Save time when performing common tasks by using shortcuts instead. Many of your iPhone’s commonly used functions are easier to access with the right shortcut.
While most of us become more proficient at using technology the more time we spend with it, so many of Apple’s best productivity features are hidden in places you’d never think to look.
Today we’ll be demystifying some of the iPhone’s most productive tricks.
1. Emergency Shortcut
Perhaps the most important shortcut to know is a feature that was added in iOS 11. If you’re ever in trouble and in need of the emergency services, quickly tap your power button five times in a row to bring up the emergency menu.
Once activated, you’ll see a slide prompt to call for help, plus a shortcut to the owner’s medical ID. Paramedics can use this shortcut to access someone else’s medical ID on their device, for potentially life-saving information like blood type and allergic reactions. Set up your medical ID right now under the Health app.
2. Taking a Screenshot
To take a screenshot on an iPhone 8 (Plus) model or earlier: press the home button and power button at the same time. You’ll see the screenshot prompt appear in the bottom-left corner on iOS 11 or later.
To take a screenshot on an iPhone X: press the side button and volume up button at the same time. You’ll see the screenshot prompt appear in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
*Accidental screenshot #13627*
The joys of owning an iPhone X
— Oliur (@UltraLinx) February 19, 2018
The screenshot prompt Apple added in iOS 11 allows you to quickly crop and share the image, save as a JPG, or delete it entirely. If you wait for the prompt to disappear, the image will remain in your Camera Roll as a full-sized PNG. Note that the screenshot prompt will not show up in other screenshots. This means you can take a succession of screenshots without seeing the prompt on screen.
3. Control Center Shortcuts
Control Center is the quickest way to access the most common settings on your iPhone. You can bring up Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. You’ll see a menu that’s divided into several categories.
In the top-left you’ll find Airplane Mode, plus toggles for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you 3D Touch this panel, you’ll find more options for AirDrop preferences and a quick toggle for enabling Personal Hotspot.
Unfortunately, Apple changed the behavior of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles in iOS 11. Disabling them only disconnects you, rather than disabling the internal radio altogether.
3D Touch the Music panel to access media receivers like the Apple TV and wireless headphones. You’ll also find other AirPlay devices listed here, including the HomePod and Apple TV. There are two handy toggles for Portrait Lock and Do Not Disturb mode, and some sliders for volume and screen brightness.
Again, if you 3D Touch the brightness slider you’ll get access to more options in the form of Night Shift mode. The bottom row of icons are also 3D Touch friendly. You can start a quick Timer, adjust the Flashlight brightness, copy your last Calculator result, and access Camera functions like selfie mode and slow-motion video.
Lastly, you can customize the buttons at the bottom of Control Center by adding and swapping out shortcuts for elements like HomeKit devices, Wallet, Apple Notes, and Screen Recording. Head to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls to set it up to your liking.
4. Getting Around
If you want to return to the top of a web page, list, note, or any kind of scrolling content, tap the current time at the top of the screen and you’ll shoot back up to the top. Unfortunately, you can’t disable this one.
If you want to return to the previous web page or menu, swipe right from the left edge of the screen. You can also bring up the application switcher with a 3D Touch and swipe right from the left edge of the screen, though it’s difficult to pull this one off if you have your iPhone in a case.
5. Home Screen and Navigation
Navigating your Home Screen is pretty straightforward, but don’t forget about Spotlight. Swipe down on your home screen icons to reveal a search bar that can find virtually anything on your iPhone. This is the quickest way of accessing apps you can’t find, different sections of the Settings app, emails, and even content that isn’t currently on your iPhone.
You can do neat tasks like convert currency (e.g. 10 AUD in USD), search the App Store or web directly, and work out quick calculations (e.g. 70*25). This is also where you will find Siri suggestions, which are proposed apps based on your usage. These will change depending on the time of day and where you are, and adapt to your habits.
If you open the same news app every morning, Siri will put it here ready for you. If you’re thinking of ordering some dinner using a delivery app, there’s a good chance Siri will make some relevant suggestions when it’s time to eat. You can turn this feature off under Settings > Siri & Search > Suggestions in Search.
Most apps are 3D Touch friendly, so give them a squeeze to jump right to specific features. Depending on the app, these include starting a new note or document, creating an alarm, adding a new contact, or quickly sharing the app with someone.
6. Undo That Last
Shake your iPhone at any time to undo an action. It’s most useful for typing mistakes or accidental deletions, but you can also use it in apps like Mail to undo actions like archiving or moving.
7. Typing and Keyboard Shortcuts
If you have an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, you can use your iPhone keyboard to accurately control your cursor. Simply 3D Touch, then slide your finger around to move the cursor. It’s super-accurate, and it’s a real life-changer when you consider how tedious cursor manipulation once was.
The iOS keyboard is pretty great in that it puts so many special characters, accents, and symbols within easy reach. If you tap and hold a key, you’ll see variations of that keystroke appear. You can access accented letters like é or ö, and some useful symbols like º (hold the zero key) and … (hold the period key).
To quickly access the keyboard settings, or jump to any other keyboard you have installed, tap and hold the emoji button. This may appear as a globe icon if you have other languages installed, but they function the same. You can also use this shortcut to justify the keyboard left or right to help with one-handed typing.
8. Text Expansion
Text expansion allows you to create your own text-based shortcuts to larger snippets. A common use for text expansion is to create a snippet for your full email address, with an alias that looks something like mygmail. Thus, when you type mygmail, your phone auto-expands it to your real email address.
This can save you huge amounts of time typing on a small touchscreen, and the uses are limitless. Create expansions for your home address, tax file number, or even common email sign-off lines or chat messages (“how are you doing” could be “howru” for example). You can create your own shortcuts with ease under Settings > General > Keyboards > Text Replacement.
9. Safari Shortcuts
Safari has a few useful shortcuts to master, not least the ability to swipe left and right from either edge of the screen to go forward and backward. If you’d like a better look at the history specific to this tab, you can tap and hold the forward and back buttons to bring up a list.
You can also hold the Bookmarks button to quickly add a bookmark or add the current page to Safari’s Reading List. Hold the Tabs button to see options for mass-closing your currently open tabs and opening a private browsing session. In tab view (tap the Tabs button once) you can tap and hold the New Tab button for a list of recently closed tabs—it’s Command + Shift + T for your iPhone!
The address bar also has a few tricks, beyond being able to enter Reader mode to reformat the text on the page. You can also Paste and Search or Paste and Go depending on the contents of your clipboard, which will save you a tap. If you tap and hold the Refresh button you’ll find a handy shortcut for requesting the desktop site too.
And don’t forget about 3D Touch on the web. Squeeze a link a little harder to peek at the web page or image without leaving the page you’re currently on. If you’re a heavy Safari reader on your iPhone, make sure you familiarize yourself with all the best tips and tricks.
If you have a Plus-sized device and find it hard to use with one hand, there’s a solution. Reachability lowers your home screen to hide the bottom three rows of apps so that you can reach the top three rows from the bottom. To activate it, just tap the home button twice. This only requires touching your finger to the button; you don’t have to press it in.
11. Take Photos While Recording Video
The iPhone is known for its great camera to shoot photos and record videos, but have you ever wanted to take a photo while you’re recording? Fret not, as iOS lets you do both.
- Launch the default Camera app.
- Use Video or Slo-Mo modes—either one of these works.
- Rotate your device to the proper orientation if desired.
- Press Record.
- As you record, you can tap the white Camera button that appears near the Recording button. This snaps a photo without disturbing the video recording.
If you use this, keep in mind that it utilizes the device’s video sensors, rather than the photo sensors. However, the still photos should still turn out well.
12. Easy Access to Low Power Mode
If you plan on using your iOS device for a long time without a source of power, you should activate Low Power Mode.
You can keep a Control Center Shortcut for this, or toggle it the old-fashioned way.
- Go to Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode.
- The button should be green if it’s enabled.
Low Power Mode lowers device battery consumption by reducing or disabling some automatic features. You’ll need to do some tasks manually, but extending your juice is worth the tradeoff.
Go Even Further With Widgets and Workflows
These shortcuts are handy, but by no means the be-all and end-all of productivity on iOS. You should also organize your apps and save yourself even more time with a few custom workflows.
Workflow is an iOS app that was bought by Apple and made available for free. You can use it to speed up common tasks by chaining actions, then launching them from your Today screen. The possibilities are ever-expanding, so check out our full guide to getting started with Workflow to learn more.
Image Credit: alen44/Depositphotos