20 top tips and essential tricks for your new iPhone or iPod touch
By Mark Brown 25 December 2013
Game Name: iPhone 5C | Manufacturer: Apple | Format: iPhone
So, you just got an iPhone for Christmas / Hanukkah / Ramadan / Festivus.

You've been playing with it all day, setting it up with new games, and asking Siri stupid questions. Now, though, you want more.

We've got some useful tips to get you started so you'll know how to quit misbehaving apps, take panoramic photos, turn on a torch, and find free games.

But we've also got some more in-depth tutorials for advanced users. We'll show you how to save battery life, send photos between devices, save space on iCloud, and even record game footage so you, too, can receive unwarranted copyright claims from YouTube.

Remember that most of these tips are applicable to the iPod touch, too.

How to tell Siri who's who


Want to be able to say "Send a message to my brother" to Siri? Simply tell Siri that "Bob Smith is my brother" (but replace Bob Smith with your brother's name. Unless Bob Smith really is your brother. In which case, wow, coincidence!).

If you're having trouble, you may need to check that you're using an iCloud-based contact card for your personal info.

You can set up most family members, as well as friend, assistant, and boss, in this way. Just speak clearly or you'll accidentally send a text message intended for your mother to your manager.

How to force quit an app

Sometimes, an app will get stuck. Sometimes, simply closing it won't do the trick. Sometimes, an app needs to be completely killed. Or you just want to forcibly shut down a big memory-munching game so it doesn't slow down your phone.

To do this, enter the multitasking panel (hit the Home button twice); find the game or app in question; and then swipe it up and off the top of the screen.

You shouldn't need to do this that often. Memory is intelligently redistributed to the current and most recently used apps in iOS. Apps you haven't used in a long time are automatically killed, too. Plus, apps don't use loads of battery in the background.

How to change notification settings and 'shut up' a nagging app

Push notifications

We've all downloaded games that won't stop 'nagging' you with push notifications. The easiest way to silence a game is simply to delete it and then write an angry letter to the developer or your MP.

But if you want to continue playing a game, you can also just turn off these annoying alerts at a system level.

Open 'Settings' and choose 'Notification Center'. Tap on the game in question and pick 'None' for alert style; turn off app icon badges and sounds; and say no to Notification Center and Lock screen alerts. You'll never be nagged again.

How to take screenshots

Press the Home button and Lock button at the same time to take a screenshot. The image will be saved into your camera roll so you can see it in the Photos app or share it on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

How to make keyboard shortcuts


Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to instantly belch out great long strings of text by just typing a few characters on the keyboard. You could use them to quickly type out your phone number, 3DS friend code, or the name of your spirit animal (Jericho Alowicious the Space Eagle).

You can set them up by opening the 'Settings' app, choosing 'General', hitting 'Keyboard', then selecting 'Shortcuts'. Click the '+' sign and then put the desired text (say, your email address) into 'Phrase', and a shortcut (maybe the first few characters) in 'Shortcut'.

How to keep apps updated automatically

Since iOS 7, you no longer have to keep manually updating apps. If they aren't updating automatically, though, go into 'Settings', choose 'iTunes & App Store', and make sure 'Updates' is checked.

You can also check Music, Books, and Apps to make it so media and games purchased on your Mac or other iOS devices automatically appear on your mobile like some kind of wizard's trick.

How to turn on a torch or flashlight (iPhone, fifth-generation iPod touch only)


Your iPhone is a camera, a games console, and a portal to all human knowledge. Better than all that, though, it can act as a torch when you get a power cut.

Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open Control Center and then hit the torch symbol. The LED flash on the back of the device will light up. Don't forget to turn it off, else you will drain your battery.

How to share photos with other Apple fans

Via Shared Photo Streams, you can share snaps with other iOS owners. To get started, go into 'Photos', choose the 'Shared' tab, and tap 'New Shared Stream...' Give it a name and then choose some people from your contacts list.

Now when you look at a picture in Photos, hit the share button (an arrow poking out of a box) and click 'iCloud'. Choose the correct stream, give the image a caption, and it will then be sent to all the people in the stream.

If you can't find the shared page, make sure 'Photo Sharing' is switched on under 'Photos & Camera' in the Settings app.

Best of all, these streams don't eat into your iCloud storage space.

How to get instant access to your camera


If you want to take a picture, don't faff around by unlocking your phone and finding the Camera app. Instead, open the Lock screen, hold your finger on the camera icon in the bottom-right corner, and pull up.

How to make a panorama photo

This one's easy. Open the Camera app and then swipe left so the word 'Pano' turns yellow.

Now, press the shutter button and slowly move your phone to the right. Use the arrow and line to make sure you're being steady. When you get to the end, press stop and your panorama is saved.

Two tips...

Firstly, you can tap the arrow if you'd rather go right to left than the default left to right.

Secondly, you can use panoramas as your Lock screen and home page wallpapers. You'll be able to change the position of the picture by spinning your phone. Neat.

How to make a foreign iTunes account


These days, many games appear on foreign App Stores - most often Canada and New Zealand - weeks or months before going global as part of a soft launch. You can quite easily make an account on those overseas shores to start playing those games early.

Make a new email address with Gmail. Then, load iTunes on your computer and click the flag in the bottom-right corner. Choose the country you want to make the account for.

Now, attempt to download a free app. You will have to make a new iTunes account, so use the email address you created earlier and - when asked - use a fake address (Google is your friend here) to finish the process.

Now, open the App Store on your iPad and scroll down to the bottom of the 'Features' page. Click 'log in' and use the email address and password from iTunes. You will be whisked away to the foreign App Store of your choosing.

How to record game footage

Want to become the next YouTube superstar? There are a few different ways to record video footage off your iPhone, but these are the ones we use for recording our PG First Play videos.

Reflector is a Mac and PC app through which you can record footage wirelessly. Once the app is running, and providing that your iPhone and computer are on the same wireless network, open AirPlay from the Control Center, pick your PC, and turn on 'mirroring'.

Your iPhone will appear on your monitor. Then, just choose record from the menu to get going. It's a handy tool, but best for short videos and only viable if you have a strong wi-fi signal.

The other option is to get some hardware. We use the Elgato Game Capture HD. This little box, combined with a cable that converts Lightning (or 30 pin depending on the age of your iPhone) to HDMI, is a reliable way to record high-quality footage.

How to save space with iCloud


Apple gives you 5GB of iCloud storage space for free. If you're starting to run out, though, there are some things you can check before coughing up for more space.

First, open 'Settings' and then choose 'iCloud'. There are some options here that you can turn off to save space. Already backing up photos to Dropbox? Turn off 'Photos'. Use Gmail? Let Google save your emails, not Apple.

Then, go in 'Storage & Backup', and 'Manage Backup'. Make sure that the only devices in the backup list are iOS devices you actually own and use. If an old phone or iPad is on there, delete the backup.

Below that is a list of apps with documents and data that are being saved to iCloud, regardless of whether or not the app has been deleted. These are probably small, but check to make sure there isn't a large unneeded one.

Under 'Backups', tap on the device you are currently using. Now, you can uncheck oversized apps that you don't want as part of your backup. Do this on your other devices to make space.

How to reboot your iPhone

If your iPhone is not working correctly - in the words of The IT Crowd - "have you tried turning it off and on again?"

The easiest way to do this is to hold down the top power button until a red bar comes up. Swipe it. Wait for the device to power down completely. Then, press the top power button again to boot your blower back up.

How to disable in-app purchases


If you're worried that your kids might figure out your iTunes password and go hog wild buying donuts in The Simpsons: Tapped Out, here's an easy way to completely stop all in-app purchases.

Open 'Settings', 'General', and 'Restrictions'. Set (or enter) a four-digit passcode. You will now see a huge list of iPhone apps and features that you can disable. Have a tinker, but don't forget to switch 'in-app purchases' to off.

How to save battery life

The iPhone battery is pretty dependable, but there are a few things you can do to make it last even longer.

Drop the screen brightness. Unless you're trying to read the screen in direct sunlight, you can drop the brightness bar to 50 or 60 percent and still have a luminous, clear screen. Your battery will thank you, too.

Turn off unnecessary processes. Go into 'Settings', 'General', and 'Background App Refresh'. Only have the apps you use a lot turned on, or turn the feature off altogether to save battery. Also, turn off Bluetooth and AirDrop.

Turn 'push' to 'fetch'. If your emails are set to be pushed to your phone, your device is constantly checking for new messages and using lots of battery. Change your email settings to fetch new mail from the server every 15 minutes to save your juice.

How to transfer files between devices


If both of your devices are running iOS 7, open Control Center; tap 'AirPlay'; and choose 'Friends Only' or 'Everyone'. Now when you look at a photo, App Store listing, or web page, you can send it to nearby pals using AirPlay.

If you want to send stuff between two of your own devices, I recommend an app called Instashare. As long as your two devices are on the same wireless network, you can send any file between two devices with the app open.

How to find free games

Developers often reduce the price of their games to free as part of a promotion. You can keep an eye on these price cuts, and pick up some top titles for nothing, with a site like AppShopper.

On the AppShopper site, set the filters to 'Games', 'Popular', 'Free', and 'Price Drops' to see the games that have been recently reduced in price.

How to get push Gmail notifications


Google recently turned off push email for iOS users. This means that if you set up a Gmail account on your new iPhone, the phone will check for new emails every 15 minutes rather than telling you as soon as a new message has arrived.

Yes, even if you set it up as a Microsoft Exchange account.

The easiest way to solve this is to download and use the Gmail app. Personally, I prefer to hide Gmail in a folder and just use it for notifications, then open the default Mail app when an important email arrives.

How to stop motion sickness

In iOS 7, The Big A added a bunch of swishy new animations that made some users very happy, and some others puke all over their fancy new tablet. Turns out that watching some of these transitions is the motion sickness sufferer's equivalent of riding a roller coaster.

To turn these off and settle your stomach, open 'Settings', 'General', 'Accessibility', and set 'Reduce Motion' to off.
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