You use your iPhone every day, but you might only be scratching the surface of what you can do with it.
For instance, the iPhone has a bunch of “hidden” menus that help you do things like search across apps, go back to the last screen, find widgets that show snapshots of certain information, or quickly turn your Wi-Fi off and on.
They’re hidden because they require you to make specific gestures that aren’t necessarily easy to guess. But once you know where they are, they’re quite useful.
Apple adds more functions to the iPhone every year. The company announced Wednesday that it’s hosting a fall event on Sept. 7 that’s almost certainly for the iPhone 14. We’ll also probably hear when its next update, iOS 16, will be released to everyone. And that’ll bring even more features.
Here’s a quick overview to get you going.
How to perform Quick Actions
Many apps on the iPhone have hidden menus called Quick Actions. All you have to do is hold down the icon for the app you want to see the Quick Action menu for.
Apps that come pre-installed on your iPhone, like the Camera, Mail, Notes, Settings, Messages and Phone apps have these menus. Accessing them can help you perform actions on apps quickly. Each Quick Actions menu has functions that make sense for that app. All you do is just press and hold down on the icon on your home screen.
For example if you hold down the Notes icon, a Quick Actions menu will pop up that gives you shortcuts to draft a new note, create a new checklist, insert a new photo, or scan a document. Here’s what it looks like:
If you hold down the Phone app icon, a Quick Actions menu will pop up that gives you the option to view your most recent voicemail, create a new contact, search for a contact, or view your most recent call. Here’s what the Phone Quick Actions menu looks like:
How to reach the top of your iPhone screen without dropping your phone
If you have small hands like me, you may have noticed it’s hard to access all of your iPhones functions one-handed. You can quickly access the icons at the top of the phone without stretching your fingers with an option called “Reachability.” This lowers the screen down so you don’t have to fumble with two hands. Reachability is off by default, so do this to turn it on:
- Open Settings.
- Tap Accessibility.
- Choose Touch.
- Toggle the Reachability option to on.
Now that it’s on, use it by quickly swiping down at the bottom edge of the screen. The key word here is quickly. Here’s what the screen looks like once you’ve enabled Reachability.
I find myself using Reachability when I’m cooking with one hand and trying to use my iPhone with the other and can’t stretch my thumb all the way to the top of my screen.
How to use the Control Center
You probably already know how to swipe down from the top middle of your home screen. That’s what brings up your recent notifications.
But, if you’re coming from an iPhone with a home button, you might not know that you can also swipe down from the top right corner of your screen (or up from the bottom if your iPhone has a home button.) This opens Control Center, which gives you quick access controls to common functions. You can use it to turn on your flashlight, to recognize a song with Shazam, control your smart lights, toggle Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on/off, launch the calculator and more. But you have to set it up so it has the right items in it.
To manage what appears in Control Center, do this:
- Open Settings.
- Tap Control Center.
- Scroll down and tap the green button next to any options you want to see when you swipe from the top-right of your screen.
How to use iPhone widgets
You can place little mini apps, called widgets, on your home screen. But there’s also a whole hidden section dedicated to widgets.
This is to the left of your home screen, so you access it by swiping right across your screen. You can customize it with any app that has widgets. I have a photo gallery in mine and an icon that shows the battery life left on my iPhone and Apple Watch. I also use it for a quick glance at my Apple Fitness rings, CNBC Trending news stories, and stock quotes.
There are two ways to get widgets on this screen. For the built-in Apple widgets, and a handful of others that have been custom-built, do this:
- Swipe right across your home screen until you see the widget panel with a Search bar on top.
- Scroll down and tap the oval-shaped “Edit” button at the bottom.
- Hit the + button on the top-left.
- Choose the widget you want to add.
- Tap Add Widget.
If you don’t see the widget you want to add, you might need to take an extra step. In this case:
- After you hit “Edit,” scroll down to the bottom of the screen again and select “Customize.”
- There, you’ll see widgets for other apps you’ve installed on your iPhone. Hit the green + button to add them.
How to search everything on your iPhone at once
You can search through apps, the web, maps, dictionary, files and more all by using the iPhone’s universal search menu.
You can bring this up by swiping down from the middle of your home screen. You’ll also see Siri suggestions for your most common actions.
(Reminder: swiping from the middle-top will bring down notifications and swiping from the top-right will bring down Control Center.)
How to switch apps quickly
You can quickly change apps or close them by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and then holding until you feel a gentle vibration. Swipe right to move through apps. Tap an app to switch to it, or swipe up to close it.
Here’s a little bonus trick: did you know you can switch between apps by also just swiping right or left across the bottom of the screen? Try it! Open an app and then swipe right across the bottom. It’ll go to the last app you had open. Swipe left to go back or keep swiping right to move between apps
Here’s a second bonus: You can go back to the last screen in an app, like the previous webpage, by swiping right from the edge of the screen. The best way to try this is to open a website, go to another site, and then swipe right across the screen. You’ll be back where you started. If you swipe left from the right side of your phone, you’ll move forward again.