Monthly Archives: September 2011

Important and Non-Obvious iPhone Tips

iPhone 4 showing the home screen.

Image via Wikipedia

Apple has made the iPhone so easy to use that it’s trained people to use some behaviors that are problematic in terms of performance, battery life, etc.  In light of that here are some tips that should help your overall experience and performance. Note that many of these apply to the iPad too. Ok, here goes:

1. Rebooting your iPhone – Many people assume that clicking the top (sleep/wake) button on one’s iPhone is how you turn it “off” and that hitting the home button and swiping is how you turn it on.  In fact, these just take the phone in and out of standby mode.  It’s important that you take the time to completely reboot the iPhone from time to time for it to perform well, once a month usually works for me.  There are two ways to do this:

  • Regular – hold down the top (sleep/wake) button until you get a slider across the top that says “slide to power off”. Slide it to turn the phone off.  To turn it back on, hold down the same button until you see an Apple and it will start up.
  • Soft reset – if you’re having problems getting your phone to respond or turn on/off or just haven’t done this in a while, try this:  hold down the home button and the top (sleep/wake) button simultaneously for about 10 seconds.  Keep holding it even after you see the option to slide to turn it off.   Eventually the phone will turn off and you’ll see an Apple as it starts to reboot.

2. Closing your inactive apps – This is one that I’ve found that most people don’t know.  Apple implemented multi-tasking with its last major upgrade to its operating system. This means that apps can continue to run in the background when you use other apps.  However, the way they did this means that any app you open will stay open until you manually close it.  How do you do that?

  • Double click the home button quickly (slowly does something else).  You’ll see a row of applications in a bottom “tray”.  These are the ones that are open.  You can scroll to the right and see all of the open apps.  To close any/all (I recommend closing all pretty regularly), hold your finger on any of the app icons.  They’ll start to shake and you’ll see a minus sign at the top left of each icon, click it to close any of the apps.


You’ll notice that your phone will run a lot faster without all those apps running.  I do this a few times per day. It’s annoying, but I find it helps the phone run smoother. This is especially important for apps performing tasks in the background, like continuously tracking your location via GPS. Also, if you find that an app is not performing (e.g. not connecting to the internet or e-mail isn’t fetching), closing it and re-opening it usually helps.

3. Close your inactive Safari/browser tabs – This is less of an issue but also helps with performance. To see your open tabs, open safari and click the icon in the bottom right, you’ll see all your open tabs. You should close these out when you’re not using them.

4. Leave some free disk space on your iPhone –  While it’s tempting to fill every spare bit of space on your iPhone with music, photos and videos, the iPhone’s performance suffers if you don’t have a decent amount of free disk space available.  This is particularly frustrating for those of us that have at one time tried the “fill free space with music” option that iTunes presents.  It turns out that is a bad idea.  20-25% free should be plenty . Even 5% should be enough, just don’t fill it completely. (thanks to feedback at Hacker News for the right number here)  To see how much disk space you’re using, check Settings>General>About and you’ll  see “Capacity” and “Available”.

5. Other advanced tips:

  • Lock your screen’s orientation – Do you ever use your iphone while lying on your side or tilted in some way and have the screen switch from portrait to landscape without meaning to? If you double click your home button to see your open apps like in #2 above, but scroll to the left instead, you’ll see an icon all the way to the left (next to the iPod controls) that’s a circular arrow.  If you click that icon, the phone will lock it’s orientation to portrait. Click it again to unlock.

  • Take a screenshot – Do you ever want to send someone a screenshot of what’s on your phone? Examples include the amazing word you played in Words with Friends or troubleshooting a problem you’re having.  To take a screenshot, just hold the home and top buttons simultaneously. The screen will flash and you can find the screenshot in your Photos App under Camera Roll.  You can share the photo via e-mail, MMS or upload it to your computer like a regular photo.  (As an aside, you can taunt your Android phone- carrying friends about this feature which they don’t have.)
  • Scroll to top –  In certain apps, for example the mail app and the Safari browser, if you want to scroll to the top, just tap on the top of the screen (where it says the time) and it will take you back to the top.
  • Search – This is one of the best features of the iPhone that’s not widely known.  If you click the home button twice slowly, or scroll to the left from your home screen, you’ll get a search box. This is to search your phone.  It will search your applications, contacts and e-mail.  I use it to launch applications since I have way too many to remember where I put them, even with folders. I just type the first few letters of the app name and click on it in the list to launch it.
  • International keyboards – For those of you that speak other languages,  you can add an additional keyboard very simply.  Go to Settings>General>International>Keyboards>Add New Keyboard.  Once you have an additional keyboard, you’ll see a symbol of a Globe when your keyboard is open. Clicking it will switch to your other keyboard.
  • Caps lock – Now I don’t like giving an incentive for people to use all caps, but a simple way to get caps lock on the iPhone is to just click the shift key on the keyboard twice. (thanks to Greg Schwartz for this tip)
Anyone else have good tips? Leave them in the comments.