Apple #iPhoneTips – a run down of the best iPhone features

Here at Which? HQ there has been some debate over what exactly is the best ‘hidden’ feature on the Apple iPhone. From creating custom caller vibrations to polarising your phone’s screen, we’ve been through them all.

Below you will find a selection of our favourites, some detail on how to activate them and a picture gallery with useful screen grabs of the features in action.

However, it doesn’t stop there – we have a whole lot more in reserve and will be publishing an additional tip every day until we have run out. Be sure to follow @WhichTech to get the tips first, and any replies using the #iPhoneTips hashtag that are deemed worthy will be added to the list. You can also leave your tips in the ‘Post a Comment’ section below.

For all those Android users out there, we’ll be doing the same with your OS shortly after our return from Mobile World Congress in a few weeks, so be sure to check back then. Oh, and one final caveat, these are for an iPhone 4 running iOS 5.

1) Double tap home button – iDifficulty rating 2/5

One of my personal favourites, double tapping the home button when the phone is unlocked allows you to scroll through all of your open applications. This is great for quickly switching between recently opened apps  as it removes the need to go back to the home screen. You can also shut down apps here by holding down on the app you want to close and tapping on the little red symbol, which is claimed to prolong battery life.

2) Tap and hold keyboard characters – iDifficulty rating 2/5

By tapping and holding certain characters on the text keyboard you can access the most commonly accented letters of the alphabet.  A very useful tip if you are ever inviting someone over for crème brûlée…

This also works with punctuation and combinations of text and puctuation – the best example of this is by tapping and holding the ‘.com’ when entering a URL in Safari, this gives you options to compete the URL with a number of other popular suffixes such as ‘’ and ‘.org’.

3) Screen shot – iDifficulty rating 4/5

Without this feature, the Flickr gallery coming soon to this post would be very bare. By simultaneously pressing the standby button and the home button your iPhone will take a screen shot of the page you happen to be on and save it to your photo gallery. If your timing is slightly out, try holding down the home button then clicking the standby button once, this should give the same screen shot.

4) Fix incorrect auto-corrections – iDifficulty rating 3/5

5) Silence and cancel incoming calls – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Perfect for those awkward moments when you have left your phone on ‘loud’ and it should be on ‘silent’. Press the standby button once and any incoming call will immediately be silenced and the vibrations cancelled. Press it twice and the caller will be sent straight to your voicemail.

6) Create a website shortcut – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

Instead of launching the internet through the Safari app, add a website shortcut to your homescreen to send you straight to that page without any extra navigation needed. Excellent for any frequently visited websites.

Simply find the webpage you want to create a shortcut for, tap on the ‘Go To’ icon (middle touch button on bottom of screen) and then choose ‘Add to Home Screen’. You will then be given the option to rename the page, and when you are ready click ‘Add’. It will now be on your homescreen next to all of your previously saved apps. What’s more, the icon updates with the webpage’s latest content each time you access it.

7) Turn on passcode – simple and complex– iDifficulty rating – 4/5

Passcodes help keep personal details saved on your iPhone secure by locking the phone until the correct code is entered. There are two passcode options to choose from – simple and complex. Simple is a four digit code whereas compex can be made up of any keyboard characters and is more secure.

To activate go into the iPhone Settings and select General, scroll down to Passcode Lock  and when selected you get the option to turn the Simple Passcode on or off (off automatically reverts to complex passcode). Once you have decided, click on Turn Passcode On and then set the code to something you will remember.

You can also select how long the delay is before you need to re-enter the code once on standby. Shorter times are more secure, but a slight delay can save time if you often lock your iPhone and then remember you forgot to do the task you initially unlocked it to do – don’t worry, we’ve all been there!

8) Tap status bar – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Possibly the tip I use most often of all, by tapping the status bar (the bar where the clock is displayed) any page you are on will quickly scroll back to the top. Perfect for returning to the address bar when reading lengthy web pages or returning to the most recent tweet after refreshing.

9) Shortcut to music controls – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

Doubling up your iPhone as an iPod and listening to music on the go is very useful. But did you know there is a handy shortcut to access the Music app?

When the phone is unlocked, double tap the home button and swipe to the right on the dark bar at the bottom of the screen. Here there are buttons to skip to the previous track, next track, play/pause or open the Music app. Swipe to the right again and you can adjust the volume level. You can also access the previous track, next track and play/pause buttons from the lock screen by double tapping the home button.

10) Shift from iMessage to SMS – iDifficulty rating 3/5

11) Personal Hotspot – iDifficulty rating – 4/5

I recently bought a wi-fi-only tablet, perfect for internet use in the house, however without 3G capabilities I would still be without an internet connection on my commute to work…until I found my Personal Hotspot.

Personal Hotspot enables other devices to use the iPhone’s data connection. Activate this in ‘Settings’ and ‘Personal Hotspot’. Once turned on, you can search for your iPhone from other devices as a normal wi-fi connection. Be sure to choose a secure wi-fi password as this needs to be entered on any device wanting to connect to your Personal Hotspot.

As this uses your phone’s data, do keep an eye on how much you have remaining in your plan to avoid going over your quota.

12) Double tap space – iDifficulty rating – 1/5

Want to shave a few seconds off your texting speed? If so this one is for you. When finishing a sentence, double-tap space and the phone will automatically insert a full stop followed by a space and the next letter will be in upper case.

To activate go to ‘Settings’ and then ‘General’, scroll down to ‘Keyboard’ and ensure the field “.” Shortcut is switched on.

13) Prevent unuathorised Siri access – iDifficulty rating 2/5

OK, this one’s for the iPhone 4S exclusively, but it could be quite important, so we’ll include it here. Siri, iPhone’s digital PA, can be accessed when the phone is locked, by default. Here’s how you switch that feature off.

14) Create app folders – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

A nice way to tidy up your homescreen is to arrange your apps into different folders. You can fit up to 12 apps or website shortcuts (see tip 5) into one folder so this helps negate the need to scroll through pages of apps to find the one you are looking for.

To create a folder, tap and hold an app – once it starts wiggling, drag it onto another app which you would like in the same folder. A small black box will appear and when you let go both apps will be grouped together. Generally a sensible folder name is automatically given but you can change this by tapping in the text field.

15) Reduce screen brightness to preserve battery – iDifficulty rating 2/5

Go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Brightness’ and drag the slider to the left. Great when you’re running out of juice. The auto brightness setting will cause your iPhone’s screen to optimise the brightness for the ambient light.

 16) Shortcut to camera – iDifficulty rating – 1/5

Ever wanted to take a snap but by the time you have unlocked your phone and fiddled your way to the camera app the moment has passed? Well, there is a much faster way to access your camera when the phone is locked. Double tap the home button and an image with a camera pops up next to the unlock slide bar. Tap this and it will take you straight to the camera – no unlocking needed. One thing to note is that, as part of the security measures, you will only be able to access pictures taken at that time, not the full camera roll and the ‘Go To’ button is removed.

17) Disable auto-correct – iDifficulty rating 3/5

The iPhone can have an annoying habit of automatically ‘correcting’ perfectly good words. Here’s how you disable it.

18) Tap and Drag – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

While texting or composing an email, if you want to add a number or symbol, instead of tapping the .?123 button try tapping and holding it down instead, followed by dragging your finger to the character required. When you let go, the desired character will be inserted and the keyboard will automatically revert to the Qwerty layout. This also works using the shift key to insert a single letter in upper case.

19) Lock portrait orientation – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

Tired of your iPhone deciding it’s time to switch from portrait to landscape every time you lie down? Well, there is an easy way to lock the screen in portrait to prevent this from happening. Simply double tap the home button when the phone is unlocked, swipe to the right (on the dark multi-tasking bar that appears on the bottom of the screen) and then tap on the far left hand button.

A note will pop up to say portrait orientation locked and, hey presto, landscape view no more. I’m yet to find a way to enable landscape orientation lock so if any of you know how please tell me in the comments box below!

20) Increase font size – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

Ever have difficulty reading the text in your calendar, contacts list, mail, messages or notes? Well, there is a way to increase the font size these apps appear in. Go into ‘Settings’, ‘General’ and then ‘Accessibility’ and tap ‘Large Text’. Here you will find options to increase the text size from 20pt all the way up to 56pt. Be warned, the larger the font you choose, the more scrolling you will have to do to read it.

21) Flashing light on calls – iDifficulty rating – 4/5

Another feature I turned on straight away when I got my iPhone: use your camera flash as an incoming call alert! Hidden in the ‘Accessibility’ folder, accessed through ‘Settings’ > ‘General’ is an option to turn LED Flash for Alerts on. Once activated, every alert you receive, be it phone call, text message or email, your camera light will give a few flashes. I’m now looking forward to a time when it can flash a different colour depending on the alert…

22) Protect your account from children making in-app purchases – iDifficulty rating – 3/5



23) Spotlight Search – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Spotlight search on the iPhone is similar to Spotlight for Macs, and the Search programs and files option on Windows. By tapping once on the home button a field titled ‘Search iPhone’ is given, type the item you are looking for into this box and you will automatically be presented with a number of matching items which you can tap on to take you straight to that piece of content.

You can enable and disable the types of content searched for by going into Settings, General and then Spotlight Search. For example if you disable all of the content apart from Contacts then the phone will only search through your contact list. To make this a little more personal you can prioritise the Spotlight Search results by holding down the three bars to the right of each of the categories and moving it up or down in the list depending on how important it is to you. Spotlight Search can also be accessed by swiping to the right on the home screen.

24) Change your wallpaper – iDifficulty rating – 1/5



 25) Voice Control – iDifficulty rating – 4/5

Not quite as advanced as Siri for the iPhone 4S but Voice Control still has its uses. Hold down the home button for around three seconds and a blue screen titled Voice Control will appear. Wait for the audible tone then speak a command. So, what commands can you use in Voice Control? Here’s a run down of what I have come across followed by the command you need to use, please let me know if I have missed any out!

•       Call a contact – “Call” or “Dial” plus a name saved in your contact list.

•       Call a number – “Call” or “Dial” plus a telephone number

•       FaceTime a contact – “Facetime” plus a name saved in your contact list

•       Play music by album – “Play” plus the name of an album save in your library

•       Play music by artist – “Play” plus the name of an artist save in your library

•       Play music by playlist – “Play” plus the name of a playlist in your library

Be sure to speak clearly and if you have any problems try renaming contacts or a playlist to something unique to prevent Voice Control getting confused.

26) High contrast screen – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

If you prefer higher contrast, it is possible to alter the colour settings on your iPhone so that text appears in white on a black background. Enable this in the Accessibility folder after tapping on Settings and General. There is an option called White on Black, slide this across to ON and your screen colours will change immediately.

27) Scientific calculator – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

I can’t remember needing to use a scientific calculator since being at university, but for those of you who do you can save yourself a bit of money by using the pre-installed iPhone calculator. Simply tap on the Calculator app and instead of holding the phone in portrait turn it 90° and an addition 24 buttons will appear. So you can now find the square root of a number at the tap of a button and use trigonometry as you would on a scientific calculator. NB- The scientific calculator won’t work if you have tip 19) switched on.

28) Hard reboot – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

When all else fails…


29) Zoom, pinch or double tap – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

One disadvantage of browsing the internet on an iPhone is the relatively small screen which makes some text impossible to read. The zoom function helps overcome this problem and there are two ways of going about it.

Most iPhone users are aware of pinch to zoom, where the user drags two fingers apart on the screen to zoom in and drags them together to zoom out. However, this can get quite fiddly if you only have one hand free and it can take a bit of time to get the screen in exactly the spot you want. So, instead of pinch to zoom try the double tap.

All you need to do is double tap on the text or image you would like to zoom in to and the iPhone will automatically centre the screen around that object. Double tap again and the screen will zoom back out.

30) Cut/copy/paste – iDifficulty rating – 4/5

When composing or reviewing texts, emails and notes or even when you are browsing the internet double tap on a word within the selection of text you wish to cut or copy. Wait until it is highlighted in blue and then drag the grab points to extend or shorten the highlighted area. Now tap on cut or copy and the iPhone will store the highlighted text. Open the app you want to paste the copied text into and double tap, you will now be presented with an option to paste.

If you find it difficult to double tap in the right spot to paste try holding you finger down on the screen until the area is magnified. You can now drag your finger until the curser is in the correct place and when you let go you will be prompted with the option to paste.

31) Create custom vibration – iDifficulty rating – 5/5

Vibrating phones for incoming calls has been around for ages, but Apple have taken the vibrate function one step further so you can assign unique vibrations patterns to each of your saved contacts.

To enable this go into Settings, General and then Accessibility, scroll down to Custom Vibrations and slide to ON. You then need to tap on the back arrow in the top left corner of the screen until you reach the main Settings page again. Here, tap on Sounds and scroll down to Vibration Patterns. There are five standard vibration patterns which can be used or you can create a new pattern by tapping on Create New Vibration. Once you have saved a custom pattern you can select it to be the default alert for all incoming calls or assign it to a contact.

To assign it to a contact, find the person you like it assigned to in your Contacts app and tap on Edit. Scroll down to vibration, find the custom pattern you created and tap it so there is a tick next to it. Now, every time that person calls you a unique vibration will be triggered.

32) Identify overhead flights –  iDifficulty rating 4/5

A brilliant tip, but only on the iPhone 4S

33) Switch off ‘Sent from my iPhone’ – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Some love it, others hate it and many recipients just see it as a way for iPhone users to show off – the ‘Sent from my iPhone’ email signature.

When you add an email account to your iPhone it will automatically add this signature to the end of all your emails. I personally keep it switch on, this ensures when I am emailing my colleagues from my phone they know I am on the move and don’t have access to a computer.

But I can completely understand why others want out, luckily there is an easy way to either remove it completely or personalise it. In Settings, scroll down to Mail, Contact, Calendars. There are a number of options in here but the one you are looking for is labelled Signature. Now you can edit the text to say anything you fancy (remembering that it will be added to every email you create regardless of who it is being sent to be it mother, best friend or boss!) or completely remove it my tapping the Clear button.

34) Forward and delete individual text messages – iDifficulty rating –2/5

A simple task that I spent ages trying to figure out when I first got my iPhone. At one point I had even given up hope and was copying text messages and then pasting them in a new text (see tip 30) to my desired contact!

There is however a much simpler method. Once you have selected a conversation in Messages tap the Edit button, a circle should appear next to each message. Select any number of messages by tapping these circles and forward or delete them by using the buttons at the bottom of the screen.

35) Take photo using volume up button – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

When a third party app came along which enabled the volume up button to take photos Apple thought this was such a good idea that they incorporated it into iOS 5. So, instead of having to use the awkward touch screen button to take photos you can now click the considerably more convenient button on the side of your phone.

Better still, if you are using your hands free headphones with remote the volume up button on these also acts as a shutter release.

36) Play slideshow

To create a slideshow of all your images open the Photos app. Now select the photo where you want the slideshow to start tap on the play button next to the rubbish bin down the bottom, select the style of transition and whether you want music to play or not, then tap Start Slideshow. Tap anywhere on the screen to stop the slideshow.

37) Cap locks – double tap shift – iDifficulty rating – 1/5

Everyone knows how to put a single upper case letter into text (tap the shift key), but I have on the odd occasion noticed people going from shift to the required letter repeatedly to spell out full words in upper case. This really is not needed as a simple double tap on the shift key so it turns blue turns Caps Lock on.

38) Go to last saved draft email – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Here’s a tip I only found out only recently. If you have saved a draft email you want to retrieve, instead of accessing it through the Accounts in your Mail app, simply hold down the Compose Message button and you phone will automatically open your last saved draft email… brilliant!

39) Bold/italic/underline – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

A nice way to spruce up emails is to add formatting such as making text appear in bold, italics or underlined. To format a word double tap it so it is highlighted in blue, then tap on the arrow that appears on the floating buttons. Next tap on the BIU button and select which one of the three options you want to perform on that word. You use just one, two or all three options on one word or format a whole sentence by dragging the blue grab bars over the words you want to format.

40) Create photo albums – iDifficulty rating –2/5

A great way to organise photos taken on your iPhone or saved in your Camera Roll is to create albums to group selections of photos in.

To do this go into the Photos app and tap on Edit, you are then given the option to Add. Tap that and enter a name for the new album, select any existing pictures to be added to the album and once done a new folder will appear on main photo page. To add further pictures to the new album go into the Cameral Roll and tap the Go To button in the top right corner, select the photos you want to put in the new album, tap Add To, then Add to Existing Album and tap the album you would like them in.

41) Define text – iDifficulty rating – 1/5

With the iOS 5 update came a new dictionary facility for iPhone users. The majority of apps which support word or text editing (e.g. Notes and Safari) will feature this. To use, simply tap and hold any word you would like defined until the magnifying window pops up, release and select Define from the floating buttons that appear.

42) My Number in contacts list – iDifficulty rating –1/5

If you’re not one to give out your number regularly it’s easy to forget what it is when put on the spot. The quickest way to find it is to go into your contacts through the Phone app and drag down. Above the search bar your own phone number should appear.

43) Swipe to delete text conversations and emails – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

To quickly delete individual emails without having to open them (perfect to get rid of spam) just swipe from left to right on the email when displayed on the Inbox screen, than tap on the red Delete button. This also works for text messages, but be warned, it will delete your whole conversation, not just the latest text from than contact.

44) Photo editing – iDifficulty rating – 4/5

After taking a photo tap on the preview icon at the bottom left of the screen. Tap the Edit button to be presented with a number of editing options.

The first button along the bottom of the screen rotates the image 90°, double tap it to rotate 180° and three taps with rotate it 270°. The next button along is the auto-enhance wand, this is a quick fix option and works well on the go but if you have time to use dedicated software you may get better results.

Next up is the red-eye removal tool, once selected tap each eye that needs correcting and they will change from red to black. Finally you have the cropping tool, tap and drag the white box to select the area to crop, tap crop and save if you are happy with the preview. If you are cropping an image to print off and put in a photo frame be sure to tap on the Constrain button and select the desired ratio to match the frame.

45) Flag emails – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

When in the Mail app navigate to your inbox and then press Edit. Select any messages you would like to flag by tapping the hollow circle next to them so it turns red. Now tap Mark and select the Flag option. To unflag reverse this process. Do note, however, that this doesn’t work with all email clients.

46) Find My iPhone – iDifficulty rating – 5/5

A nice safety feature this one. Find My iPhone allows users to locate their phone from another web enabled device just in case it ever goes missing. Users are also given the option of remotely playing a sound, sending a message to the phone or locking and wiping the missing iPhone.

To enable this feature go into the Settings app then tap iCloud. Scroll down to Find My iPhone and slide to the on position. Now you can log on to the iCloud (hyperlink to, sign in with your Apple ID and, providing your phone is connected to the internet, it will be displayed on a map.

47) Shake to shuffle – iDifficulty rating – 3/5

If you like to shuffle through your music collection then a quick way to switch tracks is to turn Shake to Shuffle on. Go to Settings > Music and slide the bar to on next to Shake to Shuffle. Now when you want to change tracks simply give the phone a little shake and the next track will start playing.

Be warned, this can get slightly irritating if you’re listening to music with your phone in your pocket while out jogging…

48) Grid &HDR- iDifficulty rating – 3/5

Always snapping away with the camera on your iPhone? Improve those shots by turning 3×3 gridlines on and enabling high dynamic range imaging (HDR). The gridlines will help to keep your pictures straight and HDR captures three images from one shot and then layers them together using the best exposures of each photo.

To enable Grid lines or HDR, open the Camera app, tap on options and then slide the bar to on for Grid, HDR, or both. When HDR is switched on you can also keep the normal photo by going into Settings > Photos and sliding Keep Normal Photo to on.

49) Character Count – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

Turning on Character Count is a handy tip for anyone who hits their text message allowance on a regular basis or is on pay as you go. When turned on a pop up indicates when you reach 160 characters to ensures the user knows when more than one text message will be sent to the recipient.

To turn on go into the Settings app, select Messages and slide the Character Count bar to on.

50) Turn off data roaming – iDifficulty rating – 2/5

When travelling abroad most iPhone users will leave any data plan they are on in the UK behind. To avoid hefty data roaming costs be sure to turn data roaming off before touching down.

To do this go into Settings > General > Network and then slide the Data Roaming option to the off position. You can also turn all mobile data off here which will restrict the phones data use to wif-fi only.

You may also like…

  • Apple iOS 5 – Read more about the iPhone’s latest operating system
  • Apple iPhone 4S – Just how well did the latest iPhone fare in the Which? labs
  • iPhone alternatives – There are plenty of other great handsets available

Categories: Smartphones

Tagged as: , , , ,

14 replies

  1. If you’re sending a message to the phone number of another iphone running ios5, and your phone is trying to send a blue imessage rather than a green sms, you can tap and hold the message and tell it to send via sms instead. Useful for when your recipient has lost Internet connectivity and saves waiting for imessage to time out.

    1. I did spot the caveat at the top of the list, by the way, but lots of the other tips work perfectly well, as long as you have upgraded to iOS5…

    2. Good point Heather, glad to hear a lot of the other ones work on the 3GS though. I have a feeling some of the next few tips we post should also be 3GS compatiable so worth trying them out!

    3. Many providers don’t support use as personal hotspot. They’re afraid you might have the nerve to use all of your data allowance. Tesco is one culprit, giffgaff another.

    1. Hi Richard, thanks for the comment – for no. 19 the swipe to the right needs to be on the dark bar along the bottom of the screen, similar to tip 9. The icon you are looking for to lock the screen in portrait mode is the one next to the music controls (see image for tip 9).

  2. Any tips for editting text please? e.g. how do I go back and insert a word before “text” in that question? Double-tapping the screen where the space is selects the nearest word.

    1. Hi Steve – instead of double tapping try holding your finger down in the space you want to add the text. A magnifined image should pop up in a circle, you can then drag left/right/up/down to move the curser to a specific spot where you can enter more text.

  3. My favourite has to be number 26. Completely pointless, but if you can get hold of someone’s iPhone and polarise the screen, it can be a fun practical joke – as few know how to revert the change.

Create account

You can leave a reply without having a WordPress account, but if you do register you can upload an avatar. A WordPress account is not connected to your Which? login and cannot be used to login to or any other Which? services.

Sign up