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10 Little-Known Tips and Tricks to Use on Your iPhone

These Apple features already in your hand can make your life easier

An attendee displays an Apple Inc. iPhone X for a photograph during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017.

Bloomberg / Getty Images

En español | Whether you just bought a new iPhone or have swiped and tapped on one for years, chances are you're not using the device to its fullest.

Just as people once thought that we use only 10 percent of our brain — not true, but you get the idea — you probably barely scratch the surface of what your iPhone is capable of.

That's not surprising, perhaps, considering many hundreds of features are built into today's smartphones with new ones added during each software update.

Here are 10 lesser-known iPhone tips and tricks to try out:

1. Create custom vibrations

How great would it be to know who's calling, just by the way the iPhone is buzzing in your pocket? You can.

In the Contacts app, select your person of choice and tap Edit. Select Ringtone and you'll see a Vibration option.

Press that and you'll see many options, including a Create New Vibration tool to customize your own buzz.

This way, you can have a different ring for your spouse, kids, or friends and know who's calling without needing to glance at your phone. Similarly, you can create custom ringtones for different people as well as have the iPhone's light flash a unique pattern to know who's calling.

2. Turn ebooks into audiobooks

The iPhone has several Accessibility options. One feature called Speak Screen can read aloud any text on the screen at your command.

While designed primarily for the sight impaired, anyone can take advantage of this feature if they want to turn an ebook into an audiobook. Now you can listen while in the car, while closing your eyes on an airplane or when jogging down the street.

To activate it, go to Settings | General | Accessibility | Speech. Now activate Speak Screen.

Then, in any app you have open, swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen to hear the contents of the screen read to you, such as an ebook, email, article or notes.

You can tweak the voice, including gender and language; speaking speed; and more.

3. Fix Siri’s pronunciation

Speaking of speech, Apple's voice-controlled personal assistant may be great at giving you information such as the weather, directions and sports scores, but sometimes she just doesn't say things right. This is especially true for some names and places, perhaps with origins in other languages, that may be difficult for Siri to pronounce.

And you can't blame the girl if it's spelled one way but pronounced another. (For example, I have a friend named Alissa, but it's pronounced “Aleesa.")

If Siri says something wrong, just tell her. After she mispronounces something, say, “That's not how you pronounce … “ and insert the mispronounced word. Siri will ask for the correct pronunciation and let you check to make sure she got it right.

4. Shake to delete

When typing words in any application (such as Mail, Messages or Notes), or when using editing tools (Cut, Copy or Paste), you can shake the iPhone to undo your typing. Shake again to redo.

This is much faster than pressing and holding the back/delete button until unwanted text is gone.

And yes, a confirmation message will pop up to double-check you meant to do this, and it wasn't just a sneeze. Tap to confirm or cancel.

If this shake feature accidentally happens more often than you like, deactivate it in Settings. Select General | Accessibility | Shake to Undo, and then tap to turn off.

5. Easily scan QR codes

Once upon a time not too long ago, you needed a dedicated app to scan a Quick Response code, the square two-dimensional bar code better known as a QR code. This took time to locate on your iPhone, launch the app and then point it to the little black and white square.

Screenshot of the mobile app "Measure" from Apple on an iPhone

opturadesign / Alamy Stock Photo

Bonus: How to Measure Without a Ruler

Did you know your iPhone has a virtual ruler already built into the phone?

Launch the app called Measure and move the white dot on the screen to your start point — such as the top of a chair in your kitchen — and then tap the + button. Move the white dot to your endpoint, like the bottom of the chair and it will tell you the estimated height of what you’re measuring.

It uses the rear camera and sophisticated software to give you measurements of items.

While in the Measure app, tap the word Level at the bottom of the screen and now your iPhone is a virtual leveler, which could help you decorate your home this summer, such as hanging a picture.

It will use your iPhone’s built-in gyroscope sensor to see if something is an object is perfectly level horizontally or vertically.

However, with today's iPhones, your camera now knows whether it is looking at a QR code.

Simply launch your camera and hover over the QR code. It will immediately perform the preprogrammed action, such opening a website, showing you a contact or launching a video.

6. Expand your storage

As you likely know, iPhone doesn't let you expand your storage past what you buy initially, such as 64GB or 256GB. Most Android phones, on the flip side, take a microSD card.

But you're not out of luck.

Products like the SanDisk iXpand, from $22, and Kingston DataTraveler Bolt, from $35, snap into the lightning connector of an iPhone or iPad and let you play content from the drive such as TV shows and movies. You also can back up your device's photos onto this teeny drive so you can delete it all off your iPhone or iPad and start snapping photos again.

7. Track a flight

Air travel can be just as stressful for those picking up from the airport as it is for the fliers themselves.

With your iPhone, you now can type the flight number into Safari's address bar and you'll see details of the flight pop up — no app needed. Tap on the results and not only will you see updated flight times and status but a real-time map of where the plane is in the sky.

Picking up family, friends or colleagues from the airport has never been easier.

8. Use the hidden trackpad

Say you're composing a message, email or note, and you need to change something you typed before sending or saving. With your iPhone, simply press and hold on the keyboard and the cursor will automatically become a mouse-like trackpad.

Now keep your finger or thumb on the screen and drag around the cursor to reach the part of text that you want to tweak. Or to highlight text, just press a little harder while continuing to slide your finger. Then let go for the keyboard to return.

9. Quickly edit, share a screen grab

If you see something you want to save or share on your iPhone, press and hold the Home button and Top or Side button. Or with iPhone X, simultaneously press the Volume up button and Lock button.

Previously, if you wanted to edit or share the screen shot, you had to go to the Camera Roll, select the image, and then do your thing. But now, immediately after the screen capture is taken, it will appear as a small thumbnail in the lower left corner of your iPhone.

Tap it to open the picture, edit if you like (such as crop or annotate) and then share, if desired.

10. Get reminders by location

You probably know Siri can be used to set a time-based reminder, like saying “Siri, remind me to call John Smith at 4 p.m.” But did you know that you can set location-based reminders, too?

You can say, “Remind me to call John Smith when I get home,” and you won't be notified until you step up to your door.

If you haven't done so already, for this to work you'll need to create a Contact card with your info on it, including your name and address.

Similarly, you can say something like this: “Remind me to get gas for the car when I leave here,” and you'll be notified only when you drive away from the area.

Neat, huh?

Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast, ‘Tech It Out,’ aims to break down geek speak into street speak.

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