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Part of the appeal of the iPhone is its simplicity—you can grab it right out of the box and starting setting it up without reading any instructions. However, behind that simple, intuitive interface, you’ll find dozens of lesser-known settings and options. Here are 24 you can use to customize your iOS experience.
1. See notifications at a glance
If you’re using an iPhone 6s or later, you can take advantage of the Raise to Wake feature. Once you enable it, simply lift your handset to view notifications. Although the lock screen will light up and display new alerts, the phone will remain locked and secure. To set it up, open Settings, tap Display & Brightness, and activate the Raise to Wake option.
2. Prioritize certain downloads
Updating a ton of apps at once? You can tell your iPhone which downloads it should complete first, a particularly useful ability when you’re setting up a new phone. On the home screen, find the app you want to put at the front of the line and apply a firm 3D Touch press. Then pick Prioritize Download from the list of options.
3. Change the flashlight intensity
While your iPhone’s built-in flashlight can be incredibly useful, not every situation calls for a powerful beam. Luckily, you can enable a slider that lets you change the brightness of the light. To bring up the Control Center, swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or on an iPhone X, swipe down from the top right corner). Then do a firm 3D Touch press on the flashlight icon.
4. Enable QR code scanning
If you like scanning QR codes—the black-and-white squares that look like tiny, jumbled chess boards—to launch websites or apps, you’re in luck: iOS lets you turn the iPhone camera into a QR scanner. From Settings, tap Camera and toggle the Scan QR Codes switch on. Now you can use the Camera app as normal, but when it pans over QR codes, it will automatically scan them.
5. Delete unused apps
You can free up space on your phone by getting rid of the apps that you rarely or never use. In fact, your iPhone can do this for you. In the Settings app, tap General, choose iPhone Storage, and then enable the Offload Unused Apps option. If you regret losing one of these apps, you can always reinstall it.
6. Jump to the correct camera mode
Nobody wants to miss an important shot because they were scrolling through various modes inside the camera app. Instead, when you catch sight of something you need to photograph or film in a hurry, apply a firm 3D Touch to the Camera icon rather than tapping it lightly. Then you’ll be able to choose a camera mode like Selfie or Slo-mo directly from the home screen. This will speed up your snapping, although Apple doesn’t make all the camera modes available as shortcuts.
7. Stop web trackers
Through embedded ads, advertisers can track you across multiple websites. But the latest version of Safari for iOS 11 lets you prevent this activity, limiting sites’ ability to monitor your browsing behavior. To enable this feature, open the Settings app, tap Safari, and turn on the Prevent Cross-Site Tracking option. While you’re in this Safari menu, you can also block pop-up ads.
8. Find emoji faster
Instead of sorting through rows and rows of emoji to find the perfect reaction, you can turn your words into images. Open Messages, type out a line of text, and tap the emoji button to the left of the spacebar. All of the words that can be replaced with emojis will then turn orange. To swap a word for its brighter pictorial representation, just tap on a highlighted word and the emoji will drop in. If that orange word can match multiple emojis, you get to choose your favorite one.
9. Search through Safari tabs
When you have a lot of open tabs but need to find one in particular, this feature comes in handy—but it isn’t available when your iPhone is in its usual portrait mode. To access this search option, you have to open Safari, rotate your phone to put it in landscape mode, and then hit the tabs button (it looks like two squares). Now you’ll see a Search Tabs box that isn’t normally visible.
10. Loop your Live Photos
By default, iPhones save little moments of animation from before and after a picture is actually taken, putting them together to create a Live Photo. To edit one of these Live Photos, open it in the iOS Photos app and swipe up on it. You’ll see a variety of different effects you can add—including Loop, an option that will instantly transform your Live Photo into a short, repeating video clip.
11. Identify contacts more easily
Set custom ringtones and vibration patterns for the most important people in your life, and you’ll always know who’s calling. To create these specialized alerts, open Contacts, tap any person on the list, and choose Edit. In addition to selecting an immediately identifiable ringtone, you can tap out a unique vibration pattern.
12. Change video resolution
Videos at the highest resolution and most detailed frame rate look great on a 4K screen—but they also take up a lot of storage space. When you’re filming short clips of your friends, you can still get high quality video, while saving a lot of memory, by recording at a lower resolution. Head to Settings, then Camera, then Record Video to reduce the default resolution.
13. Abandon weak Wi-Fi networks
When you’re on the go, your iPhone can automatically connect to public Wi-Fi. But some spotty networks will actually be less reliable than your phone’s data connection. So if you have a decent data plan and strong LTE connectivity, tell your device to ditch weak Wi-Fi in favor of more reliable mobile data. In the Settings app, tap Cellular and turn the Wi-Fi Assist toggle switch on.
14. Sort through files
In the iOS Files app, you can arrange your files in different ways—but the app doesn’t make it immediately obvious how to do so. Simply drag down somewhere on the screen, and a menu will appear. It lets you sort files by name, date, size, or tags. The same menu also lets you create new folders and switch between list and thumbnail views.
15. Fall asleep to music
If you like to doze off to your favorite playlist, but don’t want it to play all night long, iOS will let you stop the music after a set amount of time. Open the Clock app and hit the Timer tab. From here, select When Timer Ends. Rather than choosing to play a ringtone at that point, opt to Stop Playing instead. Finally, set the duration of the timer and tap Start. Now, any music or podcasts you start will come to a halt when the timer ends.
16. Respond to calls with custom messages
When you’re too busy to pick up the phone, iOS lets you send a preset SMS response rather than answering. In fact, you can edit these preset options to say anything you want. Open Settings, head to Phone, and tap Respond with Text to add and edit potential messages.
17. Secure your notes
Although it’s convenient to keep extremely private information—such as passwords or ID numbers—in your iPhone’s Notes app, you don’t want anyone else to be able to access this information. So protect these notes with a password. In Settings, go to Notes, followed by Password. Here, you can set a code or a Touch ID lock. Inside the Notes app, lock a specific note by dragging it to the left in the list, tapping the lock icon, and entering your password.
18. Limit location tracking
Certain apps, such as mapping or ride-sharing services, must know your location in order to work properly. But that doesn’t mean they need to track where you are at all times. So iOS lets you ensure apps will only access your location when they absolutely need it. To do so, open the Settings app and tap Privacy, then Location Services. Select any app and change Always to While Using the App.
19. Disable read receipts
Thanks to read receipts, the other person in your Messages conversation will know when you’ve seen their note (though the feature only works for iMessage rather than regular SMS). To prevent Joe from noticing that you’ve seen his text, but are deliberately ignoring it, you can disable read receipts for selected conversations. Simply tap the (i) icon at the top of the conversation and turn off the Send Read Receipts option.
20. Send more emphatic messages
Another setting that works exclusively in iMessage-only chats: You can change a message’s “loudness,” or the size and boldness of its text. Once you’ve typed your communication into the Messages app, tap and hold the blue send icon on the right. Then drag it up or down to change the weight of the outgoing text.
21. Type instructions to Siri
In a very loud or very quiet setting, you might prefer not to speak your Siri commands aloud. So type them instead. In Settings, tap General, then Accessibility, then Siri. Now turn on the Type to Siri option. Now, when you hold down the Home button (or the Power button on the iPhone X) to call up Siri, you can speak or type your instructions.
22. Make notifications less distracting
Constant notifications can sap your attention span until it’s impossible to get anything done. You can make these alerts less distracting by removing the preview snippets that come with them and tempt you to immediately check your phone. As an added bonus, changing this setting will protect your notifications from snoops who look at your lock screen. To remove the previews, open Settings and tap Notifications, then Show Previews, and finally Never.
23. Send money through Messages
Apple has tightly integrated its Apple Pay service into all aspects of iOS, including the Messages app. Whenever you type a dollar amount into a chat, it will automatically appear underlined. Tap on this underlined number, and Apple Pay will send that amount of money from your account to the other participant in your conversation. However, before it officially transfers, you do get the chance to double-check and verify the amount.
24. Get bigger, bolder text
You don’t have to settle for the iPhone’s default text size and shape. If you open Settings and then tap Display & Brightness, you can use the Text Size and Bold Text options to change the on-screen typography. Not every app will comply with your choices, but all of Apple’s native apps and all of the iOS settings screens will.