Welcome to our iOS tips megaguide! In this roundup of handy tricks, essential tips and lesser-known features we walk you through the intricacies of iOS 11, iOS 10 and earlier versions (as well as a few of the key features in the iOS 12 beta), and help you get the most out of your iPad or iPhone.
iOS offers a raft of features, and there are sure to be tips that we haven’t yet covered here. If you think you’ve spotted something worth a mention, let us know via the comments. We’ve divided the article into 10 categories, running the gamut from socialising to travel, from privacy to health.
To read more about iOS 11, turn to our iOS 11 review; for a sneak peak of the future, see our preview of iOS 12’s new features.
Contributors: Serenity Caldwell, Dan Moren, Lewis Painter, Lucy Hattersley
General interface tips
iOS 11 or later; iPad only
The old dock was just a set of four to six app icons (usually your most-used apps) that were always at the bottom of the Home screen. As of iOS 11 you can have far more icons in it (we’ve seen as many as 14) and it does much more, too.
For one thing, the apps that appear in the Dock to the right of the line are dynamic – either recently used, or currently being used on other devices you use, thanks to Handoff.
And the Dock is now accessible from any screen, not just the Home screen(s): swipe up from Safari, say, and it’ll pop up, giving you easy access to your favourite apps – and if you tap and hold one of the icons so it starts jiggling, you can drag it on to the main screen and it’ll turn into a split screen tab, if your screen supports it in your current viewing orientation.
We cover this feature in more detail in a separate article: How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11.
iOS 11 and later
The Dock is accessible from anywhere by swiping upwards, so you might be wondering what happened to Control Centre. Wonder no more: just continue your upward swipe further up the screen and the new Control Centre will appear too, with the Dock at the bottom.
Actually, assuming you’re on an iPad, it doesn’t stop there. As well as the Dock (at the bottom) and the Control Centre toggles and app shortcuts (on the right), you’ll find that most of the screen is taken up by the app switcher, showing your four most recently opened apps; tap one to jump to it, or swipe right to see more.
Social & communication
iOS 12 and later
For years FaceTime has supported video calls between two devices and no more; if a group of people want to talk to each other they have to crowd round shared iPads, or pass them around. Well, iOS 12 finally removes that restriction.
To make a group FaceTime video call you simple have to enter more than one contact into the address box when initiating the chat. The interface is a little different: the tiles showing each participant (there can be up to 32) vary in size and prominence depending on how recently that person spoke. Double-tapping a tile brings that person to the front in your view.
iPhone X only
The iPhone X’s Face ID facial unlocking tech relies on a sophisticated array of front-facing scanners. But these are also put to a more lighthearted use in the form of Animoji.
Animoji are emoji – mostly cure animals, although there’s also a robots, a skull and, as of iOS 12, a ghost – that animate to copy the movements of your face. We show how to set up and use Animoji in a separate article.
But here’s what’s really interesting: a new feature, also included as part of the iOS 12 update, enables you to create your own custom Animoji, which are called Memoji. The customisation tools are built into Messages; here’s how to make a Memoji.
Sketch in Messages
iOS 10 and later
The ability to sketch out messages was first introduced on the App Watch. It’s a fun feature, but bound to find many more fans now that Apple is bringing it to the iPad and iPhone.
Open Messages and tap the Sketch icon (shaped as a heart with two fingers). Sketch a drawing on the black rectangle and it’ll be sent to the other person. It’s sent as an animation, so they see your finger sketching it out as it goes.
iOS 10 and later
Read receipts are those notifications people receive when you’ve seen their messages. If this feature is turned on, they will see a little ‘Read at 15:15’ next to the message; if it’s not, they’ll just see ‘Delivered’, which might not mean anything.
Sometimes read receipts are a useful service – if a bunch of colleagues are co-ordinating work over iMessage, say, this could save you constantly having to text back ‘yes ok, got that’; at others it’s intrusive and could get you in trouble when you’re planning to claim that sorry, you didn’t see that message about the mother-in-law needing a lift so you went to the pub instead.
Which is why it’s lucky that you can now choose whether the receipts are sent or not, on a per-conversation basis. Which in practice roughly translates into a per-contact basis.
First of all, decide whether you want read receipts to be sent by default. Open the Settings app, then scroll down to Messages. ‘Send Read Receipts’ is the fourth option down. If it’s white, receipts won’t be sent unless you specify otherwise on a given conversation; if it’s green, they will.
Now open Messages and go into a conversation you want to have different settings to the default. Tap the little I at the top-right of the screen. In the next screen, tap the slider next to ‘Send Read Receipts’. This will apply to this conversation only.
Filter unread emails in Mail
iOS 10 and later
In iOS 10 it’s easy to quickly filter your emails in Mail so you only see unread messages: tap the circular icon at the bottom left of the screen. It will become filled-blue (instead of just outline-blue) and you’ll see a message reading ‘Filtered by: Unread’. Tap the icon again to turn the filter off.
Open up nested thread emails in Mail
iOS 10 and later
While we’re talking Mail, what do you think of the new way iOS 10 Mail organises email threads? Instead of showing each message individually, it groups linked emails together. Tap the email and you’ll see all the linked messages organised in a thread.
This is better in some ways – if you’ve been getting a lot of emails from one particular threads, it stops those messages from filling the screen and obstructing your view of unrelated messages – but some people (such as Chris Phin, who pointed this issue and its solution out on Twitter) prefer the old system. To open up a thread within the Mail app you just need to tap the little blue right-pointing double-chevron next to the email in question – it will point down instead, and show the full thread. Tap it again to close the thread back up.
If iOS 10’s Mail threading really does you head in, turn it off completely. Go to Settings > Mail and then tap the green slider next to ‘Organise by Thread’.
iOS 9 and later
As of iOS 9, you can access and send any type of attachment. When writing an email, tap and hold the screen until the menu appears, then select the option ‘Add Attachment’. Attached files can be from iCloud Driver or other services like DropBox.
You can also save attached files that have been sent to you by email directly to your iCloud Drive; just tap the attachment until a bar menu appears on the screen.
How to set up notifications for email replies
iOS 8 and later
It’s unlikely that you want to be notified every time you get an email, but there are always those important email threads that require immediate attention. Now, Apple lets you stay on top of emails by enabling reply notifications, which you can turn on for individual emails and email threads.
To do so, open the email you want to get notifications for, tap the flag icon in the bottom left corner, and then tap ‘Notify Me…’. Now, click Notify Me to confirm you want to turn Notifications on. To stop notifications, tap the same icon and then tap ‘Stop Notifying’.
How to minimise an email
iOS 8 and later
Another really handy email feature introduced with iOS 8 is the ability to hide/minimise your New Message window. If you’ve started writing an email but want to check something from a separate email, you can do so by dragging down from the top of the window.
Tap the New Message bar at the bottom of the app to get that Message back and continue writing it.
Find out more about the new features in the Mail app here.
How to send audio messages
iOS 8 and later
You can send short audio messages in the iOS 8 Messages app instead of typing. Touch and hold on the microphone icon beside the text box to record a message, and swipe up when you’ve finished to send it.
Alternatively, you can hold your device up to your ear and speak to record the message while in the messages app, and then when you lower the phone again it will send automatically.
You can listen to audio messages you’ve received by lifting your iPhone up to your ear. You can then immediately speak your reply into the iPhone once the original is finished.
How to exit group conversations
iOS 8 and later
A really useful feature in Messages is the ability to mute group conversations, or if they’re getting really out of hand, leave them completely.
You can now go to the Message group, tap Details/the lower-case i at the top right, scroll down and then tap Do Not Disturb or Hide Alerts to mute notifications, or Leave This Conversation.
Next: Notifications & Control Centre >>
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