- iPhones have for long been lauded for being easy to pick up and use.
- But lately, Apple has been introducing new features to iOS to help users customize their devices and get the most out of them.
- We’ve curated a list of a few such iPhone features that you should start using right away.
iPhone is lauded by many for being easy to pick up and use. While this isn’t a bad thing at all, it often carries a negative connotation, which implies that its operating system offers fewer features and customization options than Android.
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Top iPhone Features You Must Know
Lately, Apple seems to be behind changing this notion about iOS. And this is evident with its recent iOS releases that introduce plenty of new features and customization options, which seem more focussed on letting users customize their devices to their liking. If you’ve been a long-time iPhone user, chances are you’re familiar with many of these new features and probably follow up on new ones as they come out.
However, if you aren’t or you’ve recently switched from Android to iOS, you may not find them immediately apparent. To simplify this and help you make the most out of your iPhone, here are some of the top iPhone features you should know about and start using right away.
1. Tap Your iPhone to Change Its Wallpaper
Back Tap is an accessibility feature introduced in iOS 14. It allows you to tap—double-tap or triple-tap—the back of your iPhone to perform a range of operations.
For instance, you can use it to lock the screen, bring up the app switcher, turn on the flashlight, or even run Shortcuts. It’s this ability to run Shortcuts that we can use to run our Shortcut that automatically finds a new wallpaper and sets it as your iPhone’s wallpaper every time you double-tap or triple-tap the back of your iPhone.
We’ve got a separate how-to post dedicated to creating this Shortcut and assigning it to Back Tap, which you can check out here.
2. Cut, Copy, and Paste Text Using Gestures
With iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, Apple introduced three-finger gestures that make text manipulation on iPhones and iPads easier than ever. These include:
- Copy: three-finger pinch in
- Cut: three-finger double pinch
- Paste: three-finger pinch out
- Undo: three-finger swipe left
- Redo: three-finger swipe right
- Shortcut menu: three-finger single tap
When you perform any of these gestures, it shows up in a confirmation box on the top to inform you about the action you just carried out.
3. Use Text Replacement to Enter Text Quickly
Text replacement is a handy iOS and macOS feature that lets you enter a word or phrase by typing just a few of its characters. You can think of it as text expansion, wherein you enter a trigger keyword that expands it into its extended version.
For example, you can set up a text replacement for “Happy Birthday” with “hb“, after which, every time you type “hb” and hit space, it will expand into “Happy Birthday“.
Of course, this is just one example, and you can set up text replacements for various other use-cases. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Open iPhone Settings.
- Go to General > Keyboard.
- Click on Text Replacement and hit the plus (+) icon on the top right corner.
- Enter the phrase in the Phrase text field.
- Tap on the text field beside Shortcut and add a trigger.
- Hit Save.
4. Quickly Search for Anything on Your iPhone
Similar to the Spotlight Search on Mac, Apple also offers equivalent search functionality, called Search, on its iPhones and iPads, which makes finding items on your device and the internet much easier. Here’s how to use it:
- Swipe down from the middle of the Home Screen.
- Tap on the Search field and enter your search query.
- Search will start showing results as you type in your query. If you want to see more results, click on Show More, or click on a result to open it.
In addition to letting you search things manually, Search also offers Siri Suggestions, which are basically app and action suggestions that your iPhone suggests to you based on your usage.
If you want to control what appears in Search, head over to Settings > Siri & Search and enable/disable the options against various Search options and suggestions.
5. Scan a Document Natively
Scanning a document is a handy and efficient way of digitizing a physical document. Although the App Store is filled with all kinds of document scanning apps, if you’re concerned about privacy—and don’t feel safe scanning your confidential documents on these apps—you can use Apple’s built-in document scanner on your iPhone.
It’s hidden under the Notes app on the iPhone and pretty easy to use. Here are the steps to use it:
- Open the Notes app.
- Create a new note by tapping on the plus (+) button, or tap on an existing note to open it.
- Hit the camera button and select Scan Documents.
- Lay your document on a flat surface and point your camera to it, ensuring it’s properly positioned in the view.
- Hold on for a few seconds, and the app will automatically scan the document. If it doesn’t, hit the shutter button at the bottom.
- Once the document is scanned, click on the Save button to save it.
- To rescan it, click on Retake.
Notes will automatically save your scanned document inside the open note. If you wish to annotate it, tap on it and use the markup tools accordingly. Besides, Apple also lets you save it as a PDF on your local storage or iCloud, should you ever need to do it.
6. Type Faster With Slide-to-Type
With iOS 13, Apple finally introduced the much-requested slide-to-type feature on its keyboard, so users no longer need to rely on third-party keyboard apps to get it on their iPhones. Of course, the accuracy isn’t close to what you get on something like the Gboard or the SwiftKey keyboards, but it’s still pretty decent.
Slide-to-type should be enabled by default on your iPhone. To verify this, go to Settings > General > Keyboard, and make sure the Slide to Type option is enabled there. Also, if you wish to delete the entire slide-to-type word at once, turn on Delete Slide-to-Type by Word.
Now, to enter a word, simply swipe your fingers across the letters on your keyboard, and it should register them and output the word on your screen.
7. Silence Unknown Calls
Starting iOS 13, you can silence unknown callers on your iPhone to avoid getting calls from people you don’t know or don’t have in your contacts. If you receive lots of calls from unknown numbers in a day, this feature ensures you’re not bothered by those calls.
Follow these steps to set it up:
- Open Settings.
- Click on Phone and select Silence Unknown Callers.
- Toggle on the switch for Silence Unknown Callers.
However, note that calls from numbers you’ve exchanged text messages with or received in your email will still come through.
8. Quickly Shazam a Song
Soon after Apple acquired Shazam, it added a Control Center action for Shazam to help you quickly Shazam a song. So now, you no longer have to go into the app to identify a song.
For this, make sure you’ve added the Shazam action in the Control Center. You can do this by going into Settings > Control Center and tapping on the plus (+) button next to Music Recognition.
Once done, the next time you want to identify a song, bring up the Control Center and tap on the Shazam icon button. After it returns the song, you can then play it on Apple Music or Spotify or simply add it to your playlist. Heck, you don’t even need to ask “What song is this, Siri?“. Just tap and know.
9. Use Live Text to Read Text in Images
iPhones always required a third-party app for object recognition. But with iOS 15, Apple finally brings a built-in OCR reader to its Camera and Photos app that eliminates the need for such apps.
Called Live Text, the feature allows you to recognize text in photos and lets you perform various operations with/on it across various apps. It’s disabled by default, so you need to enable it first, which you can do using these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Tap on General > Language & Region.
- Toggle on the button for Live Text.
Once enabled, open the Camera app and point it to the text you want to use. Hit the Live Text icon on the bottom right of the camera app, and it will extract the text, which you can then copy or share, look it up on the internet, or translate it to another language.
Similarly, if you already have a picture that contains the text you want to reuse, go into the Photos app and open that picture. Press and hold on to the text you want to extract to select it. And then, click on the appropriate action in the action menu to perform it on that text.
10. Use Your iPhone as a Magnifying Glass
A built-in magnifier is another hidden feature on the iPhone that not many users know about or use. It’s essentially an Accessibility that lets you zoom in on things using your camera.
While Apple originally required you to enable the feature from the Accessibility settings, starting with iOS 14, Magnifier is now a standalone app, which you can launch just like any other app. Or, if you want quick access to it—or wish to access it from the Lock Screen too—you can add it to your Control Center.
Once it’s up, use the slider to adjust the zoom level. If it’s dark, you can turn on the flash or increase the brightness. Similarly, there’s an option to boost contrast and apply effects to focus better on the object in your viewfinder.
To capture the image, tap on the shutter button. Hit the share icon on the top and select Save Image to save it to Photos.
11. Limit Being Tracked by Advertisers
Apple uses ad tracking to serve you relevant search ads based on what you read and lookup on Apple News and App Store. While Apple says it doesn’t access data from other apps, if you feel paranoid about this or don’t want the company to access your usage behavior—even on apps like Apple News and App Store—you can turn off personalized ads to limit being tracked.
For this, open Settings and go to Privacy. Scroll down and select Apple Advertising, and toggle off the button for Personalized Ads on the following screen.
12. Share Experiences in FaceTime Calls With SharePlay
With the iOS 15 update, Apple has added a bunch of new features to FaaceTime. One such feature is SharePlay, which gives you the ability to share the screen’s contents while you’re on a FaceTime call, so you and all other participants can enjoy movies, browse the internet, or do anything else on your device together. And the best part is that participants can join in from any device, be it an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Here’s how to use Shareplay on your iPhone:
- Open FaceTime.
- Click on the New FaceTime button to start a new call. Alternatively, tap on any existing contact or group to start a recent FaceTime call.
- Once the call is connected, tap on the SharePlay button (the last option in the FaceTime dropdown banner).
- Click on Share My Screen.
FaceTime will now start sharing your iPhone’s screen. Swipe up from the bottom to go to the Home Screen and navigate your way to the app you want to share with the participants on the call.
13. Use a Private Wi-Fi Address
Like most devices that communicate over the internet, iPhones also use a MAC address (also called a Wi-Fi address in the case of iPhones). It’s a 12-digit alphanumeric address that helps networks authenticate the device and allow it to communicate with other devices on that network.
However, since each iPhone has a unique MAC address, it can be used to track it online. To limit this, Apple has a new privacy feature in iOS 15 called Private Wi-Fi address, which randomizes your MAC address for each network as it connects to them.
Here are the steps to enable a private Wi-Fi address for a network:
- Open iPhone Settings.
- Click on Wi-Fi and tap on the i button next to the SSID (Wi-Fi name) on which you want to use a private Wi-Fi address.
- Scroll down and toggle on the button beside Private Wi-Fi Address.
- When prompted, hit Continue.
Wait for a while until your iPhone reconnects to this Wi-Fi network, and you should have a private Wi-Fi address for it.
14. Limit Distractions Using Focus
Focus is a brand new feature in iOS 15 that helps you focus on your tasks better by minimizing distractions from various apps on your iPhone. Apple offers a bunch of preset Focus modes to help you get started, which you can either modify or use as is. However, if you wish to set up a new Focus mode from scratch, you have the option to do so as well.
To set a Focus mode, open Settings and click on Focus. Then, tap on one of the existing Focus modes and toggle on the switch next to their name on the following screen. Alternatively, you can also add the Focus control in Control Center and use it to enable Focus.
If you’d like to set up a new Focus mode, we’ve got you covered in our detailed Focus Mode guide.
15. Schedule a Notification Summary
Notifications on iOS 15 are another element that gets a major overhaul. Among the features that improve the notification experience on the iPhone is notification summary, which lets you schedule a delivery time for all your unnecessary notifications, so you aren’t distracted by them throughout the day but can still catch up on them.
Following are the steps to schedule a notification summary on your iPhone:
- Launch the Settings apps and go to Notifications.
- Click on Scheduled Summary and toggle on the switch next to Scheduled Summary on the next screen.
- Under APPS IN SUMMARY, toggle on the switch next to apps whose notifications you want to include in your notification summary.
- Under SCHEDULE, tap on the timer beside 1st Summary to set a schedule for your summary. If you want to add one more schedule, click on the green plus (+) button under SCHEDULE and set a time for it.
16. Group Tabs in Safari
Tab Groups is a new Safari feature that lets you group relevant browser tabs into separate groups to keep them organized. This not only keeps your browser organized but also ensures that only relevant tabs are open at once and, hence, improves your overall browsing experience in Safari.
Here are the steps to create a tab group in Safari:
- Launch Safari.
- Tap on the tabs button at the bottom right and click on X Tabs, where X is the number of tabs you have open in Safari.
- On the Tab Groups window, click on New Empty Tab Group.
- Give a name to this tab group on the New Tab Group prompt and hit Save.
Safari will now put all your tabs in a tab group, which you can open or close just like regular tabs. In addition, you can also rename the tab group by swiping left on it, clicking Edit,, and entering the new name.
We’ve covered more functions of Tab Groups in our detailed Safari Tab Groups post, which can help you use it more effectively.
17. Add Widgets to Your Home Screen
One of the noteworthy changes introduced in iOS 14 is the addition of widgets, which you can add to your iPhone’s Home Screen to view information at a glance or perform certain operations, depending on the app.
Here are the steps to add a widget on your Home Screen:
- Long press on any Home Screen page until the icons start jiggling.
- Click on the plus (+) icon on the top left and search for a widget on the following screen.
- When you’ve found the widget, tap on it to view all the available widget options. Select the one according to your preference and hit the Add Widget button to add it.
When you add a widget for the first time, some widgets may ask you to configure some of its options, which you can do by simply tapping on it and selecting the desired options on the following prompts.
If you wish to move a widget around, tap and hold it and drag it around the screen, just like you do with apps. Moreover, you can also create a widget stack—with up to 10 widgets—to use the screen estate efficiently.
For doing this, use the same steps as above to add widgets to your Home Screen. Once you’ve populated the page with all the widgets you want in a stack, click-drag them on top of a widget on the Home Screen to stack them.
Now, every time you need to access all your widgets in the stack, scroll up or down on the widget stack to reveal them. Check out our guide on Widgets to learn more.
18. Use Shortcuts to Automate Trivial Actions
Shortcuts is one of the best additions to iPhones in a while. It’s an automation app that lets you automate various iOS operations on your iPhone, so you don’t have to go about doing them manually.
In fact, not just that, Shortcuts also lets you do some really cool things, like, for instance, automatically changing your wallpaper, resizing images, stitching images, and more.
We’ve covered Shortcuts and all the various things it can help you with in detail, which you can check out on this page.
19. Drag and Drop Items
Apple has been offering the drag-and-drop functionality on iPads for a while, and with the release of iOS 15, it has now extended the feature to iPhones as well, although with a slightly different implementation.
As a result, if you have to move items (media, text, files, etc.) between apps, you can simply drag them from one app and drop them into another. Or do it inside the same app.
To use this feature, click and hold on an item you wish to move until it detaches itself from the background. Then, while still holding it with one finger, use another finger to navigate to the app where you want to drop the item and let go of it to leave it there.
20. Rearrange Multiple Apps At Once
To simplify the user experience and make it easier for users to arrange apps on their Home Screen, Apple now finally lets you select multiple apps at once and move them between pages. This saves you the hassle of moving apps individually—which used to be quite a tedious task—and also enables you to create folders faster.
To rearrange multiple apps, tap and hold on to an app until it starts jiggling and slightly drags it away from its position. Then, while keeping it held down, use another finger to tap on other apps you want to move to select them.
Once selected, use the other finger to scroll to the page where you want to move them and let go of the finger holding the apps. To create a folder with this selection, leave one app out of the selection initially and drop the other apps on it. After this, give a name to this folder, and you’ll have a new folder.
Summary: Unlock the Full Potential of Your iPhone
Knowing how to use various iPhone features enables you to use your device to its full potential, so you can use it for more than just calling and text messaging. Listed above are some of the best iPhone features you must start using to get the most out of your iPhone.