Top 10 Tips for New iPhone Users

Verizon started shipping new iPhones this week! Looks like the negotiation was resolved.

I’m very excited to [eventually] switch from At&t to Verizon. I do expect that a significant number of people, like myself, will switch from At&t to Verizon, even incurring the cost of a new phone and potentially a termination penalty.  I also expect that many Verzion (and Sprint and T-mobile) customers who have been waiting for a Verizon iPhone for years will finally take the leap.  Here’s my advice for those newcomers to the iPhone platform. Some of this will be rudimentary advice for those that have never had a smartphone before, and some will be more advanced.

I predict that the two greatest sources of new iPhone users will be those who currently have regular cell phones (know as feature phones) and those with Blackberry devices. So some of this advice will be specific to former Blackberry users, will note it as such. Ok, here are my tips, click each title to get to the specifics:


1. iTunes/syncing
2. Default Settings
3. Battery
4. E-mail
5. Apps
6. Search
7.  Multitasking
8. Notifications
9. Autocorrect
10. BBM

1. iTunes/syncing – This is very confusing and somewhat unintuitive.  When you purchase your new iPhone, in order to start using it at all and to activate it, you’ll need to connect it via the USB cable that comes with it, to your computer. Your computer will need to have iTunes installed.  Open iTunes on your computer if it doesn’t launch immediately.  Then follow the instructions on the screen to get your iPhone set up and activated. It’s frustrating that one still needs to connect the iPhone to a computer to set it up and also to back it up/sync it.
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2. Default Settings –  There are a number of default settings on the iPhone that I think you should change right away. Click the settings icon, then:

-Wi-fi:

1. Toward the bottom of this page, there is an option “Ask to Join Networks”, that is set by default to “on”.  I suggest turning it off. If you don’t, every time you walk by any wifi network, it will ask if you want to join it.  This is not only annoying, but drains your battery.

2. I suggest immediately adding the wifi networks and passwords for your home and work (and other places you frequent).  Your phone will then automatically switch to wi-fi for data when you are in those locations. You’ll get faster data, use less battery life and generally be happier.

– Sounds:

1. Silent – can’t remember what the default is on this, but I suggest turning vibrate on for silent mode.  Unfortunately there are no “profiles” for iPhones like blackberry users might be familiar with. There’s basically regular and “silent”, flipping the switch on the top of the left side of the phone changes between these.

2. Mail alerts-  I prefer to have no sound/vibrate alerts for new e-mail, as I find it too distracting, this is a personal preference though. I prefer to save sound/vibrate alerts for SMS and application alerts.

3. Keyboard clicks – another personal preference is to turn the sound for keyboard clicks off.  I think these sounds are comforting to those who are new to virtual keyboards, but I think they become annoying pretty quickly (particularly to those around you.) Lock sounds are a similar preference.

– General Settings:

1. Bluetooth – unless you plan to frequently use a bluetooth headset or other bluetooth device, I suggest turning this off to save battery life (see below)

2. Security – Lifehacker has a great post on this.  Passcodes and related settings are also subject to personal preference/debate but I definitely recommend activating the free find/erase feature for your phone. Here is how.

-Phone:

1. Facetime (video calling to other iPhones and Macs) is turned off by default. Turn it on in the Phone settings.

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3. Battery–  There are a number of recommendations that Apple and others make to improve battery life. Here are mine:

– Let your battery totally drain every once in a while.  You can use an app called System to monitor/recharge it to get to its fullest potential.

Push e-mail and other services are a huge battery drainer.  If you can avoid using an exchange server (most work e-mail/calendars…) to push e-mail to your phone, you’ll generally get better performance. Similarly if you set your e-mail to update less frequently, you’ll get better performance.

– Bluetooth – as I mentioned above, turn it off unless you need it.

– Streaming – streaming video (e.g. Youtube) and streaming audio (e.g. Pandora) will drain the battery pretty quickly so plan accordingly.

– Continuous location – services like Google Latitude, Loopt and others will constantly update your location in the background. This is a pretty serious drain on your battery life, so beware.

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4. E-mail

– There are many e-mail options on the iPhone. I use GMAIL and the default IMAP option to send/receive e-mail.   In Settings> Mail, Contacts & Calendar I set it to fetch only every 30 minutes.  For other webmail services, you’ll see some default options.  For your work e-mail, you’ll probably have to use a Microsoft Exchange account and your office will probably set it up or give you the relevant details.  You can add multiple e-mail accounts and switch between looking at each different account or a merged view of all your e-mail accounts.

– If you are using GMAIL, the default “trash” action on the phone is archive. If, like me, you prefer a true delete option (you can always use the move to all folder for archiving), go to Settings>Mail, Contacts & Calendar and then your GMAIL account and turn “Archive Messages” to off.

– There are some more setting options in Settings>Mail, Contacts & Calendar under mail.  I select 75 as the number of messages to show in the view and the maximum amount of preview lines per e-mail (5).  I use “small” font to optimize the display of all those lines.  These are personal preferences of course.

– Signature – “sent from my iPhone” is enabled by default. Some people like this, many don’t. You can delete it under Signature in this same settings area and leave it blank or replace it with anything you like instead.

– One handy thing to know in e-mail is that when in the inbox view, you can swipe to the right to delete any e-mail straight from the inbox.  Also, clicking edit on the top right lets you select multiple e-mails and perform a single action(like moving something to a folder)

– Searching your e-mail on your phone works well for recent e-mails but when the iPhone says that it is “continuing the search on the server”, it almost never works in my experience. For those instances, I use the GMAIL web app (go to gmail.com in your safari mobile browser).

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5. Apps

– The easiest way to get apps is to go to the App Store icon and search or browse.  Click to install or buy and make sure you have an iTunes account to download.  I will write a separate post on my favorite apps.

– Organizing your apps – there are two ways to do this. One is to do it on your computer via iTunes and then sync it. This is definitely easier/quicker but probably not as convenient.  On your phone itself, to move apps around – hold your finger down on any app until it starts to blink.  You can then drag and drop it to wherever you want it to be.  To create a folder of apps, drag one app onto another app and it will auto-create a folder. It will guess a name based on the types of apps, but you can change it.  You can have as many folders as you want, but only 12 apps per folder.

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6. Search

– There is a great universal search tool on the iPhone.  You can get to it by clicking the home button twice slowly or once if you’re already on the home screen.  By default, you can search here for apps, people, emails, etc.  I use this search to quickly type the first few letters of an app that I want to open and click it in the results (I have so many apps that this is usually faster than finding it manually.)

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7. Multitasking

– This is a confusing one.  Last summer Apple launched the ability to run more than one app at a time.  What does that mean? If you click the home button twice quickly, you’ll see a row of apps displayed at the bottom. These are all of your “open” apps. Clicking any  of them usually results in a quicker switch back to it and it usually saves where you were when you were last in the app.  I recommend closing the ones you aren’t using periodically, as any app will stay open by default and eventually these take up a lot of memory (it’s like Windows/programs being open on your computer).

– Separately, certain apps/functions can run in the “background”, meaning they can actually be running certain tasks while you are in another application. This only works for a few specific types of apps/tasks:

* Music, like Pandora

* Voice apps, like Skype

* Location apps, like Google Latitude

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8. Notifications

Unfortunately, notifications (alerts) is something that could be a lot better on the iPhone.  As mentioned above, you can set preferences for phone,  mail and calendar notifications in the Sounds settings.  For all other apps, you can set options in Settings, and then Notifications.

For most apps, the default settings will be that all notifications will be enabled. These are Badges, Alerts and Sounds.  Badges are little displays on the icon of an app showing, for example, new messages in Facebook.  Alerts are text boxes that pop up with a notice of some sort.  You can actually click  on one of these alerts when the screen is locked and when you unlock it, it will open up the app to the alerted area. I recommend setting all of these notification settings conservatively (i.e. less notifications are better), lest you get woken up in the middle of the night for a spurious notification…

9. Autocorrect

– This is another one that can be confusing to start.   By default, when you type on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, you’ll start to notice that the iPhone will auto-correct/auto-suggest certain words.  The way this works is that the iPhone software assumes that you’ll hit the wrong keys sometimes. It tries to guess which word you meant to type based on the fact that you usually hit the wrong key next to the one you meant to hit. Usually it does a great job guessing and if you just press the spacebar after each word, it will correct it.  Sometimes it guesses wrong though and you see it’s about to correct it (a bubble to the right of the word you’re typing).  You can click the x on that bubble (hard because it’s small) and it will let you type the word the way you intended.

Sometimes this autocorrect feature results in hilarious unintended words/sentences/conversations, like here: not safe for some workplaces: http://damnyouautocorrect.com/

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10. BBM

– Ex-Blackberry users will probably miss BBM even more than their physical keyboards.  The iPhone doesn’t have anything just like that and doesn’t have a way to chat with your ex-BBM- buddies.  The SMS/texting app is pretty good though and threads conversations like BBM. Also, some direct alternatives:

Beluga Messenger seems to be the latest favorite cross-platform messaging app, works on Android and I think Blackberry too, just like BBM but with photos and videos too. Competitors include Ping Chat and others.

Meebo – great app for every type of  IM.

GroupMe – create groups of your friends or co-workers and stay in touch by sending an SMS to one number and having it go to all of them. Fast Society has a similar product.

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Hope these are helpful tips! Any others that I missed from current iPhone users? Questions from any new or about-to-be-new users?

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3 responses to “Top 10 Tips for New iPhone Users

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Top 10 Tips for New iPhone Users | Ron Feldman's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: How to Protect Your New iPhone | Ron Feldman's Blog

  3. For all the shortcomings of both the device and the service provider, my Blackberry + T-Mobile combination is still unbeatable price-wise for the amount of international travel I do. In addition to my base rate, I pay just $20/month for international Blackberry email. That’s unlimited emailing, wherever I can get on a wireless network, anywhere in the world, for $20. Text/voice/web is of course subject to insane roaming charges as with any other provider. But I don’t miss those functions when I’m on a train in Tanzania or a bus in Laos, sending and receiving e-mails all day for next to nothing. And it’s pro-rated: when I get home midway through the month, I can remove the service and pay only for the days of the month I was abroad. And re-add it again when I leave town again. Beat that.

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