APPLE

The 15 Most Underrated iPhone Features

Discover the hidden tricks that are loved by iPhone fans

Jonathan Wylie

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Photo by Youssef Sarhan on Unsplash

When Steve Jobs was the CEO of Apple, he would often introduce new Apple products with a simple declaration: It just works. That slogan was based on the premise that Apple products are easy to use and don’t need any complicated set up when you take them out of the box.

You could argue back and forth as to whether that is still true today, but I think it is for the iPhone. This device has become so familiar that we often just take its existence for granted. After all, it just works.

So, in an attempt to redress that balance and call attention to the things that the iPhone does really well, I wanted to highlight some of the iPhone’s most underrated features.

Before I begin, I know that many of these features exist on Android. I’m not saying they are all unique to the iPhone or even that the iPhone had them first. So, without further ado…

1. Two-Factor SMS Codes

This is the perfect example of an iPhone feature that people take for granted. It was introduced in iOS 12 and has become such a mainstay that it is hard to imagine what it would be like to use an iPhone without it.

Here’s how it works. You log in to a website where you have two-factor authentication enabled. You enter your email and password and are prompted to enter a two-factor authentication code you received in a text message.

The text message dutifully appears with the code you need, but iOS recognizes that it is a two-factor code, copies it, and adds it at the top of the keyboard so you can tap it and paste it into the form field on the website.

So simple. So clever.

2. Live Text

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has been available for years, but Live Text takes it to the next level. When you use your iPhone to take a picture of something that has text in it, your iPhone can recognize the text so that you can interact with it.

If you snap a picture of a business card, you can tap the email address to send a new email or tap the phone number to call that person. Text that is recognized in a photo can also be copied and pasted into another app.

3. Drag and Drop

You’re probably used to pressing and holding to drag and drop apps around your home screens, but did you know that you can drag and drop things between apps? It takes a little bit of finger gymnastics, but it is a handy feature to know about. Here’s how it works.

If your iPhone is running iOS 15 or later, you can press and hold on some text, images, photos, or even a URL to select it. While keeping that finger pressed on the screen, you can use another finger to navigate to another app like Messages, Mail, or Notes, where you can drag and drop your selection.

4. iOS Updates

One of the best things about owning an iPhone is the years of software updates that you are guaranteed. It means you don’t have to upgrade your phone every two or three years just to get the latest features.

How many years will you get? When Apple released iOS 15 in September 2021, it was compatible with phones from 2015. That’s six years of software updates! It’s crazy to think that an iPhone 6s can run the latest software from Apple, but it can.

5. FaceID

TouchID worked so well that few people relished the thought of giving it up when Apple introduced the iPhone X. Yet, FaceID is incredibly powerful and has been improved over the years to be just as effective as TouchID.

You can use FaceID to unlock your phone, make purchases, and download apps from the App Store. It can autofill your passwords and sign you into websites. I enjoyed using TouchID, but I would find it hard to go back when FaceID is this good.

Learn more here.

6. AirDrop

In this technological world that we live in, some things are easy to explain. Other things, not so much. AirDrop falls into the latter category. I don’t really know how it works, but I sure am glad that it exists.

You can use AirDrop to wirelessly transfer data from your iPhone to another nearby Apple device. That data could be photos, videos, websites, documents, and more. All you need to do is open the Share menu and select AirDrop to choose who you want to send it to.

7. The Mute Switch

It seems strange that will all the high-tech features in today’s smartphones, a physical switch is one of the most coveted. If you need to mute your phone quickly and discretely, the mute switch is exactly what you need.

With a mute switch, you can mute your iPhone without taking it out of your pocket or unlocking your device. Convenience like that is hard to beat, and I, for one, will miss it when Apple inevitably decides to remove it.

Learn more here.

8. Sharing WiFi Passwords

We’ve all been there. You have friends or family staying at your house, and they ask if they can connect to your Wi-Fi. You show them your router, and they squint at the side of that black box as they spend the next five minutes typing out your Wi-Fi password: 4xThu8*6a!sLPy.

Thankfully, there’s a better way. If your friend has an Apple device and you are both in each other’s contacts, all they have to do is tap on your Wi-Fi network in the Settings app. When they do, you will see a prompt on your phone to share the password.

One tap later, they are connected to your Wi-Fi and don’t need to know or remember your password. It just works.

9. The Keyboard Touchpad

The iPhone is the primary computer for lots of people. It’s the device they take everywhere and the first one they grab when they need to look something up or take a quick note. That’s why Apple has worked so hard at making text editing a key feature.

One of those text editing features is the keyboard touchpad. When you press and hold the spacebar on the iPhone keyboard, it turns the whole keyboard into a touchpad where you can slide your thumb around to move the cursor where you need it to go.

It’s perfect for fixing typos in a URL or for making text edits in your favorite notetaking app. If you’ve never tried it before, now is the time to check it out.

10. Silence Unknown Callers

“Hello, I’m calling about your car’s extended warranty.” Sound familiar? To millions of people, this is exactly the kind of unwanted spam call that we would pay good money to avoid. Sure, you can register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, but somehow it only works so well.

That’s where Silence Unknown Callers comes into play. Simply open the Settings app, tap Phone, and flip the switch next to Silence Unknown Callers. From now on, calls from unknown numbers will be silenced and sent to your voicemail.

11. Universal Clipboard

As much as people talk about Apple’s “walled garden”, it does have its benefits. Universal Clipboard is one such perk. How does it work? If you copy text, a URL, or an image on your iPhone, you can paste it into an app on a Mac or an iPad. Few things feel more magical.

Universal Clipboard works when you are signed in to the same iCloud account on all your Apple devices, and it works in either direction. You can copy something from your Mac and paste it on your iPhone, and vice versa.

Learn more here.

12. Back Tap

This is a relatively new feature and one that not a lot of people know about. It allows you to activate certain features of your iPhone by tapping twice or three times on the back of your iPhone. Here’s how to set it up.

If you go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch, you can enable Back Tap. From here, you can choose a variety of actions that can be activated by either a double tap or a triple tap on the back of your iPhone.

If your thumb can’t stretch to the corner of your screen to invoke Control Center, you can set up a Back Tap action instead. Other options include the ability to take screenshots, turn on the flashlight, or open the Camera app.

13. Handoff

This is another feature that is aimed at those who own multiple Apple devices, but it’s a great solution for a common problem. Imagine you start replying to an email on your phone, only to realize that this is going to take a lot longer than you thought it would. What you need is a full-size keyboard.

With Handoff enabled, you can open your Mac, tap the Mail app, and continue right where you finished on your iPhone. Apps that work with Handoff include Mail, Maps, Safari, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and many third-party apps.

Handoff works in reverse too. If you want to go from your Mac to your iPhone, all you need to do is enter the iOS multitasking menu and choose the Handoff action from the bottom of the screen.

Learn more here.

14. Magnifier

You can say what you want about Apple as a company, but they are undoubtedly one of the best technology companies when it comes to built-in accessibility features. Magnifier is a great example of that.

I used to have to record serial numbers from a variety of devices at work. The Magnifier was a great assist for that. It’s also good for finding out what wattage your charger is. If you are nearsighted, you can use it to read menus, newspapers, and anything else that is too small to read.

Magnifier lets you zoom in on a live image, capture freeze frames, and even apply filters to your view. If you are in a dim environment, you can turn on the flashlight to see better.

You can access the Magnifier from Control Center, but it’s also available as a download from the App Store if you prefer.

15. Scroll to the Top

Of all of the features on this list, I think this is the one I would miss the most if it ever went away. It’s a simple thing, but I use it dozens of times a day.

Here’s how it works. If you are scrolling through websites on Safari or tweets on Twitter, you can return to the top of the page by tapping on the iPhone battery icon or the time.

This simple trick also works on the iPad and is the fastest way to get back to where you started when you have been doom scrolling your way through life.

Have Your Say!

Did I miss anything? What iPhone features don’t get the love that they deserve because they are overlooked or taken for granted by others? Let me know in the comments.

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Jonathan Wylie

I help people get the most out of their technology. Connect with me and read my technology posts here: https://techsalad.net