iOS 5 has been released for over a month now, and while it’s reportedly been the source of battery drainage issues for many (in particular iPhone 4S owners), the new OS is still by far the best that Apple’s offered to date. From the overhauled Notification System to iMessage, iOS 5 boasts over 200 new features for iDevice users. So unless you’ve made it a point to learn all there is to know about iOS 5, it’s likely you have yet to come across certain “hidden” features on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Let’s take a look at 10 Tips and Tricks that’ll add functionality to your device you may never knew existed.
1. Create Keyboard Shortcuts
One of the more useful iOS 5 features, Keyboard Shortcuts allow users to create custom abbreviations, which will then expand into snippets of text. Just like the popular TextExpander app, iOS Shortcuts will save you loads of time when banging out that email or iMessage. To enable it, go to Settings –> General –> Keyboard –> Shortcuts –> Add New Shortcut… Then create your own Phrase (ie “What’s For Dinner”) and Shortcut. Once that’s saved, the moment you type out “wfd”, you’ll see What’s For Dinner appear above the abbreviation (same as the auto correct functionality). A simple tap on the space bar and the custom text fully expands. The default On My Way shortcut has already been created for you to get started.
2. VoiceOver – Have your emails and webpages read out to you
As cool as Siri is, it currently can’t read emails back to you – or any user selected text for that matter. The VoiceOver feature, which made its debut on iOS 4, is found under the Accessibility menu. While it was created to assist the visually impaired, VoiceOver can just as easily be used to dictate emails for when you’re driving, for example. To enable it, go to Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Triple-click Home –> Toggle VoiceOver. Now whenever you triple click the home button, VoiceOver becomes active and is ready to do thy bidding. Tap on any block of text (in an email or webpage) and its contents will be read aloud. To move onto the next sentence/paragraph, simply swipe right on the screen, and three fingers are needed to scroll up/down the page. Note: you can turn on VoiceOver at the very top of the Accessibility menu as well (Under ‘Vision’), but for this purpose, the method above will allow you to turn it on/off no matter where you are on the iDevice.
3. Weather – View Hourly Forecasts
The stock Weather app remains essentially unchanged from iOS 4, except for one handy feature: Hourly forecast. To reveal the hourly forecast, simply tap on the screen with a selected city and the current day will display the weather for the next 12 hours, by the hour. Useful for when you want to see whether it’s likely to rain later in the day. And if you have the Weather widget displayed in the Notification menu (by default, it only shows current temperature, you can swipe it left/right to show the forecast for the next 5 days.
4. Custom Vibrations
That’s right, you can actually lay down your very own vibrating beats on iOS 5 and assign them to specific contacts. Now you can “see” who’s calling or texting by feeling and/or listening to the custom vibrations. First, head on over to Settings –> General –> Accessibility and turn Custom Vibrations to On. Then make your way to Settings –> Sounds and ensure that Vibrate is turned ON (either in Silent or Normal mode). Scroll all the way down to Vibration Patterns and open the Vibrations Menu. Five “Standard” (or defaults) are already there, but to make your own, you’ll need to tap on Create New Vibration. The next screen is where you let your creativity shine. Start tapping and the device will begin recording your pattern – up to 10 seconds long. Once you save, you’ll give it a name and it now becomes the default vibration for all incoming calls.
Should you wish to assign different vibrations to individuals (i.e one for your wife, another for your boss), you’ll need to go to that person’s contact page (found in the stock Contacts app) and tap Edit on top right of screen. Now scroll down until you see “vibration”. Tap that and you can then choose a custom made one (or create a new vibration from this screen).
5. Create Photo Albums
iOS 5 finally lets you better organize your photos right from within the iDevice. In the Photos app, tap the Edit button, then Add in top left corner. Select the album you wish to add images from (most likely the Camera Roll if its your first time), and tap on the thumbnails one by one. Hit Done and voilà! Alternatively, you can be in the Camera Roll screen and tap the bottom left action button. Now make your individual selections and tap the Add To button at the bottom. From here, you can add photos to a new or existing album. This feature doesn’t actually move your pictures into folders – they’re all still in the Camera Roll. Rather, think of it as image tagging, where a photo can appear in more than one album.
6. Swipe for Photo Library, Pinch to Zoom and Shutter button(s)
While you’re in the Camera app, you can easily jump into your Photo Library without having to tap on the thumbnail square located on bottom left of the screen. Simply swipe to the right to transition into the Camera Roll. You can continue swiping right to view previous photos, and left swipes will eventually bring you back into the Camera. To activate the digital Zoom, you can use multi-touch gestures – move two fingers apart to zoom in, and pinch them to zoom back out. Finally, the Volume Up button now acts as a physical shutter button, making it a whole lot easier for most when taking pictures. And did you know that the volume up on the earphone’s remote (Apple’s own or third party both work) also mimics the shutter function?
7. Private Browsing
You don’t have to rely on the likes of PERFECT or Atomic Web Browser to hide your naughty surfing habits anymore. iOS 5 lets you turn on Private Browsing for mobile Safari. Settings –> Safari –> Private Browsing –> On. You’ll be asked right away if you’d like to close all existing tabs or keep them open. Upon using Safari again, you’ll notice that the browser’s “skin” has gone black (an indication that private mode is on). Until you turn the option off, Safari won’t be saving any urls visited, cookies, search terms and other browsing history info.
8. Access Camera from locked screen
For shutterbugs, this is undoubtedly a favorite iOS 5 feature. From the locked screen (or when iDevice is in sleep mode), a double tap on the home button will bring up not only the iPod controls, but also a new Camera icon (bottom right) that will take you into the i-Camera. Not to worry, existing photos on the Camera Roll can’t be accessed via this method, though pictures that have just been taken can still be previewed.
9. Open Safari Links in the Background
Here’s a minor Safari ‘tweak’ that I’ve come to love. By default, if you tap and hold on a link in Safari, you’re given the option to “Open in New Page”. That’s fine and dandy, but what if you want to continue reading the article and not have to switch back to current webpage after the new one has been opened? With the “Open Links In Background” function, you can do just that. To enable: Settings –> Safari –> Open Links –> In Background. Now when you tap and hold a link, you’ll see “Open In Background” instead, which will allow you to continue reading while the new page loads in the background. Tap the bottom right “Tabs” icon and you’ll find the recently opened page waiting for you.
10. App Management – View App sizes (and delete)
It used to be that you couldn’t view how much space each app took up on your iDevice while away from iTunes on your desktop (without jailbreaking anyway). Thankfully, iOS 5 makes it easy to see just how many MBs or GBs an app is actually using. To get there, navigate to Settings –> General –> Usage. Here under the ‘Storage’ heading, your list of apps are shown from largest to smallest. Tap on an app and you’ll be given the option on the next screen to wipe it from your iPhone/iPad. And if you have audiobooks onboard, you can even delete them if you select Music from the list of apps displayed (entire books only, not individual chapters).