Apple iPhone tips and tricks

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Opening a present.

Milan Markovic

If you got a new iPhone for the holidays, you’ve probably already gone through some of the initial setup and configured things like Face ID. But, there’s a whole lot more you can do with your new iPhone, thanks to the latest iOS 13 update that rolled out in September.

You can do a lot more than just install a bunch of new apps. In this guide, I’ll show you how to get the most out of your new iPhone, like how to share a Wi-Fi hot spot with other family members, set up your custom Memoji and more.

Since iOS 13 works all the way back to the iPhone 6S, most of these will work on old iPhones, too. So even if you didn’t get the newest iPhone 11 Pro Max during the holidays, you can still take advantage of almost everything in this guide.

Send unknown callers to voicemail

Send robocalls and spammers right to voicemail by turning on “Silence Unknown Callers.”

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You can fight spam by automatically sending unknown numbers right to voicemail. You just want to make sure you have numbers for important places, like your doctor’s office or child’s school, saved to your address book so that you don’t miss them. Once you have, just do this to send all unknown numbers to voicemail:

  • Open Settings on your iPhone.
  • Tap Phone.
  • Scroll down to “Silence Unknown Callers.”
  • Toggle the button to on.

Play Spotify with Siri

Ask Siri to play Spotify

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Siri can finally control third-party music apps. That means you can ask her to play your favorite songs and she’ll play right from other services, like Spotify, instead of just through Apple Music. To use Spotify, do this:

  • Make sure you have the latest version of Spotify installed.
  • Ask Siri to play music on Spotify, with a command like “Siri, play Led Zeppelin on Spotify.”
  • Siri will ask you if it can access your Spotify data.
  • Say Yes.
  • Each time you ask Siri to play a song, artist or album, just make sure to tack “on Spotify” at the end. Now she’ll play directly from Spotify.

Take wide-angle pictures

An example of wide angle on the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

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The new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Pro Max have a wide-angle lens. This lets you take really wide pictures that fit more into the scene. It’s a fun feature, especially for landscapes or when you’re trying to include a lot of people into one photo. To use it:

  • Open the camera.
  • Find where it says 1x next to the shutter button, and choose .5
  • You’ll see the camera swap to a wide-angle lens.
  • Take your picture.

Connect two pairs of AirPods to the same iPhone

The new model on the left looks almost identical to the old model on the right. Note the new charging indicator light on the left.

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You can connect two pairs of AirPods (or some Beats headphones like the Powerbeats Pro and Beats Solo Pro) to the same iPhone. This is great during travel, if you and a travel buddy want to watch the same movie or listen to the same music. To set it up:

  • Open the charging case lid and hold the pairing button on the back of your AirPods until the light starts to flash white.
  • Bring it close to your iPhone.
  • Tap the pop-up menu confirming you want to pair the AirPods to your iPhone.
  • Now repeat those steps to connect a second pair.
  • Start playing music.
  • You’ll hear tunes through one pair of AirPods.
  • Now tap the AirPlay button.
  • Choose the second pair of AirPods you connected.
  • Music should be playing in both sets of AirPods at the same time.

Turn on Dark Mode

Dark mode in the iOS 13 beta on my iPhone.

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Dark mode is a new feature that launched in September. It makes things easier on your eyes at night, since there’s less white blaring at your face, and can also help save battery life on iPhones with AMOLED screens, like the iPhone X and XS series, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. It also makes things look cooler.

  • Swipe down from the top-right of your iPhone’s display (or up on an iPhone that has a home button.) This opens the Control Center menu.
  • Tap and hold the screen brightness toggle.
  • Tap the “Dark Mode” toggle on the bottom left.

You can also schedule dark mode to turn on automatically at certain times:

  • Open Settings.
  • Choose Display & Brightness.
  • Under Appearance, select Light or Dark mode.
  • Toggle “Automatic” to on.
  • Choose a custom schedule or set Dark Mode to turn on automatically at sunset and off at sunrise.

Swipe on the keyboard

You can swipe across the keyboard to type by default in iOS 13.

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This is one of those tips that’s pretty hidden unless you just start using it. The keyboard on iPhones now gives you two options: you can tap to type like normal or you can swipe from each letter to letter to form a word. Android users and third-party iPhone keyboards have had this forever, but now it’s built right into the default keyboard on the iPhone. I still prefer tap-typing, but lots of people I know prefer swiping. So, give it a try. Swipe from letter to letter on your keyboard and it’ll recognize the word you’re building and type it out for you.

Use a PS4 or Xbox controller with games

Play games with a PS4 or Xbox One controller in iOS 13.

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Apple finally added support for Xbox and PS4 Bluetooth controllers to iPhones. That means you can use the controller you might already have at home to play games on your iPhone without any need for plugging in wires or buying a special controller. Here’s how to set it up:

  • Put your Xbox controller into pairing mode by turning it on and then holding the pairing button on the back until the front light begins flashing quickly.
  • Or put your PS4 remote into pairing mode by holding the Playstation button and the share button for about three seconds.
  • Open Settings on your iPhone
  • Choose Bluetooth and turn it on.
  • Select your controller from the list of Bluetooth devices ready for pairing.
  • Wait until it says the controller is connected.
  • Launch a game with controller support. Many are listed here, and some new ones are in Apple Arcade.

Long press in Control Center to connect to a specific Wi-Fi network

Choose a Wi-Fi network from Control Center in iOS 13.

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Control Center is where you go to access things like the display brightness, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi networks and more. But now you can long press in it to get even more options, like connecting to a specific Wi-Fi network instead of just the default connection. Here’s how to use it:

  • Swipe down from the top-right of your iPhone’s screen to open control center. (Or swipe up on models with a home button.)
  • Tap and hold the Wi-Fi icon (or any other icon).
  • Tap and hold Wi-Fi again.
  • Select the network you want to connect to.

Share your phone’s hot spot with the family

Automatically share your phone’s data hotspot with family members in iOS 13.

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You can use your iPhone as a Wi-Fi hot spot (if you have phone hot spot data included with your wireless plan) and automatically share it with your family members. This is good if you’re somewhere without Wi-Fi, say an airport, and your kids want to connect their tablets to the internet. Here’s how to turn it on:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap “Personal Hotspot”
  • Choose “Family Sharing.”
  • Select the family member you’d like to share with.
  • Now choose “automatic” or “ask for approval.”
  • If that family member sees your phone as a hot spot, they can connect either automatically or once you approve them.

Share your ETA in Apple Maps

Share your ETA from Apple Maps in iOS 13.

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When I leave work, I usually send my wife my a link that lets her follow along with my drive so she knows how long it’ll take me to get home, and if I run into any unforeseen traffic. You can do this in Apple Maps with another iPhone, too, by using the new “Share ETA option.”

  • Open Apple Maps.
  • Set a destination and get directions to it.
  • Tap “Go.”
  • Tap the bottom of the maps screen.
  • Choose “Share ETA.”
  • Pick your contact.
  • They’ll get a text message with your ETA and, if on an iPhone, a detailed view.

Make your Memoji look like you

Pick your headwear. There’s a lot to choose from!

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Apple’s Memoji are animated versions of yourself that you can send to friends and family in text messages. It’s kind of like a digital version of yourself, and now you can fully customize them with AirPods, a variety of hats, jewelry and other fun accessories. To set yours up, do this:

  • Open the keyboard in Messages.
  • Tap the monkey icon on the top menu bar.
  • Tap Edit.
  • Change your hairstyle and skin color, add accessories like AirPods or add headwear.

Check out the new Apple Photos ‘Day’ view

Check the new “Days” tab in Apple Photos on iOS 13.

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For a while, I preferred Google Photos over Apple Photos because the albums just felt more alive. But now Apple Photos albums come to life, too. In Daily View, for example, you’ll see highlights of the pictures you took on a certain day, complete with videos that play automatically and more. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you want to relive an experience. To see it:

  • Open Photos on your iPhone.
  • Tap the “Days” tab on the bottom.
  • Scroll through some recent days.
  • Watch some of your memories come to life.

Take a new ‘high-key light mono’ Portrait picture

Me in the new high-key

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Portrait pictures are popular, but did you know there a few different settings that can change the lightning and add fun effects? The newest one is called “high-key light mono” and it creates a black and white portrait picture on top of a white background. It looks like the picture above.

Here’s how to take one:

  • Open the camera app.
  • Choose portrait mode from the menu.
  • Slide your finger through the options to “high-key light mono.”
  • Now snap a picture of someone.

Optimize your charging so your battery ages better

The new Optimized Battery Charging feature in iOS 13.

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Apple has a setting that you can enable to make sure your iPhone’s battery lasts as long as possible. It’s called “optimized battery charging” and it helps you battery age slower by charging it a bit differently. Here’s how the feature is explained on an iPhone: “To reduce battery aging, iPhone learns from your daily charging routine so it can wait to finish charging past 80% until you need to use it.”

To turn it on, do this:

  • Open Settings.
  • Choose Battery.
  • Tap Battery Health.
  • Toggle “Optimized Battery Charging.” to the on position.

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