21 ‘Must Know’ Tips for Your iPhone (and iPad)

Updated and Amended – January 2016

It’s not all about iCloud you know!

We do strive to cover iCloud in depth (in the guide here and in lots of detailed posts here on iCloud Login), but we are also committed to covering essential information about how you can use your Apple devices – your iPad and iPhone.

We have a premium newsletter at iExpert News where we have a growing number of very in-depth ‘how to’ articles and detailed tips to help you learn how to get more out of your iPhone and iPad. Those posts are generally step by step instruction so that any iPhone or iPad owner can rid themselves of issues with using their device, learn more and get more out of their Apple kit on a day to day basis.

But, we also know that there are quick wins where we can all learn simple tips quickly that can make small but important changes in how we use our devices.

So, in this article I’ve tracked down 21 brilliant and smart ‘must know’ tips for your iPhone and iPad that will leave all of us knowing more.

Let’s get started.

1. Charge your iPhone Quicker

There’s a lot of stuff written about the iPhone battery (from us included!) – lots about how to make the battery last longer but also plenty about how to make it charge faster.

The three main pieces of advice that you’ll hear are to switch off your iPhone to charge it faster, to flick on Airplane mode and to use an iPad charger.

And all three are true – to a degree – but these claims are also a little misleading.

Here’s the short version (for a lot more on this check out our definitive battery guide here):

Switching off your device or flicking to Airplane mode does speed up battery charging a little, but probably not as much as some ‘experts’ would have you believe. The reason that this works is simply because when switched off your device cannot use any power! So, with the antenna off and no bright screen using power the charging process doesn’t compete with power being used.

This electrical benefit is, however, minimal so the advantage to switching off to charge is small. Perhaps the main benefit is that if your iPhone is switched off you can’t use it so you aren’t responsible for any power drain.

Switching to Airplane mode is an even lesser gain but as it switches off the antenna it will charge a tiny bit quicker.

A much better improvement in charging speed comes from using a higher rated charger (such as an iPad charger) but only the later iPhones (iPhone 6 onwards) can benefit from this since the charging voltage is controlled by the iPhone, not the charger. It’s all down to the power the iPhone can draw from the charger. These later devices are able to draw the full 2.1 Amps that an iPad charger delivers so they can charge twice as fast using the iPad charger as the standard iPhone charger.

However, using an iPad charger with an iPhone 5 or older will have no improvement since the older devices simply cannot draw the higher charge – they are limited to the 1 Amp of the iPhone charger.

Lastly, charging from the USB of a computer is half the speed of an iPhone charger as it outputs at 0.5 Amps.

So, if you have an iPhone 6 or later, use an iPad charger if you can, and avoid using a USB port if possible. Switching off or Airplane mode will help – just a little!


2. Increase Text Size

Make text easier to read by going to Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size

This applies to all Apple native apps and any third party apps that use Apple’s ‘Dynamic Text’ – which isn’t all of them!

ios9 text size

3. Save Google Maps Offline

There is a HUGE problem with using your iPhone as a Sat-Nav using the native Apple Map s app.

It still cannot download maps so when you end up somewhere with no wi-Fi or 3g / 4G you will probably lose your mapping. Apple Maps can ‘cache’ the maps that you have on screen whilst you have a connection but once you go off that section of a  amp and are out of range of a connection – you’re stuffed!

Not so with Google Maps.

Google Maps allows you to save maps in Google Maps offline before you venture anywhere without a connection. That also means that you can download maps before going abroad, which will mean you won’t get scary overseas data roaming bills !

When a map has been saved to your iPhone (or iPad) for offline use, the GPS will still almost always work (as long as it can see the sky!) even when your other connections have no way to connect.. So the downloaded map in Google Maps will get you off a mountain or through a foreign city on GPS and the saved map alone.

How do you do it?

It’s simple.

Open the Google Maps app and just search for the location you want or drop a pin on the map by touching it. This will give you a bar at the bottom of the screen with a place name.

Next, tap on the place name at the bottom of the screen, which will bring up a place information screen. At the top right, click the three vertical dots. This will open a box at the foot of the screen in which you’ll see ‘Save offline map’.

offline google maps iphone

Click that and the screen will revert to the map and ask if you want to ‘Save this map?’. Pinch and zoom in or out to get the map area that you want.

Click ‘Download’ at the bottom right of the screen. You’ll be asked to name the map and hit ‘Save’.

To find this and all other downloaded maps later, open the Google Maps app, hit the three bar menu at the top left of the screen and click ‘Your places’. Scroll down to the section titled ‘Offline Maps’. Do not be confused by ‘Saved Places’ – those are simply places saved that are of interest. They will open a map but only when you’re online and connected so that the app can pull in the map.

google maps download iphone

Click on an ‘Offline map’ when you’re not connected to the internet and you’ll still be able to use it with GPS (Note that you won’t get directions as these require a connection – so it’s like going back to an old school map except it shows your location on the map).

That’s it – a crucial but often overlooked way to use Google Maps.

4. Send a Voice Message in Messages

Ever since iOS8, you’ve been able to send a voice message from right within the Messages app – and there’s plenty of occasions where that can be a lot easier than typing something out.

Open Messages and simply tap and hold the microphone icon at the right hand end of the message area. Once you’ve finished recording your audio message and let go of the red record button, you get a new two button option with an ‘up’ arrow and a ‘play’ button.

Use the play button to review and listen to the message before you send it. If you don’t want to send it, delete it by clicking the ‘x’ at the left hand side of the waveform used to show the audio recording (it’s obvious!). If you’re happy and want to send it, simply click the ‘up’ arrow or swipe that button area upwards. Your voice clip will be sent in Messages.

At the other end, the receiver simply clicks play to listen.

send voice clip in iphone messages

5. Block Annoying Callers

You can block messages and calls from people who annoy you!

Go to Settings > Phone > Blocked and click ‘Add New’. All the numbers of that contact will be blocked!

These can be unblocked in the same screen. You can also block recent callers. Just go to the list of ‘Recents’ in Phone, click the ‘i’ and scroll down to ‘Block this Caller’. Sorted.

block caller ios9

6. Flash Alerts

Get your phone to flash when you get a text.

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility then scroll down to ‘Hearing’ and you can select ‘LED Flash for Alerts’ to make an incoming call light up your flash. This is not especially good for your battery life!

flash alert iphone

7. See The Time of Your Messages

It can be annoying to see a whole series of your own messages and not be able to tell when exactly you sent them.

Did I ask that question an hour ago or was it this morning? Why haven’t they got back to me!?

Well, although it’s not very obvious, finding the ‘time stamp for every message is simple.

Just place your fingers on the messages and slide them left to reveal the time data.

time stamp iphone message

8. Use the Spirit Level

There’s a Spirit Level in the built in Compass – which you can use to hang pictures or check if your table is level – surprisingly handy!

In iOS, since iOS 7, there’s been a very handy Spirit level as the second screen of the Compass app. To access it, simply swipe right from the Compass screen.

It works vertically or horizontally and is very obvious and simple to use and it’s accurate too!

And, if you’ve ‘hidden’ the Compass app in a folder somewhere and can’t find it, just use the search feature by pulling down with a single figure on the Home Screen and searching for ‘compass.’

Here’s a great little video to show you what it can do:

9. Improve Siri’s Pronunciation Skills

This is a really brilliant little tip that you simply wouldn’t know was there unless you’d stumbled across this older video. It says it’s for iOS7 but the method is still exactly the same.

I urge you to try this out.

Tell Siri how to pronounce things by saying “Siri, that’s not how you pronounce that”. Poor Siri will then ask you to say the word again so it can learn the correct pronunciation.

You’ll get three Siri options and you can choose the best effort. Really quite great if you have friends with unpronounceable names or similarly trick words you’d like Siri to get right!

The video has a perfect run through off how this works.

10. Quit Apps Quickly

I think almost everyone will know this, but it’s such an essential tip that I’ve included it for those that have somehow managed to not find out about it.

To close or ‘force quit’ apps that are open or running in the background, you need to open the ‘Fast App Switcher’ view. That’s a fancy name for the carousel of apps that you get when you double click on the ‘Home’ button.

Then you can simply flick up on an app or as many as three at a time to close them.

I used to close a lot of apps all the time this way but in iOS9 I confess that I let a lot more apps run in the background. I do still force quit those that I feel use a lot of battery – especially Facebook and the Messenger app!

fast app switch closer

11. Special Characters!

Whenever you’re in the Apple keyboard screen – so when replying to a message or an email there’s a whole load of special characters that you can get to by holding down a key for some of the symbols. Some of these are symbols that you can’t access any other way. And most are accessible on the number screen of the keyboard layout.

Here’s an example for the grammar nerds!

In the number section of the keyboard, hold down the dash and you’ll be offered four options instead of the main one displayed (known as the ’em-dash’) Grammar nerds will know that these different length of dashes have some different proper uses – I have no idea what they are – sorry!

This additional character access is available on lots of the characters in this part of the keyboard – try the keys to see what you can find. Exmaples are multiple options on the ‘£’ or ‘$’ key, a triple dot option on the full stop key and a lot more.

I’m a particular fan of the double arrows (both directions!) that you’ll find on the speech marks key (“).

 iphone special characters keyboard

12. Prevent ALL In-App Purchases!

In-App purchases are a massive problem for some – parents and those that are easily misled by apps are especially at risk.

An in-app purchase is anything in an app that requires payment to access. Many apps have these add-on purchases for more functions and often you’ll want to be able to buy them to make an app better.

The issue arises because in-app purchases are often just a single click to buy. As they are connected to your Apple ID and that is connected to the credit or debit card you have filed at the App Store it’s very easy to buy an In-App purchase.

BUT…there’s a lot of situations where they can rack up huge bills without you knowing.

In many games the in-app purchase of ‘coins’ or ‘tokens’ can look to a child like something in the game that won’t cost real money, and often in other apps you can end up subscribing for a monthly service without realising.

To switch off all access to in-app purchase with a single button you have to go deep into a menu called Restrictions’, but then it’s just a single flick.

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions (create and enter a four digit passcode twice), scroll down and toggle ‘off’ ‘In-App Purchases.

Don’t forget this passcode to access ‘Restrictions’ – it can be different to the passcode you use for your device, but you’ll need it to get back in to this area.

All done – no more nasty bill surprises for you!

prevent in app purchases iphone

13. Field Test your Signal Strength!

This fun just because you feel like a bit of a secret agent getting your iPhone to show you a bunch of ‘secret’ code stuff.

But it also has its use if you’re often in a location and can’t understand why you have such a poor signal.

Normally all you’ll see in the very top left of your iPhone screen are up to four dots or bars that will tell you the strength of the signal you’re receiving.

But if you use the ‘Field Test – a bit of Apple’s own internal trickery! – you can enter a secret world of data and this will end up showing you a number for the signal strength of your device. The range displayed is from ‘-40’ to ‘-130’. The closer to zero, the stronger the signal. So-40 would be the strongest signal you can get and -130 would be no signal.

To access the  Field Test Mode, open the Phone app and enter the number *3001#12345#* – complete with asterisks and hash. Then press call and the Field Test will open.

This will open up the screen shown to the right below which is a load of technical data that no-one understands….

But, flick back to ‘Phone’ by clicking ‘Back to Phone’ at the top left and you’ll momentarily see the signal strength shown as the number before it reverts to the dots or bars.

Now you know how strong the signal you’re receiving is.

You can store the number required for Field Test by creating a new contact (click the blue ‘+’ to the left of the number) or there is a way to make the change semi-permanent, set out in this article here.

field test iphone

14. Access Core Functions Anytime

This is another of those tips that almost everyone will know, so I’ll keep it short.

You can access ‘Control Center’ from almost any screen, including in most apps and crucially from the ‘Lock Screen’, simply by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

This opens up ‘Control Center’, where you can switch on or off core functions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, Do Not Disturb and Orientation Lock.

From here you can quickly also access the torch, the timer function of the device’s clock, calculator and camera, a screen brightness slider, and in some circumstances music or YouTube controls (if you’ve recently been using these).

If you didn’t know all about Control Center, it can radically change how you use your iPhone or iPad. If you did, sorry for including this tip – you can move along to the next one!

control center lock screen iphone

15. Take a Picture Using a Volume Button or Your Headphones

You might have heard this one before, but I’ve put it in because it’s one thing to know a tip like this, but it’s another to use it!

And, in fact, there’s two ways to take a picture (other than using the shutter button on screen in the Camera app) that we all should use.

So, firstly when you’re using the native Camera app (and some third party camera apps too), you can simply use either of the volume buttons on the side of your camera to fire the shutter – the ‘+’ or the ‘-‘. That simple. This has a number of advantages such as balancing the camera better, holding it steady and not contorting your finger to hit the on-screen button!

In addition, if you have a pair of headphones that have a volume control on the wire, the same thing works, but this time just by clicking either of the volume controls on the headphone wire.

16. Remind Me Later

If you receive a phone call and can’t or don’t want to answer it at that moment there are two great options that your iPhone will offer from the Lock Screen.

You’ll see the words ‘Remind Me’ on the bottom left of the screen just above the swipe to answer bar.

They mean exactly what they say.

You can tap that text and you’ll be given three or four options to remind you to return the call – based on either time or location.

‘When I get home’ and ‘When I get to work’ depend on you having listed these two locations in your device’s Contacts properly and on having Location Services enabled. If you do, as most of us do, when you get to that location, your iPhone will ping you and remind you to make the return call.

The ‘When I leave’ option will also usually be present if your device can adequately locate your position and will ping you when you move a reasonable distance away from that location.

The last option is purely time based and will remind you with a ping in an hour. Use this if you know you’ll be free by then.

To select any of the options, simply tap and the call will be sent to voicemail and your reminder will be set.

remind me iphone call

17. Reply With Message

Much the same as the ‘Remind Me Later’ option above, you can reply to a call that you can’t take with a text message – and, unlike the former, you can set these up yourself. There are three default options in your iPhone and three is all you can have, but each can be edited to your own tastes.

By default, the options are:

  • “Sorry, I can’t talk right now”
  • “I’m on my way”; and
  • “Can I call you later?”

There’s also a ‘Custom’ option which you can tap to open and type a quick message at the time.

To customise the Apple written default messages go to Settings > Phone > Respond With Text. As we said, you can’t have more than three, but you can amend any of the existing ones in that section. To do so, simply tap the one you want to lose and type over the default message. If you’ve already done that, you’ll have the option to delete and you’ll go back to the original Apple default and you can stick with that or type over a new message.

You’re all set just to hit ‘Message’ on the Lock Screen when you receive a call you can’t take. Your prepared options will pop up. Tap one and it’s sent immediately.

As we pointed out, for this function to work you need to ensure that your iPhone knows who you are and your home and work locations.

To make sure you have this sorted, got to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Scroll down to ‘Contacts’ and ensure that your name is displayed in the line that says ‘My Info. If not, click it and search for yourself in ‘Contacts’ and select. When your iPhone has been properly set up to recognise you as the owner you’ll see ‘me’ on the right hand side of your name if you search for yourself in Contacts.

Obviously, you then need to make sure that you’ve entered a full address for Home and Work in your Contacts entry.

iphone reply with message

18. Set up ‘Medical ID’ Properly

You’ll almost certainly know that you (or anyone) can pick up your iPhone when it’s on the Lock Screen, swipe left and hit the text ‘Emergency’ so that you or they can use your iPhone to quickly call the emergency services.

This is a great and safety critical tool but it will only allow you to call the nationally recognised emergency services number.

However, you can add a lot more information to that ‘Emergency Only’ screen by setting up ‘Medical ID’ – which will then be available to anyone who needs it if you’re in an accident or need urgent attention.

medical id iphone emergency

Indeed, in many countries, the first responders are well aware of this function and will look for it on your iPhone in an emergency.

At its most basic, you can add additional numbers that are available from the Lock Screen – perhaps a doctor, or spouse.

But you can also add all sorts of relevant data about your age, blood type and any medical conditions.

This is done in the ‘Health’ app.

The easiest way to find and open it is to search. Pull down on any screen with one finger and type ‘Health’ in the search bar. Many of us have moved the Health app icon so otherwise it can be hard to find!

Open the app and tap ‘Medical ID’ on the bottom right of the screen and tap ‘Edit’ on the top right.

There you can now enter several ’emergency contact’ names and numbers – pulled from your Contacts, – your age and lots of other medical information.

Make sure that under ‘Emergency Access’ you have ‘Show When Locked’ toggled on (green).

Click ‘Done’ and then all this information will be available to anyone clicking ‘Medical ID’ at the bottom left of the emergency screen – obviously a sensible thing for all of us to set up just in case. And it can be of enormous help to the Emergency Services if you have specific conditions of which they need to be aware.

iphone medical id set up

19. Quick Search Functions

This is a real favorite of mine – something that I know about but that I don’t use enough. I’m trying to remind myself to use it more!

It’s simple. When you need to get a quick answer to a range of things, just go to the search bar (single finger pull down or swipe left from the Home Screen) and start typing what you need to know.

Our two examples below are typing ‘weather’ which will give you the forecast for where you are without opening an app, and entering a math sum which will give you the answer without using the calculator.

It’s great to know that these two options are there but this quick search function may well surprise you with other shortcuts. Let us know what else you discover in the comments below.

quick search functions ipho

20. Share a Voicemail

It seems odd that we haven’t been able to do this before, but since iOS9 you can share a Voicemail with any service that supports the audio file type (which is called .m4a).

That means that you can now send it to someone in a message or an email, save it to the Voice Memo app, save it to a Note, or indeed to lots of other apps such as Evernote or Dropbox.

You’ll know that your network provider doesn’t let you keep voicemails forever and clears them out after a certain time so if you have something sentimental (or incriminating!) that you want to keep, you now have the answer.

Got to Phone > Voicemail and click on the voicemail that you want to share or save. Tap on the share button (the square with the upward arrow) and you’ll see the usual options for Messages, Mail and anything else that can handle the voicemail clip. Tap on the one you want and share or save. When saving to Voice Memos, there’s no ‘Save’ button. As soon as you choose that after the share button it will automatically be saved in your Voice Memos.


21. Take Screen Shots!

If you’re wondering how we and all those other iP{hone and iPad websites get all the screenshots of what’s on the iPhone screen – it’s simple.

Just hit the Home and Sleep / Wake buttons at the same time. The photo of exactly what’s on screen will save to your Camera Roll.

take sc

Your Turn…

I’ve really enjoyed putting this list together and it’s taught me a fair few tricks that I had never seen and reminded me about a lot more that I ought to make more of a habit.

I heard a statistic today that 50% of adults in the US will use their smartphone for more than 2 hours every day – that’s a lot!

So, anything that makes a task quicker or better, is welcome.

I’d love to hear your favourite hidden tip or trick for the iPad or iPhone – please leave me a comment below with anything you think we all should know.

January 13, 2016

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