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iPhone XS, XS Max and XR: 27 tips and tricks to master Apple's latest phones

New to the non-home button interfaces of the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR? Here's how to do everything.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
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iPhone XS, XR tips and tricks

There's a lot to learn when you start using Apple's iPhone XXS, Max and XR. The lack of a home button, for one, completely changes the way you interact with the phones. Here are some of the best tips and tricks we came up with for getting used to the new interface. 

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Go home

Starting at the bottom of the display, swipe up to close an app. Don't worry about going all the way to the top of the display -- the app will close with just a flick up from the bottom. 

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Quick-scroll to top of page

Want to get back to the top of a website, app or text document? Tap the notch to jump to the beginning.

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Notification center

Access the notification center with a swipe down from the top of the screen. But stay away from the far-right corner -- that's where the control center is now. 

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Speaking of the control center

You don't launch the control center with a swipe up from the bottom of the anymore. Instead you'll need to swipe down from the top-right corner of the display.

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Trigger Flashlight or Camera from lock screen

The Flashlight and Camera icons on the lock screen are 3D Touch (iPhone XS) or Haptic Touch (iPhone XR) buttons. To start the flashlight or open the Camera, press hard on its icon if you're using an iPhone XS. 

If you've got an iPhone XR, you only need to long-press on either button. 

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Or swipe to the left

Old habits are hard to break. If you're accustomed to swiping left across the lock screen, you can still do so on the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. 

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Enter multitasking view

Instead of swiping up to go back to the home screen, stop about halfway to view all open apps. You can then scroll through the cards and tap an app to launch it. 

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Quicker Multitask access

Instead of swiping up to the middle of the screen and waiting for multitasking to start, swipe up from either bottom corner of the display in an arc toward the opposite edge of the screen. 

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Fast app switching

Swipe to the left or right on the bottom of the display, going over the top of the hint bar to quickly move between apps.

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Force close apps

Force close an app in multitasking view by swiping up on any of the app cards -- or multiple cards if you're in a hurry -- to close apps. 

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Reachability still exists

It still exists but is a little tricky to trigger. If you're having a hard time, select Settings > General > Accessibility and make sure Reachability is enabled. 

Now, whenever you want to lower the screen to make something at the top easier to access, just swipe down on the bottom of the display. 

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The True Depth camera on the iPhone XS and iPhone XR is used for Face ID, but Apple also uses it to see when you're paying attention to the phone. With that information, the iPhone will do things like silence an incoming call or alarm if you're looking at the phone. 

You can turn this feature on or off in Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Attention Aware Features.

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Hidden notification details

The iPhone XS and iPhone XR both hide notification details on the lock screen until Face ID identifies your face, after which the content of each notification fills in. 

If you'd rather have all notification details displayed on the lock screen, go to Settings > Notifications > Show Previews and choose Always.

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Finish arranging apps

Organize your home screen using the traditional method of a long-press on app icons until they start to wiggle. Then tap the Done button in the top-right corner when you're finished.

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Double the portrait mode

Apple added the blurry-background photo effect to the front-facing camera starting with the iPhone X. 

You can use it and the new portrait mode lighting effects by opening the camera app and selecting portrait from the shooting modes with the front-facing camera active. 

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Adjust portrait mode blur

With an iPhone XS or iPhone XR running iOS 12.1, you can adjust the amount of blur in a Portrait Mode photo before or after you press the shutter button.

To adjust before taking the photo, tap on the f button at the top of the camera app, and then adjust the slider until you're happy with the overall look. 

Adjusting after you take a photo is just as quick: View the photo in the photos app, select Edit and then select Depth. Again, adjust the blur until you're happy. 

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Tap to Wake

Want to wake your iPhone to check notifications without picking it up? Tap the screen. Tap to Wake mode works on the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. 

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Turn off Tap to Wake mode

Or if you'd rather not have the phone wake up every time you touch the screen, you can stop it by going to Settings > General > AccessibilityTap to Wake.

With Tap to Wake mode disabled, you'll need to pick up the phone or press the side button to wake it.

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'Hey, Siri'

Use the standard wake voice command of "Hey Siri" to summon Apple's personal assistant, or you can long-press the side button to launch Siri. 

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Power down

With the side button now acting as a means to access Siri, just how do you turn the phone off?

You'll need to press and hold the volume up or down button and the side button at the same time. A few seconds later the slider to power off will show up.

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Wireless charging warning

If you plan on using wireless charging, it's a good idea to avoid any cases that double as a wallet. Apple recommends not having anything in between the phone and the charging pad and specifically calls out "magnetic strips or RFID chips like those found in some credit cards" as items that can get damaged from wireless charging.

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Force Restart iPhone XS, iPhone XR

If your iPhone is giving you trouble, you can force restart it using a series of button presses. You'll need to do the following in quick succession: 

Press volume up, volume down, then press and hold the sleep/wake button. Hold it in until the screen goes black, followed shortly after by the Apple logo showing up on the screen. 

If when you press the sleep/wake button Siri shows up, you need to start over. 

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Scan QR Codes from Control Center

Apple added a QR Code scanner to the camera app in iOS 11, and with iOS 12 the scanner gets its own shortcut in Control Center. You will need to add the shortcut in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and tap the green button next to Scan QR Code.  

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Making Do Not Disturb temporary

Instead of turning Do Not Disturb mode on and off for a meeting or a movie, you can set it to disable itself after an hour, this evening or when you leave your current location in iOS 12.

Open Control Center and long-press or force touch the Do Not Disturb icon to pick from the new options.

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Automatic iOS updates

A new feature in iOS 12 will automatically install iOS updates on your device without requiring you to manually approve it. You can enable automatic updates in Settings > General > Software Updates > Automatic updates. With this feature enabled, whenever an update is released your iPhone will automatically update while you're sleeping. 

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Face ID alternative appearance

iPhone X, XS, and XR who have trouble getting Face ID to work properly when wearing a hat, sunglasses or something else that changes your overall appearance will gain the ability to register a second appearance. The new setting is found in Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Alternate appearance.

Indeed, this same feature can be used to register a second face to Face ID to give a second person access to your device. Just keep in mind that if you want to remove the second face, you'll need to reset Face ID.

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Battery features

Figuring what's draining the battery on any mobile device is something we all want to know more about. With iOS 12, open the Settings app, select Battery and you will have as much info as you can digest. New charts, breakdowns and graphs show you exactly what was using your battery and, perhaps most importantly, when it was used. 

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