You use your iPhone every single day. It’s by your side from morning until night, for everything from work to play to relaxation. It seems like your iPhone can do anything, but are you sure you’re using your mobile phone to its fullest potential? What if we told you there’s even more that little rectangle can do?
You may have seen some of these hacks popularized on TikTok or Instagram, but just in case you’re not big on social media, we’ve compiled a list of the most useful, most fun, and most surprising iPhone hacks to help you get the maximum function from your iPhone.
1. Reply to a Single Message in a Multi-Text Thread
Do you or someone you love often text in a storm of thoughts as they arise? Do you and your bestie often have two conversations at once? Are you trying to reply to a text message from five minutes ago but the group chat has moved on? For any situation in which you need to reply to a single text in a sea of messages in your messages app, use in-line messaging.
In-line messaging lets you select the text you’re responding to so that your conversation partner will see both texts together upon receipt. The old message will appear like a cloud over the new one. To use this function, touch and hold the message you want to reply to until a drop-down menu appears. Select the first option, “Reply,” from the drop-down menu. Then send your message as you normally would.
2. You Can Set Different Ringtones, Text Tones, and Vibrations for Different Contacts
You know who’s trying to get your attention from the sound of the Gmail or iMessage notification alone. Does a phone call from your mother sound like alarm bells? Does a text from your crush sound like birds singing? They can.
Open the Contacts app, locate the person you want to assign to a unique tone, and select their name. In the top right corner of their contact card, tap “Edit.” Scroll just slightly, then you’ll see a field labeled Ringtone and a field labeled Text Tone; these probably both say “Default.” Tap the one you’d like to change, then you can scroll to select a custom ringtone and vibration for that contact. This is also the screen where you can grant that contact permission to bypass your “Do Not Disturb Mode,” when active.
For further chat customization, if you’re in a group chat with other iPhone users, you can name the group chat and set a group chat icon by entering the group chat in the Messages app, tapping the names/phone numbers at the top of the screen, then selecting the “Change Name and Photo” option. Remember, all members of the chat will be able to see this change.
3. You Can Customize an Emoji Storm
You already know that when you hold down the send button, you have the option to send your message with a text effect or a screen effect. Well, did you know you can basically create your own custom screen effect?
Select up to three emojis and hold down the send button until the effect menu appears. Then, tap “Screen” at the top of the screen. Then, “Send With Echo” and tap send.
4. Stop Taking Photos With Bad Lighting
Did you know you can use your iPhone camera to take HDR Photos? HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos balance the exposure from the photo’s highlights to shadows. There’s actually a button for this right inside the camera app, but many people don’t realize exactly what HDR means, so it goes unused.
If you find yourself often taking pictures where one part is too dark or another part is too bright, tap “HDR” at the top of the screen, and select “On” from the drop-down menu. Then, you’ll have photos that capture dynamic lighting much more realistically.
5. Take Photos While Recording Video
When you’re capturing an important moment, you would probably love to have both photos and videos. Now, instead of needing two cameras, your iPhone can take both at the same time.
While you’re recording video, even within Safari or Chrome, you’ll notice a round white button to the left of the red “Recording” button. Just tap that white button to take photos without interrupting or impairing your video quality. When the recording stops, both your video and photos will be in your Camera Roll.
6. Take Photos in the Dark
Did you know that iPhone cameras now come with a setting called Night Mode so you can take pictures in low light? No more shadowy blurs in the darkness. This feature should turn on automatically when you open the camera; just give the sensor a moment to detect you’re in low light. You’ll know Night Mode is on when you see a little yellow and black round icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
Once in Night Mode, tap the Night Mode icon to change the presets. When taking photos in low light, the trick is to use a slower shutter speed to allow more light into the lens. Use the slider at the bottom of the screen to slow the shutter speed to a max of 10 seconds. However, a slower shutter speed means greater sensitivity to movement, so in order to prevent these photos from looking blurry, use a tripod and ask your subjects to hold still.
7. Use Your Camera as a Tape Measure
Search your iPhone for the Measure App (that’s right, your phone came preloaded with an app for this). Follow the step-by-step instructions on the screen. Use the white dot in the center of the screen so that it’s pointed at one end of whatever it is you’re measuring and hit the big ‘+,’ then move the camera so the white dot touches the other side and hits the ‘+’ again. Though this measuring tool is not 100% accurate, it’s great for giving an approximation.
8. Copy Text From Your Camera Lens
This is such an incredible time saver. Did you know that starting with iOS 15 you can literally point your iPhone camera at any (legible) text, and not only can it read it, but you also have the ability to copy it to a clipboard and paste it wherever you need? This handy capability is thanks to a feature called OCR, or Optical Character Recognition. Gone are the days of transcribing one physical document into a virtual one!
Just open your camera app, point it at the piece of text you’d like to copy, and tap to focus. You should see little yellow brackets appear around the text, and a small square icon appears in the lower right corner of the screen. Tap this icon to copy your text. The text will open in a new window, and from there, select any pieces of the text you want to copy, then just copy the text as you normally would.
Lock Screen Hacks
8. Customize Your Lockscreen for Efficiency
Apple finally caught up to Android devices with their widget game. With iOS 16 or later, you can customize your lock screen to include widgets to display things like the weather and your calendar. Think of a widget like a little window into the app, so you can get the info you need without even opening the app. If you’ve been putting off updating your iOS, this is a big reason you should!
To add a widget to your lock screen, touch and hold on the Lock Screen until the Customize button appears, then tap Customize. From here, tap either box to explore your widget options. Then, drag your desired widgets to the available slots.
To add a widget to your home screen, touch and hold your home screen until your apps shake. Locate the “+” in the upper left corner. Select the widget you’d like, then choose the widget’s size, then tap “Add Widget.” On your home screen, you can even stack your widgets so you can scroll them like you’re reading a daily paper curated just for you. Stacking widgets is done by just placing one widget on top of another while editing.
Widgets are just one example of ways you can personalize your home and lock screens. Now, you can also change the font for the time and date on the lock screen, and you can set your background photo to be a slideshow.
9. Customize Your Control Center
Next to the lock screen, your control center is one of the most highly customizable features on recent iPhones and iPads. Customizing it so it contains only features most useful to you is surprisingly easy.
Go to Settings, then straight to the “Control Center” menu. From here, you’ll see a list of the features currently displayed in your control center. These features will all have a small red “-” button beside them that you can use to remove it from the control center if it doesn’t often assist you. Below that list, you’ll see a list of features you could add to your control center marked by little green “+” buttons. Use the + and - buttons to reassign your favorite features to the control center.
Some awesome features you may want to include in your control center beyond the basics (flashlight, airplane mode, timer, etc.) might be a QR code scanner, a remote for your Apple TV, or a dark mode toggle switch. See your settings for a full list of options.
After you’ve selected the features you want, you can even rearrange their order within the control center by dragging them into a new order in the list. Touch, hold, and drag the three-line stack button on the right side of the screen to move them.
10. Do You Miss Having a Home Button?
If you have an iPhone 8 or later, your iPhone doesn’t have a physical home button, and not everyone was a fan of that switch. There’s a very handy accessibility setting that can give you back a home button of sorts.
Go to Settings, then Accessibility, then Touch. Locate “AssistiveTouch” and switch it on. A little circle button will appear on the side of your iPhone screen. That’s your home button 2.0. Tap it, and you can set it up with different shortcut options. You can assign it a myriad of functions, including screenshots and Siri.
11. Exceed Max Volume
If you need the music to overpower the crowded party, or perhaps overpower the noise of your dishwasher or your kids, there’s a pretty well-hidden iPhone hack for that. Simply go to your Settings, then to Music, then EQ, then select “Late Night.” This hack will make music played through your Apple Music louder, but not other apps.
If you want to increase the max volume for apps from the app store (like Spotify), there are two ways to go about it. For some apps, like Spotify, you should go to the audio settings inside the app itself, and make sure that it’s set to the maximum volume. If this is not an option, there’s one other trick before you resort to sticking your phone in a bowl, toilet paper tube, or whatever else the internet has suggested today:
Go to Settings, then to “Sounds & Haptics.” Then select “Headphone Audio,” followed by “Headphone Safety.” From this menu, find the “Reduce Loud Sounds” switch, and toggle it to the off position.
12. Listen to Music on a Timer While You Fall Asleep
For this hack, you need your clock app. This works on any iOS 7 or later. Go into the clock app, click Timer, and set the amount of time you’d like the music to play. Next, instead of just starting the timer, tap the “When Timer Ends…” menu. From the menu, select “Stop Playing,” then “Start.” Then, navigate to your music app, and hit play on your sleepy-time tunes. Your music will stop playing when the timer ends.
13. Have Siri Read Your Emails Out Loud
Do you feel like your job is nothing but emails, emails, and more emails? If you can’t bring yourself to read a single email more, great news: Siri can read it to you. Just activate Siri, and say “Read me my emails,” and she will. She will read you, in reverse chronological order, your unread emails. You can also have Siri read your text messages with the same command; just say messages instead of emails.
Storage and Battery Hacks
14. Extend Your Battery Life
Don’t let your iPhone waste precious battery life on background tasks you don’t need. You probably already know to turn on low battery mode, but you should also turn off background app refresh to extend the battery life. To turn off the background app refresh, go to settings, then general, then background app refresh, then switch it to off with the topmost switch.
If you want to allow only some of your apps to background refresh, you can manually select which apps do and don’t. After tapping “Background App Refresh,” you can scroll down the list of your apps to give or take permission from them.
You can also save battery by turning on airplane mode. In airplane mode, your device won't connect to cellular data, so unless you’re connected to wifi, all tasks requiring data will cease. To turn on airplane mode, open your control center, and tap the airplane icon. Repeat this process to turn it off. Pro tip: Try charging your phone in airplane mode as well for a faster charge!
15. You Can Still Take Photos When Your Storage Is Full
There’s a very sneaky way around this annoying little error message! Use almost any app except your camera app (Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all work). Take a photo as if you’re about to make a post, but instead of posting, hit “save to camera roll,” and regardless of your storage situation, the photo should save.
16. Get “More” Storage Space
You’re not really magically generating storage, but in terms of making your storage space work for you, this is like the Space Bag Storage Pack of iPhone hacks. What you’re really doing here is cleaning out your phone’s RAM.
If you have an older iPhone with a home button and no Face ID, it’s super easy. Hold down the power button until the power off slider appears, but instead of sliding to power off, hold down the home button. Wait for your screen to go blank, then put in your passcode when prompted.
If you have a newer iPhone that does have Face ID, the process is a bit harder. First, turn on assistive touch (See hack #11!). Then, hold down the power button and the increase volume button until the power off slider appears. Then, instead of sliding it, tap your assistive touch button to open the menu, and hold down the home button. Wait for your screen to go blank, then put in your passcode if needed.
17. Use Google Maps Without Wifi
Oftentimes, when you’re in transit, you’re not connected to wifi. In order to keep using your map without using cellular data (perhaps you’re in an area with poor reception and your iPhone’s location services will not work), you’ll need the Google Maps App (not Apple Maps).
Simply open the Google Maps app while you’re on wifi beforehand. Tap “Settings” at the bottom of the screen, then select, “Offline Maps.” Then, you’ll be able to select a region of the map to download to your device for offline use. Select your region, then hit download. You can use this hack on your Apple watch as well, as long as you already have Google Maps enabled on that device.
If you only need one route and not the ability to generate new routes within a predetermined area, you can route your trip while still on wifi, then tap the three-dot menu at the top right, then select “Download Offline Map.”
18. Shake To Undo
This one isn’t new but often forgotten. This is like the “command + Z” of iPhones; when you make an error that “command + Z” could fix on your Mac, shake it like an Etch-a-sketch. You’ll get a pop-up window with the option to select “Undo.” Tap undo and you’re set to try again.
19. You Can Copy and Paste Inside Your Calculator App
If reading or memorizing numbers makes you dizzy, this is the hack you need. To paste a number from your clipboard, either double-tap or touch and hold the display bar until the drop-down menu appears, then tap paste. To copy a number in the display bar, you can either double-tap or touch and hold the number until it highlights. Then, tap copy from the menu.
Or, for iOS 13 or later, you can use a three-finger pinch. To copy, use your thumb, pointer, and middle finger to three-finger pinch the number in the display. Imagine you’re plucking it right off the screen. To paste a number already in your clipboard, use the same three fingers and do the opposite motion, push out with three fingers, like you’re dropping the number from your fingers into the display bar.
As a bonus, you can copy the last result without even opening the app! This is especially useful if you’re switching between apps in your app library. Touch and hold the calculator app icon on the home screen until the drop-down menu appears. Then select “Copy Last Result.”
As you may have noticed, many of these hacks are new features courtesy of recent iOS updates, as if you needed another reason to install your iOS updates whenever they become available. Hopefully, these iPhone tricks and tips will help you make the most of your device’s capabilities.
At the end of the day, this is not a comprehensive list because new updates will always bring new hacks to an already long list of capabilities. Remember, the best iPhone hacks for you will depend on your daily tasks, so ask yourself (or the internet), “How can I use my iPhone to make this task easier?”