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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Andrew Williams and Saqib Shah

20 best things your iPhone can do that you had no idea about

Think you know your iPhone inside and out? Think again.

That shiny little rectangle is hiding more secrets than a teenager’s diary. From time-saving tips to magical photo-editing tricks, there's a whole world of untapped potential waiting to be discovered in that sleek little device.

So put on your explorer's hat and journey with us into the hidden depths of your iPhone. We're about to show you features that will make you wonder, ‘How come I didn’t know this before?’ Consider this your treasure map to unlocking the full power of your trusty sidekick.

Camera and photos tips

Long-press the shutter to take a video

Want a to take a fast video? You can simply long-press the shutter button in the camera app. Once you release the button, that’s it, the video wraps up. It’s a much quicker way to shoot an off-the-hip video than by actually changing the shooting mode. 


You can search for almost anything in Photos

Photos might be a lot smarter than you’ve assumed. In the search bar, you can use pretty much any term you like. Cat? Beach? Sunset? Sure. Apple’s image-analysis engine tags your pictures as they are added to your library, as if you had spend hours cataloguing them yourself. This also extends to where the the image was taken, which is particularly handy for tracking down snaps from a particular holiday. 

Turn a Live Photo into a GIF

GIFs are fine and all, but a GIF of your actual friends or family? That’s next level. You can turn any Live Photo, the little video that accompanies iPhone photos as standard, to be shared on WhatsApp or your messaging app of choice. But it’s easiest with a third-party app like Giphy, so install that from the App Store. Go to Photos, scroll down to find the Live Photos category. Look for the one you want, tap the Live button in the top-left corner and select Loop. Tap the share button and select the Giphy icon below. Now, in Giphy, press Share GIF and then select Save GIF.  

You can literally drag and drop photos

The iPhone’s drag and drop feature is surprisingly powerful. In Photos, long press and drag a photo until it appears to float above the app. With another finger you can now flick out of that app, while still holding the photo above your home screen. Now, for example, you can open up your email app, start composing a message, and simply drop the picture onto that email. It may sound fiddly, because you have to keep your thumb or finger on that image the whole time. But it’s surprisingly easy. 

(ES Composite)

Siri tricks

Siri can find people

You can ask Siri to find a person. Apple’s example is you simply asking, “Where’s Gordon?” And, well, that will work, if you know someone called Gordon. However, this isn’t a privacy and stalking nightmare. There are some caveats involved. That person has to have shared their location with you, using the Find My app. You may know it for finding your phone or MacBook, but it can also find people. There’s a dedicated People tab in the Find My App, which lets you (and them) share location with contacts. 

The “hey” command is optional these days

Getting tired of saying, “Hey, Siri”? You can cut this down at least a bit. Go to your iPhone’s Settings menu and select Siri & Search. Right at the top you’ll see a “Listen for” entry. One of the options here lets the assistant listen for simply “Siri” as well as “hey Siri”. Why waste that extra syllable?

Siri can read articles for you 

Want to read an article but have your hands full? Siri can sort that. Open up that article’s webpage in Safari and tap the little “aA” button to the left of the web address bar. Select Show Reader, which formats a webpage into an easily readable format. Then select Listen to Page, in the menu that pops up when you press the “aA” button again. A synthesised voice will then read the story out, with the same character/accent as your iPhone’s Siri. No Show Reader option? This means it can’t be formatted to a readable layout, but most news sites we tried worked. 

Travel and Maps


See London sights in 3D

Apple Maps introduced 3D mapping for major cities like London back in 2013. Head to a built-up area on the map, put two thumbs on the screen and move them upwards and you’ll make Apple Maps enter its 3D mode. Zoom in and you’ll start to see individually rendered buildings, and even 3D trees. It works best with landmarks, which have been individually modelled. The London Eye is particularly impressive. Check it out. 

Download maps for offline navigation

Prep for a holiday by downloading a good chunk of Apple Maps for offline access. In the Maps app, tap the account shortcut in the bottom-right of the display. Select Offline Maps, then Download New Map. You’ll see a search bar, or can select your current location. Picked your place? You’ll then see a map window, with a box you can expand to set the area. The more map, the more memory it needs. 

Get augmented reality walking and running directions

This one is very cool. Apple Maps lets you get AR directions on your phone, meaning you can point your phone around your environment as if you’re about to take a photo, and see directions on-screen. All you do is to start an on-foot navigation session as normal, then tap the button that looks like a 3D square block. This will ask you to raise your iPhone to scan nearby buildings so the phone can work out exactly where you are. 

Maps lets you easily share your ETA

Here’s a slightly boring but sensible one. Don’t forget that when navigating, by whatever method, you can “share your ETA” with friends and family. When you create a route, or press the little “up arrow” to bring up route options when navigating, you’ll see this shortcut. It prompts you to pick a person, or people, from your Contacts book. Anyone with an iPhone will be able to see your progress via a link, while Android users will be sent an ETA over text, and will be updated if that ETA changes. 


Translate languages without internet 

Here’s a big holiday data-saver. You can download entire languages for offline translation on your iPhone. It works for speaking English into the Apple Translate app to turn it into spoken French, for example. And it works for those times you just need to point your phone camera at a restaurant menu to work out what the heck something is. It’s brilliant. Apple warns the translation may not be quite as good as it is with online access, but it seems pretty solid to us. 


Turn your phone greyscale

Find yourself distracted by your phone way too often? Us too. One method to try to counter this, particularly if video is your vice, is to turn on Greyscale mode. While it has other applications, this can really make that social media content seem less moreish. To try it go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Colour Filters. The top option is greyscale, while the lower ones are for folks with different forms of colour-blindness. 

The calculator gets way smarter when you turn your phone

Here’s a quickie. Did you know that when you turn your phone on its side in the calculator app, far more advanced options appear? In upright mode, Calculator is as simple as they come, but it turns into a scientific calculator on its side, capable of some pretty complicated equation calculation. 

Move multiple apps at once

Instead of shifting individual apps to a different location, you can move a group of them together using this trick. First, you need to hold down an app and move it slightly until all your apps start to jiggle. Keeping hold of the app, start tapping the other apps you want to move with it, and they’ll be bundled together. Don’t forget, you can use your free hand to swipe to different screens if your chosen apps are scattered about. Once you find a new spot for them, just let go of the apps and tap done. 

Calls and messaging


Use any emoji as a Message reaction

When the handful of reactions on Messages simply won’t do, just hold down and drag an emoji of your choice to stick to a blue bubble. Now, you can send your mates the fire emoji when they suggest grabbing drinks after work. Alternatively, you can hold down a message and select “add sticker” from the pop-up menu below it. But, the first route is more fun – and will impress your pals, too.

You can use a selective silent mode

If there’s someone you want to be able to get through to you even when you have the Silent or Focus modes switched on, no problem. You just have to flick the Emergency Bypass switch in the person’s contact listing on your phone, in the Ringtone section. It’s a good way to avoid having to flick between silent and non-silent modes so regularly. 

Use the keyboard as a cursor

If you’re writing a message or typing in a web address, this is one of the best tips you’ll find. Long-press the space bar on the virtual keyboard until all the key letters disappear. You can now treat the screen like a trackpad, until you take your thumb or finger off the screen again. This is the fastest way to fix typos or change words in longer paragraphs, and feels much more precise than just a tap on the touchscreen. 

Text replacements can save typing time

This is the ultimate time (and thumb) saver for the big messagers and iPhone emailers out there. Text replacement lets you write whole phrases in short form, so you only need to type a string of characters rather than a string of words. For example, “Bodo” could input, “Come on, it’s bins out day and it’s definitely your turn this week.” Or something more practical. You set the strings of letters and what they actually “write” in Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Obviously, you don’t want these to be actual words, although you can cancel the text-replacement gesture by tapping the phrase pop-up as it appears. 

Make a digital version of your own voice

One of the creepiest and most interesting additional iPhone features is Personal Voice. It lets anyone make a Siri-like digital version of their voice. The idea is to let people who have trouble communicating still use their own voice to talk to friends and family. But anyone can try it. You have to read an epic 150 phrases into the phone to build this voice profile, and it’s found in Settings > Accessibility > Personal Voice. You then triple-tap the power button to bring up a window into which you can type Personal Voice phrases to be read aloud. It doesn’t nail a person’s intonation or speaking cadence, but you can certainly tell it’s based on their voice. 

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