone has a surprisingly good built-in document scanner. Just lay the document you want to scan on a nice flat surface (the brighter the better), then decide whether you want to create a new PDF document or attach the scanned document to a note in the app Ratings.
To create a new file, simply open Files, open the folder where you want to save the scan, and select the menu button in the top right (a circle with three dots). Select “Scan Document” and point the camera at the document you want to scan, holding the camera steady.
Your iPhone will automatically take a photo (press the shutter if it doesn’t), clean it up and minimize it to the corner, ready to take the next photo. If you have more pages to scan, simply repeat the process. When you’re done, hit save and name the file.
In Notes, just open the note you want to attach a scanned document to (or create a new note), tap the camera button, then tap Scan Documents.
You can even digitally sign documents! Just open the scanned PDF in Files, tap the little markup button in the top right (it looks like a pen nib), then tap the “+” sign in the markup toolbar at the bottom of the PDF. screen. Tap Signature and you can add or remove signatures (signature directly on your iPhone screen), or choose a previous signature to place on the document.
Send effects with your messages
Want to add some impact to your text messages? You may have noticed that some messages (like Happy Birthday) automatically add special effects to them. well you can do not know that you can add these effects to any message.
This only works if you send an iMessage (blue bubbles), not an SMS (green bubbles). Type your message, then long press the send button. At the top, switch between bubble effects and screen effects.
Simply select the effect you want and send, and boom!
Put a call on hold
Everyone knows you can mute a call, but did you know you can also put a call on hold?
When you’re on a call on your iPhone, just tap and hold the mute button for a few seconds until it changes for hold.
What is the difference? In silent mode, you can hear the person on the other side of the call, but they can’t hear you – you literally mute your microphone. Hold ensures that neither side of the call can hear each other.
Download the missing manual
Your iPhone may not come with an instruction manual in the box, but it does. Is have a! Apple maintains an iPhone user guide on the web. It has a nice search function, a well-organized table of contents, and the instructions are simple, clear, and linked together. If you’d rather have something you can read at your leisure offline, grab the iPhone User Guide from Apple Books. It’s free, of course.
You might think you don’t need to read the manual after all these years, but even if you’re a seasoned iPhone veteran, you’ll be surprised at all the new things you can learn from it.