iOS 5 added so many features, tweaks and improvements to Apple’s mobile operating system that many inclusions seem to have gone by unannounced. Everyone (including us) has been raving about the new Notification Center, the 4S battery drain feature (!) and the fact that you no longer need iTunes to update, but what else is new?
In their marketing spiel, Apple were quick to claim “over 200 new features” had made their way into the update, except they never really explained what they all did. Here I’m hoping to shine some light on a few of the more useful, hidden iOS features you might not have noticed yet. iDevices at the ready!
Under Settings, General and then Keyboard it is possible to define words you wish to use as shortcuts for longer words or phrases. As you can see, Apple has added the first for you – when typed, “omw” changes to “On my way!” making it easier and faster to type out commonly used phrases in a message or email.
These shortcuts are naturally system-wide, and new ones can be added via the Add New Shortcut… button. Useful shortcuts could include “mymail” for your full email address, “myblog” for your website URL and classics like “ttyl” and “glhf” for the gamers out there.
Custom Vibration Patterns
By far one of the coolest (if a little pointless, I digress) new features in iOS 5 is the ability to customise or create your very own vibration patterns. To enable custom vibrations navigate to Settings, General then Accessibility where you will find a Custom Vibrations option. Enable it and return to Settings then Sound where there is now an option at the bottom of the screen.
Tap it to choose from any of the five in-built patterns, or touch Create New Vibration to record your own. Hit Save once you’re happy with your creation to set it as default. This won’t be the most frequently used feature on your phone, though it can be handy if you find yourself constantly missing alerts.
iPad owners are lucky enough to be able to use a few multi-touch gestures off the bat (more on this later) but did you know all iOS devices can make use of AssistiveTouch and its custom gestures? Under Settings, General then Accessibility choose AssistiveTouch and notice the small icon in the bottom right hand corner.
Touch it and you’ll get quick access to your home screen, favourites and of course gestures. These can be defined by tapping Create New Gesture and dragging out a pattern with your finger. Give it a name and function and you’ve got yourself some gesture-based shortcuts.
Speak Selection & Voice Over
Two brand new talking innovations that made it into iOS 5 are Speak Selection and VoiceOver which can both be found under Settings, General then Accessibility (and both need to be enabled before you can use them).
Speak Selection adds a “Speak” option to any text that you select (be it a webpage, an email or a message you’re still typing) before reading the whole thing back to you at a swift pace. The speaking rate can be modified in the same settings menu as above.
VoiceOver is another potentially useful speaking option, and one that is especially handy for those with poor eyesight who have difficulty navigating their device. This feature simply reads aloud from the screen you are on, listing options and other notes. Both are particularly great at what they do, making your iOS device quite the conversationalist!
At long last it is possible to change the default alerts that were previously locked to default iOS sounds. These options can be found under Settings then Sounds and include Sent/Received Mail tones, Message tones, Calendar/Reminder alerts and a tweet tone.
If you find you’re still missing notifications you can try turning on LED Flash for Alerts under Settings, General then Accessibility. This will flash your camera LED when your phone receives a notification, but be aware your battery life will probably be affected too.
Another useful feature that made its way into this release is the in-built dictionary which allows you to select a word using the standard text select method and tap Define in order to check its meaning and pronunciation.
There is no way to access the dictionary other than via the context menu once a word has been selected.
Those of you lucky enough to own an iPad will enjoy the few iPad-specific enhancements that iOS 5 has to offer. Multi-touch gestures are now here to stay, and you can use four or five fingers to pinch to reveal the home screen, scroll up to reveal the app-switcher (as opposed to double tapping the Home button) and scroll left or right to switch between apps.
The other feature worth noting is the split keyboard option which is accessed by holding the bottom left icon on the keyboard in typing mode and choosing Split. This makes typing with your thumbs far more accessible, and the keyboard can even be undocked (hold the button again) in case it’s in your way.
These are just a few of the fabled 200+ enhancements Apple managed to squeeze into the most exciting version of iOS yet. If you know of any others then please don’t hesitate in sharing them in the comments below.
Did you know about these hidden iOS features? Did you find them useful? Leave a comment below, and have your say.