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If you’re the lucky owner of a new iPhone 5S or 5C, there is no shortage of features to play with. The Touch ID fingerprint authentication is pretty cool. The Control Center settings and the revamped Notifications Center are pretty neat. Keep looking, though, and you’ll find more features buried in the settings. Some were retained from previous versions—like LED camera flashes for alerts—while others are brand new options – Like controlling your iPhone with your head! Apple added hundreds of features with iOS 7 this year.
To get started, here’s a collection of new and returning favorites using some of the lesser known settings baked into Apple’s latest smartphone. They range from genuinely handy shortcuts to strange, but cool, new features that most people might never come across.
Create Reminders for When You Get Home or Leave Work
You get a critical email when you’re traveling, but the paperwork you need is in your living room. No problem. Just set a Reminder to reply when you get home. Or set up a geo-fence to tell you to get milk when you leave the house. Or once you enter the supermarket. Or leave work. This location based feature is awesome for those of us with lots to remember and little time!
Try it: Open Reminders and start typing a new item or tap an existing one. Tap the “i” icon, toggle on “Remind me at a location” and choose “Location.” Then type in an address or search. Click “Done” to save it. You may have to turn on location services if you haven’t already. You can even differentiate between when I arrive vs. when I leave.
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Set the LED Flash/Flashlight for Alerts
iPhone’s Accessibility settings were originally designed for people with disabilities, but they offer a wealth of very cool features that anyone can use. If you have a hard time hearing your alerts and alarms, particularly in loud environments, iOS 6 gave users blinking LED alerts, and iOS 7 hung onto it.
Try it: Go to Settings -> General -> Accessibility, and scroll down to “LED Flash for Alerts” and flip the toggle to the “on” position. Now when an alarm goes off, your flashlight will flash.
Control Your iPhone With A Head Turn
The iPhone’s Switch Control is designed to help users with limited motor function. Once the feature’s set up, the device can recognize head turns as a trigger for numerous functions—including selecting an item, moving to the next/previous option, mimicking a home button press, calling up Notifications, engaging Siri, or changing the volume.
Try it: Go to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Switch Control -> Switches and add a switch. In this case you need to choose “Camera” for the source and pick a Left or Right Head Movement. Then choose an action to correspond to that. Back out of the menu to the Switch Control screen, and toggle “Switch Control” to the “on” position. Now test it out by putting the phone in front of you, facing forward, and turning your head in front of the camera.
Triple-Click the Home Button to Activate 5 Different Features
This shortcut puts handy features just three home-button clicks away; including VoiceOver (narrates all your activity on the screen – but beware this requires you to double click everything until it is turned offby triple clicking home again then triple clicking the “VoiceOver” option), Invert Colors (for better visibility), Zoom (to enlarge parts of the screen), AssistiveTouch (which brings up common features, apps and settings) and Switch Control (toggles through your open items).
Try it: Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Accessibility Shortcut, and select one or more features you want to keep handy. Now, whenever you triple-click the home button, you’ll be able to access them without having to dive back into the Settings app. NOTE: If you only choose one feature to turn on, then beware if you accidentally hit the home button three times that feature will begin working until you hit home three more times.
Place FaceTime Audio-Only Calls
FaceTime without any faces? Indeed! Although it may seem pointless, it’s actually extremely handy and long overdue. With FaceTime audio calls going over Wi-Fi, users won’t have to spend their plan’s minutes. Of course, apps like Skype and Google Hangout work too, but the recipient has to have the appropriate app installed and running in the background with a login. With FaceTime, there’s no chance iOS pals won’t have it.
Try it: Launch the FaceTime, Phone or Contacts app, choose a contact and look for the phone icon in the FaceTime section. Tap that to place the FaceTime audio call.
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Press Volume Buttons to Take Pictures
Back in the day, using volume buttons for a camera shutter was limited to Android users and iPhone jail-breakers. Eventually, Apple saw the light and officially provided this feature to its users. This is a really handy alternative, especially during the winter, when gloved fingers can’t engage touch screens.
Try it: Once you’re in the Camera app, hit either the Up or Down Volume button to engage the shutter and snap a photo. To take a burst of several shots, push and hold it.
Stop Message Previews from Exposing You
Message alerts, good. Snippets of private chats popping up in front of mom, dad, spouse, boss? Not as good. Ever had inappropriate messages popping onto the screen at the worst possible time? Don’t let it happen to you. Here’s how to shut down message previews while hanging onto alerts.
Try it: Go to Settings -> Notifications -> Messages -> Show Preview, and toggle it off. Turn it off to exclude a preview of the message in alerts and banners.
Make Siri More Useful
Siri got the very welcome ability to launch apps last year, and the voice command’s features are only expanding. Now you can:
- Turn her into a him (or vice versa)
- Trigger Siri when you hold the handset to your face
- Correct her pronunciation
- Identify relationships between you and contacts (call my….brother, mother, spouse)
- Tell her to turn on/off system settings like WIFI, DND etc.
Try it: (1) and (2) Settings -> General -> Siri to set the voice as male or female, or to activate Siri when you hold it up to your head. (3) If she messes up pronunciation, you can just correct her in the moment. (Say “that’s not how you pronounce that” to pull up options.) (4) To let Siri know that “Jane Smith” is your wife, just launch Siri—long press on the home button—and tell her that “Jane Smith is my wife.” (5) To switch settings on or off via voice command, activate Siri simply speak the command out loud.
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Use Shortcuts to Add Emoji
Emoji, character-length illustrations/icons, have become extremely popular for conveying expressions in text. iOS even has a special keyboard for them, though you have to switch to it, find the right Emoji and switch back. Keyboard shortcuts can make fast work of frequently used emoticons and other Emoji characters.
Try it: Activate the Emoji keyboard in Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards > Add New Keyboard > Emoji. Back out to the main Keyboard screen, tap on “Shortcuts” and tap the “+” sign to add a new one.
When the keyboard comes up, switch to the Emoji keyboard (by clicking on the globe icon), and choose a character to go in the “Phrase” field. Then switch back to the English keyboard and add text to the “Shortcut” field. Every time you type that shortcut, the Emoji will appear.
Shake To Undo
More often than I care to remember, I’ve accidentally trashed an important email and cursed the insane lack of an undo button. The joke’s on me though, because there’s a way to get messages back, and it’s actually been there since iOS 6. It’s easy to overlook because it’s not a button, but a physical gesture. (Bonus: It also works in other select apps to delete what you just typed.) But be warned: You’ll want to have a good grip on the phone. I almost hurled mine against the wall by accident.
Try it: To get back a deleted email, you could shake that phone in the air like you just don’t care. Thing is, you actually do, so easy does it. A gentle jangle should be enough to call up the “undo” feature. Same goes for deleting what you typed in Twitter, Messages, Reminders or several other apps. And if you change your mind and want your email/text back, just give it another shake and tap the “redo” option.
Block Calls, Texts and FaceTime from Specific People
With iOS 7, iPhone users can now block specific people from contacting them. On the other end, the phone will ring a couple of times before the dreaded busy signal takes over the line; Messages will fail to deliver; and FaceTime will ring forever.
Try it: Open the contact info of the person you want to block, and scroll to the bottom for the “block” button. If you don’t have a contact card for them already saved, you can open Messages or Phone, scroll to a recent text or call and tap the “i” icon to block the person.