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11 Things you didn’t know about your iPhone

If you’re like most of us, you saw those elegant iPhone ads featuring apps you knew you could use and jumped on the Apple cart faster than you could download Tweetbot. But in true Apple style, there are a multitude of really useful built-in features that aren’t necessarily covered in the phone’s instructions or on the commercials.

iPhone apps
iPhone tips

“Secret” features
in iOS 5

If you’re like most of us, you saw those elegant iPhone ads featuring apps you knew you could use and jumped on the Apple cart faster than you could download Tweetbot. But in true Apple style, there’s a multitude of really useful built-in features that aren’t necessarily covered in the phone’s instructions or on the commercials.

As big an improvement as your iPhone made on your life when you got it, learning these tips will make your smartphone an even bigger contributor to your productivity (and fun!).

Shake, shake, shake!

The iPhone’s built-in accelerometer has led to a number of fun party-trick apps. Who doesn’t love showing their friends how they can pour a virtual beer or wave a virtual lighter that really moves as you sway to the music? Those are fun, but the primary reason the accelerometer is included is actually practical. Most notably, it allows your screen to change from portrait to landscape mode just by turning the phone.


While a number of you may have already figured out this little tip, we thought we’d include it for the iPhone newbies out there (yes, they do exist). It also has an interesting effect on built-in iPhone features. If you’re using your calculator app, rotating landscape mode doesn’t make the buttons bigger or farther apart like it does in other apps — it transforms it into a scientific calculator for more complex mathematical computations.


Ever get an email or text that sent you into a heated tirade? We all have. But after you come to your senses, the easiest way to erase all evidence of your bad temper is a simple flick of the wrist! You can delete what you just typed by shaking it (rather than holding down the delete key). Just keep shaking until the cover-up is complete!


If you like music during your workout, you know that the wrong song at the wrong time can seriously drag you down. But who can see the screen while jogging? Instead of interrupting the exercise that leads to that increased heart rate, just grab your phone and shake to shuffle!

Check out these customizable iPhone covers >>

Come on, Vogue!

One of the biggest advantages of any smartphone is the readily available camera. Unfortunately, just having the camera with you doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the precious photo you wanted. But your adorable tyke isn’t the only thing you could want a picture of — and as it turns out, the built-in hardware your camera uses is good for more than just pictures!


You’ve probably figured out that in the new iOS, there’s a handy camera button that appears next to the slide-lock that you can press or slide up (depending on your version of iOS) to get instant access to the camera. But once your camera app is open, you don’t have to tap that little button at the bottom of the screen (it’s kind of a pain if you’ve got nails!). You can actually use the volume up button on the side to snap the pic just like a real camera! Doing an impromptu photo shoot? Plug in the headphones that came with your phone and use the volume up button on that to do the same.

Camera on locked screen


Ever wanted to take a picture of what you’re seeing on your iPhone screen? Just press the round home button and the sleep-wake button on top at the same time. A white flash and camera sound will let you know it worked. (You can access them in your Camera Roll in the Photo app.)


The iPhone has amazing built-in accessibility features for the disabled. But these features can be used to enhance everyone’s experience. Feel like blasting your stereo or getting a little vacuuming done while you wait for that important call? You can set your flash to go off for alerts by opening the Settings app, clicking “General” and going into “Accessibility.” Then just turn on “LED Flash for Alerts.”

LED Flash for Alerts.

Play that funky music …

Let’s face it. Half the reason you bought the iPhone was because it handles your music as well as it handles everything else. I mean, seriously — 64 gig? These tips are perfect for the audiophiles out there who still want their music on the go.


Need access to your tunes in a flash? Double-tap the round home button to bring up the music controls without unlocking the screen.


If you’re not a fan of the default menu buttons at the bottom of your Apple Music app (formerly “iPod”), you don’t have to suck it up. Open the app, tap “More,” tap edit, then drag the controls you want to keep readily available to the bottom bar to replace the controls you just don’t use as often.

Configure audio settings

Baby, don’t forget my number

At the end of the day, you got the iPhone because it’s a phone. And it’s got plenty of extra features for that, too. In addition to making the typically elusive three-way call a breeze, these features also help you keep your calls and address book organized.

The iPhone’s visual voicemail is a lifesaver for the mobile executive. But we’ve all regretted that accidental deletion. With the iPhone, delete isn’t the disaster it used to be. To retrieve an inadvertently trashed VM, simply access your deleted messages by scrolling to the bottom of your messages, tap the message you want to save, then click the “Undelete” button in the lower left next to “Clear All” to unseal its fate.

Undelete button


It doesn’t do you any good to have contacts entered into your phone if you still have to dial an extension when the nice computer lady answers. Instead of memorizing all those extensions, add them to your contacts directly. After typing the number (either when creating a new contact or editing an existing one), press the “+*#” key in the bottom left corner of the main keypad. You’ll now see options for “pause” (which creates a comma or series of commas, depending on how long you need it to pause) or “wait” (which creates a semicolon and requires you to press the “Call” button again), then type the extension.

Add extensions


The last phone-related tip comes again from the iPhone’s extensive accessibility features. Many of us keep our ringers turned off for meetings and at other times we don’t want to be disturbed. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need an easy way to tell who’s calling without rudely glancing at your phone. Set up a custom vibration by first turning on “Custom Vibrations” in your accessibility menu under the “General” section of your Settings app. Then you can simply edit your contacts and add the custom vibrations just like you add special ringers. Choose one of Apple’s default vibrations or tap out one of your own!

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