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6 things you didn’t know your iPhone could do

If you’re an iPhone user, you pretty much know what you’re getting when it comes to software. Apple’s iOS is a very capable operating system — but you probably haven’t discovered new things that it can do every few days, as you might on a Samsung phone. There are, however, plenty of features and tools hidden right under the surface that you might not be aware of — and frankly not run into during day-to-day use.

Here are six things that you probably didn’t know your iPhone could do.

Siri Shortcuts

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You’ve probably seen the Shortcuts app, but you may never have opened it up and used it. Turns out, it’s a pretty powerful tool. You can use Siri Shortcuts to automate a range of actions, both triggered by a Siri phrase, or by something else — like your location, an action like a phone call, or almost anything else. For example, you could set up a Shortcut that automatically disables Do Not Disturb when you leave a location. Or, you could set a Shortcut that turns on the smart lights when your morning alarm goes off.

I have a few shortcuts set up to help me log health-related metrics, like how much water I drink during the day. And, of course, many of your shortcuts can be triggered through interacting with Siri itself, using your voice. It’s a really powerful tool, and while it will take a few minutes of browsing to get used to using the app, once you do, there’s no limit to what you could do with it.

Home Screen Widgets

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iOS Home Screen Widgets got a lot of hype when they were first released, but not everyone really took the time to dig into what they could do. Now might be the time to revisit them. Home Screen Widgets allow you to see information at a glance, like the weather, your upcoming appointments, and more. There are even widgets for Siri Shortcuts, allowing you to quickly trigger a shortcut without having to open up the app.

To add a widget to the Home Screen, hold down on your Home Screen and tap the “+” icon on the top left of the display. You’ll then be able to browse widgets available to you that you can place on your Home Screen.

Long-press actions

3D Touch on the iPhone may be gone, but you can still access many of the controls that it enabled by simply long-pressing on things.

Perhaps the best use of a long-press on the iPhone is on an app icon, which allows you to quickly jump into different sections of an app without having to navigate through the app to get to those sections. For example, on the Twitter app, you can quickly select to create a new Tweet, write a new message, or search in Twitter. On Instagram, you can create a new post, open up the Instagram camera, and quickly switch accounts.

The ability to long-press goes far beyond app icons. You can also long-press a range of controls in the Control Center, which allows you to avoid diving into the Settings app. For example, if you long-press the Wi-Fi button in Control Center, you can select a Wi-Fi network. The same goes for Bluetooth devices. Long press the flashlight button, and you can set the intensity of the flashlight. And, long-press the Camera button to get deep links to take a selfie, record a video, and so on.

It’s a hidden feature … by design. So it’s tough to discover these long-press actions. Just start trying it! You’ll find a lot of cool features.

Stop playing when timer ends

There are smaller tweaks in iOS that you might not be aware of — like the fact that when a timer goes off, it doesn’t have to set off an annoying alarm. Instead, you can set a timer to simply stop the music you’re listening to, alerting you to the end of the timer in a much more calming way.

To do so, open up the Clock app, hit the Timer tab at the bottom, and select the “When Timer Ends” option. You’ll then be able to select a tone, or scroll all the way to the bottom to select the “Stop Playing” option.

Change your default apps

Gmail App Icon on iPad Pro
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Here’s another one that was only recently added to iOS — the ability to change defaults for your browser and email apps. If you’re plugged into Apple’s ecosystem, you may not care, but everyone else might prefer to use apps like Google Chrome as their browser, and Gmail as their email app.

To change the default browser app, make sure your preferred app is installed. Then, open the Settings app, scroll down to that app, and tap on it, then hit the “Default Mail App” or “Default Browser App” button, and change the selection to the app you want. Then, when you tap on a link or an email address, it should open in your preferred app instead of Apple’s built-in one.

Control your iPhone by tapping on its back

iPhone 5G feat image
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Your iPhone has all kinds of sensors, and some of those sensors allow it to tell when you tap on its back. This can be used to control all sorts of things, like activating Siri, taking a screenshot, changing the volume, and more. To add this feature, open the Settings app, scroll down to Accessibility, tap on Touch, then tap Back Tap. You can then add a function for double-tapping or triple-tapping the back of the phone.

Keep in mind that this feature is a little sensitive, so you might find yourself accidentally triggering it from time to time.

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