10 things you didn't know your iPhone could do

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Were you lucky enough to get a new iPhone for the holidays? Well, here are some things you should know about your new Apple phone.
Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY

Whether you received a new iPhone over the holidays as a gift or treated yourself to one, chances are you’re not using your smartphone to its fullest.

After all, with many hundreds of embedded features, not to mention a new operating system (iOS 11), no doubt there are some things you had no idea about — even if you’ve owned an iPhone previously. 

Here I’ll share several iPhone tips and tricks you can try today.

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Create custom vibrations

How great would it be to know who’s calling, just by the way the iPhone is buzzing in your pocket? You can.

In the Contacts app, select your person of choice and tap Edit. You’ll see a Vibration option. Press it and you’ll see many options, including a Create New Vibration tool to customize your own.

This way, you can have a different ring for your partner, kids, or boss – without even needing to glance at your phone. It’s great for multitaskers and for those in meetings all day (with your phone on silent).

Similarly, you can create custom ringtones for different people, as well as have the iPhone’s light flash a unique pattern to know who’s calling.

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Fix Siri’s pronunciation

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iOS 11 has new multitasking features, an improved Siri and customizable Control Center.
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Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant may be great at giving you information such as the weather, directions, and sports scores, but sometimes it just doesn’t say things right. This is especially true for some names and places – perhaps with origins in other languages — that may be difficult for Siri to pronounce.

And you can’t blame Siri, if it’s spelled one way but pronounced another. (For example, I work with a PR person named Alissa, but it’s pronounced “Aleesa.”)

If Siri says something wrong, just tell it. After Siri mispronounces something, say, “That’s not how you pronounce [XXX].” Siri will ask for the correct pronunciation, and let you check it got it right.

Shake to delete

When typing words in any application (such as Mail, Messages, or Notes), or when using editing tools (Cut, Copy, or Paste), you can shake the iPhone to undo your typing. Shake again to redo.

This is much faster than pressing and holding the back/delete button until unwanted text is gone.

And yes, a confirmation message will pop up to double-check you meant to do this, and it wasn’t just a sneeze. Tap to confirm or cancel.

If this shake feature accidentally happens more often than you like, deactivate it in Settings. Select General, Accessibility, Shake to Undo, and then tap to turn off.

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Easily scan QR codes

Once upon a time – and not too long ago – you needed a dedicated app to scan a QR code. This took time to find it on your iPhone, launch the app, and then point it to the little black-and-white square.

With iOS 11, however, your iPhone’s camera now knows if it’s looking at a QR code.

Simply launch your camera and hover over the QR code, and it will immediately perform the preprogrammed action, such opening a website, contact, or launching a video.

Hide your private photos

Stop me if this sounds familiar: you hand your iPhone to your kids to play around with, or perhaps want to show a friend some photos from your recent vacation – and then you realize you have a photo or video on your device that’s, er, private.

No judging here. In fact, Apple wants to help you hide sensitive images, too.

Inside the Photos app, select one or more images, and then tap the Share button. Now choose Hide. Your chosen pictures will become invisible via the Moments, Collections, and Years views – but can still be accessed through the Albums screen.

Of course, there are dedicated apps to hide photos and videos, as well, such as Private Calculator

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Expand your storage

As you likely know, iPhone doesn’t let you expand your storage past what you buy initially, such as 64GB or 256GB. Most Android phones, on the flipside, take a microSD card.

But you’re not out of luck. The DataTraveler Bolt Duo, by Kingston (from $59), is a teeny device that snaps into the lightning port of any iPhone, whether it’s used to offload photos and videos (to make more room), or kept inserted while capturing memories (thus saved directly to the drive). A companion app makes either scenario super simple.

Also, iOS 11 introduced many new ways to improve your available storage, including more efficient file formats for photo and video, and enabling iCloud sync for Messages (Settings Messages Messages on iCloud).

More: Apple admits: Your iPhone does get slower with age

Track a flight

‘Tis the season for air travel, but it can be just as stressful for those picking up from the airport as it is for the fliers themselves.

With your iPhone, you can now type the flight number into Safari’s address bar and you’ll see details of the flight pop up, no app needed. Tap on the results and not only will you see updated flight times and status, but a real-time map of where the plane is in the sky!

Picking up family, friends or colleagues from the airport has never been easier.

More: Apple Maps finds a useful feature: indoor airport guides

Use the hidden trackpad

Say you’re composing a message, email, or note, and you need to change something you typed before sending or saving. With your new iPhone, simply press and hold on the keyboard and the cursor will automatically become a mouse-like trackpad.

Now keep your finger or thumb on the screen and drag around the cursor to reach the part of text that you want to tweak – or to highlight text, just press a little harder while continuing to slide your finger — and then let go for the keyboard to return.

On an iPad, swipe two fingers downward on the keyboard to activate trackpad mode.

Quickly edit, share a screen grab

Another iOS 11 trick is to edit a screenshot right after you take it.

If you see something you want to save or share on your iPhone, press and hold the Home button and Top or Side button (or with iPhone X, simultaneously press the Volume up button and Lock button).

Previously, if you wanted to edit or share the screen, you had to go to the Camera Roll, select the image, and then edit. But now, immediately after the screen capture is taken, it will appear as a small thumbnail in the lower left corner of your iPhone. Tap it to open the picture, edit if you like (such as crop or annotate) and then share, if desired.

Check that a surface is level

Did you know your iPhone has a hidden feature, built into the Compass app? It could help you decorate your home over the holidays.

Launch the Compass, then swipe left, and you’ll find a bubble leveler, ideal for hanging photos.

It will use your iPhone’s built-in gyroscope sensor to see if something is perfectly level (horizontally or vertically), with the red margin showing how much the two angles vary.

 

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at askmarcsaltzman@gmail.com.

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