25 iPhone tips you'll wish you knew all along

Get to know 25 lesser-known iOS features you somehow survived without until now.

Sharon Profis
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Sharon Profis
Jason Parker
1 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Close three apps at once

Need to force-close multiple apps fast? At the risk of looking like you're clawing at your phone, you can close up to three apps at once by swiping up with three fingers.

2 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Quickly shut off the flashlight

Included in iOS's Control Center is access to a flashlight. Once enabled, you can quickly shut it off by using the camera shortcut from the lock screen.

3 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Hidden bubble level

Leave your lime-green bubble level in the drawer. iOS's built-in leveling tool uses the phone's gyroscope to help you find out if an object is perfectly horizontal (or vertical).

To access it, launch the compass, then swipe right to reveal the level.

4 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Use bold, italics and underlining

In some apps like Mail, you can use rich formatting to make text bold, italics, or underlined. But if you don't know it exists, you might miss it.

Just highlight the text you want to edit, and tap the arrow in the copy/paste pop-up. Then, choose "B I U" to access the formatting options.

5 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Quickly 'go back'

Unlike Android, the iPhone doesn't have a dedicated "back" button. But, a little-known gesture makes that completely acceptable.

In Messages, Mail and even Safari, simply swipe right from the edge of the screen to go to the previous window. The gesture even works in some third-party apps like Instagram.

6 of 25 CNET

10 earbud controls

The stock earbuds are full of hidden features. With them, you can snap a photo, ignore calls, and more. There are 10 shortcuts in total, and they're all outlined right here.

7 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Lock focus and exposure

When the camera is active, tapping the screen sets the focus and exposure for that object. But, the moment the camera moves, these settings are lost.

To lock the focus and exposure, tap and hold until you see a yellow bar appear at the top of the screen, Even if you change your composition, the focus and exposure will be unaffected.

Here are more tips for taking stellar iPhone photos.

8 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Create custom vibration alerts

Want to know if your best friend is calling without ever looking at the phone? Buried in the contact settings, a fun option lets you create custom vibration patterns for your contacts.

To do it, go to Contacts, choose a contact, and tap Edit in the upper-right corner.

Then, scroll down and navigate to Vibration > Create New Vibration. In the interactive screen, tap and hold to create a pattern, using long presses for long vibration notes, and so on.

9 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Find out what the locals use

When you're traveling, it's a good idea to find out which apps the locals love most -- especially public transportation apps.

To see what locals are downloading, go to the App Store and tap the Explore button, then select Popular Near Me.

10 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Be more frugal with data

If you're watching your data usage, it's a good idea to use a feature introduced in iOS 7: cellular data management.

With this tool, you can decide which apps get to use cellular data, and which apps can load only over Wi-Fi.

Head over to Settings > Cellular to disable cellular data usage for any installed apps.

11 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Search text messages

Here's another one you might only stumble upon. To find a specific text message, use the search bar at the top of the message interface.

Don't see it? Pull down to reveal it, or tap the top bar.

12 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Use iMessage overseas

When you're connected to in-flight Wi-Fi or traveling without a data plan, you can still send text messages to iPhone-using friends.

Just head to Settings > Messages and make sure Send as SMS is disabled, and that iMessage is enabled.

13 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Long-press for more characters

Hidden beneath the unassuming characters of the iOS keyboard is a world of letters and symbols only available with a long-press.

For example, long-pressing the dash key reveals em and en dashes, while long-pressing the numeral 0 lets you insert a degree symbol.

14 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Reveal time stamps

To see when a message was sent, drag the message screen to the left, and the time stamps will be revealed.

15 of 25 Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

Siri's hidden features

Siri can handle really complex commands. She can even do things like set your alarm, and learn how to properly pronounce names. Get to know all 20 of Siri's hidden talents in this guide.

16 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Charge your phone much faster

Sometimes you need to charge your phone fast. The fastest way to do that? Airplane mode.

With all sending and receiving of data cut off, your phone will charge much faster. Just be sure to leave the backlight off, too.

17 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Shoot in burst mode

Thanks to the iPhone 5S's fast processor, the camera now lets you shoot in burst mode, snapping multiple photos per second.

It's great for capturing sports, kids, and special moments you want every bit of.

18 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Increase battery life

Spotlight is really useful for quickly surfacing data on your phone. In order to do that, however, the tool needs to constantly survey your phone for new data and index it.

To temper the effects on your battery, go to Settings > General >Spotlight and uncheck the items you don't necessarily need indexed.

For longer battery life, change these settings, too.

19 of 25 Screenshot by Sharon Profis/CNET

Protect your privacy

This tip will save your battery life and your privacy. Far, far into iOS's privacy settings is a setting that, when enabled, sends Apple your location data.

Some people don't care. If you do -- and you want a battery boost while you're at it -- disable the feature. Go to Settings > Privacy > System Services to toggle the option.

20 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Faster Touch ID recognition

Touch ID seems to have a beef with certain fingers, consistently requiring multiple scans before unlocking the device.

If this sounds familiar, try this: Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. Here, enroll the same finger two to three times by choosing Add a fingerprint.

Doing so will give Touch ID more information about your finger patterns, resulting in a faster scan.

21 of 25 Jason Cipriani/CNET

More diverse emoji

With iOS 8.3, Apple released a redesigned emoji keyboard complete with a more racially diverse set of characters. In other words, instead of only finding one color of emoji faces and hands within the keyboard, you now have a more realistic sample of colors to represent the various races in the world.

Here's a quick how-to from CNET's Jason Cipriani for how to get a more diverse set of emojis.

22 of 25 Jason Cipriani/CNET

Put a stop to iMessage spam

If you've been getting iMessages that say you've won a cruise or a Best Buy gift card, you're probably a victim of iMessage Spam.

Fortunately, a quick trip to your iPhone settings can block these advertisers fairly easily. CNET's Jason Cipriani shows you how here.

23 of 25 Josh Miller/CNET

Blue or green messages?

If you own an iPhone, you may have noticed something odd in the Messages app: some messages are blue and some are green. What's the deal with that?

Short answer: blue ones have been sent or received using Apple's iMessage technology, while green ones are "traditional" text messages exchanged via Short Messaging Service, or SMS.

To find out what those green or blue messages mean to you (and your phone bill) check out this post from CNET's Rick Broida.

24 of 25 CNET

AirDrop is the best way to send images

You know the drill: everyone gathers around for photos, and then everyone in the photos says, "Hey, can you send me those?"

Now comes the hassle of sending a bunch of text messages and/or emails -- provided you have all the necessary phone numbers and email addresses, of course. That's how most of us learned to share photos, but surely there must be a better way?

With AirDrop, there is. Find out how to send your photos with only a couple taps from CNET's Rick Broida.

25 of 25 Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Why you sleep through alarms

Does your iPhone alarm simply not wake you up in the morning? It might be a question of how you're setting your volume.

Check out this post from CNET's Sarah Jacobsson Purewal for the best way to make sure your alarms grab your attention.

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