If you received a new iPhone over the holidays, you might be curious about how to take advantage of everything it can do. And, if you’re coming from an iPhone that had a home button, you’ll also need to learn some new gestures that will help you move around the iPhone’s user interface.
I compiled a bunch of the tips and tricks I created throughout this year into this guide. It should get you started and teach you how to use fancy new features on your iPhone, like portrait mode, Memoji, new notifications and more.
Swipe up to go home
First things first: Swipe up from the bottom of the phone to return to the home screen. It quickly becomes habit, but lots of folks who haven’t used an iPhone X or newer device still ask me how do it. Swipe up quickly to avoid opening the multitasking option (see below).
Swipe up and hold to multitask
You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen to switch between your open applications. Instead of a quick swipe up, hold for a second. Your iPhone will bring up all of your applications, and you can swipe to switch between them. Swipe up on an application to close it.
Use the side button
Your iPhone has three buttons — volume up and down and a new dedicated key that has a few functions. It’s not just a power button. (More on that next.) You now bring up Siri by pressing and holding the button on the right side of the phone, instead of the home button. Double tap the button to active Apple Pay. And press it once to put your iPhone to sleep.
How to turn off your iPhone
To turn the phone on or off, you need to hold the side button and the volume up key at the same time for a couple of seconds. Then you’ll see a menu to turn off your iPhone, open up your Medical ID or call emergency services. Hold the side button again to turn your iPhone back on.
Use Face ID for unlocking and Apple Pay payments
Older iPhones used your fingerprint to verify your identity before unlocking or activating Apple Pay. Now you’ll use Face ID. You register your face when you set your phone up for the first time. Simply look at your phone while swiping up to unlock, or while verifying Apple Pay, to validate yourself. The Face ID scan is so fast you might not even know it’s happening.
How to use iPhone widgets
Widgets have existed in iOS for a while, and they’re really useful if you want to check the weather, follow Amazon deliveries, control your lights or more, all at a glance. Just swipe right across the home screen to see them.
Control Center is a function in iOS that lets you do things like quickly adjust the screen brightness, toggle Wi-Fi on or off and access the flashlight. On earlier iPhones, you’d access Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Now, you swipe from the top-right corner to bring it up.
How to see your iPhone notifications
You can see all of your iPhone notifications by swiping down from the top of the screen — just don’t swipe from the top right or you’ll open Control Center. If your iPhone is locked, you can see your notifications by swiping up from the middle of the screen.
Create your own Memoji
If you have a device with Face ID (the iPhone X, iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max), you can now create a custom digital version of yourself. It’s a lot of fun, since you can record audio and use the Memoji to mimic your facial expressions before sending a clip off to a friend in iMessage.
Tap the Monkey icon at the bottom of the screen
Scroll to the left and tap the + button
Design a caricature of yourself
Now, whenever you tap the Monkey icon, you’ll see your custom Memoji that you can send to friends.
Batch your notifications
This is a big one. The system gives you a lot more control over your notifications, so you’re not constantly being bombarded by alerts. Now, when you swipe down from the screen, you’ll notice that app notifications are bundled together — instead of one for each alert from a single app. Tap it to expand and see every notification. You can also manage them by doing this:
Select a notification
Swipe left across the screen
Choose “Deliver quietly” if you don’t want it to play a sound when the alert comes in, or choose “Turn off” to deactivate the notification entirely.
Set time limits for the apps you use with Screen Time
A new feature in iOS 12 lets you limit how long you use certain types of apps. If you think you spend too much time on Facebook at work, for example, you can set a limit so that you can’t use Facebook for more than two hours a day (or any time limit of your choosing). This applies to all sorts of categories, not just social networking.
Here’s how to use Screen Time:
Tap Screen Time
Select “App Limits”
Tap “Add Limit”
Choose a category, like Games or Social Networking
Choose how long you want to set the time limit for.
See how much time you spend using certain apps
This is part of Screen Time, and it can help you see how much you’re using certain apps. To do this:
Tap “Screen Time.”
Tap the area at the top of the page where it says iPhone (or iPad if you’re on an iPad).
Scroll down the page to see what your most used apps are each day.
Tap the “Last 7 days” tab at the top of the screen to see which apps you used during the last week.
Use Siri shortcuts
This is really cool. Siri gets a power boost in iOS 12 with Siri Shortcuts, which allows it to tap into third-party apps. You can ask about upcoming trips through TripIt, for example or run a few tasks in a row, like automatically open up Maps with a route to work and your favorite morning playlist.
Tap “Create Shortcut.”
Choose one of the presets. I recommend starting with “Get Current Song.”
Tap “Allow Access” to your music library.
Tap the blue and white icon on the top right of the app.
Name the Shortcut. I just used the generic “Get current song.”
Tap “Done” again.
Now, when you say, “Siri, get current song,” it will analyze the music that’s playing and tell you what song it is.
Some other fun ones: Create a shortcut for heading to work that shows traffic and plays your music. Or create one that automatically takes a picture when you say, “Siri, say cheese.” Or set one that automatically calls into a meeting using your conference number and code. There’s a lot to dig through, so play around.
You can also set third-party app shortcuts by doing this:
Tap Siri & Search.
Choose an app — like TripIt, which is an early one to support this new feature.
If it has custom shortcuts, you’ll see an option called “Shortcuts.” Tap it.
Tap one of them. In TripIt, for example, you can set one for “Upcoming travel plans.”
Now, when you say “Siri, upcoming travel plans” it will tap into TripIt and show your upcoming trip results.
Play with new camera effects
Now, when you take a picture right from the iMessage app, you can draw on it, add stickers and more. Here’s how to do that:
Tap the Camera button on the bottom left.
Tap the star icon on the bottom left.
Scroll through the menu on the bottom and add text, stickers, filters and more.
Snap your picture and send it.
Use the new virtual tape measure
Apple’s new Measure app uses its augmented reality tools to let you measure things on the fly. It’s not always as accurate as a tape measure and can be buggy, but it’s good if you want a rough estimate
Here’s how to use it:
Open the Measure app on your iPhone.
Follow the instructions as it walks you through how to scan the room.
Point the circle in an area you’d like to start measuring from and then tap the + button.
Now choose your end point and tap the + button again.
You’ll get a measurement.
Tap the measurement to save it directly to your notepad.
Use Downtime to silence your phone
Apple’s iOS already had a “Do not Disturb” mode, but now there’s a more in-depth “Downtime” option that’s part of Screen Time. It’s great for bedtime, so that only certain apps can send you notifications and only certain people can reach you. Here’s how to use it:
Tap Screen Time.
Set your time limits. I set mine from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Go back to the Screen Time page.
Select “Always allowed.”
Tap the green + button next to each app you want to receive notifications from, even during Downtime hours.
Check out changes in Photo gallery
The Photo gallery has a couple of new changes, too. A new “For You” tab shows you memories, or groups of pictures you might have taken in the past. There are also “Sharing Suggestions,” which gathers a bunch of photos that the app thinks you might want to send off to certain family or friends. If you share from a certain event that friends might have attended also, Photos will recommend that your friends also share those photos with you.
To see some of these new features, do this:
Tap the “For You” tab at the bottom.
Scroll up and down the page to see what’s recommended.
Use Google Maps and Waze in CarPlay
The operating system lets you use third-party mapping services besides Apple Maps when you plug your phone into a car that has Apple CarPlay support. This means that you can use Waze and Google Maps instead of Apple Maps, which is really useful if you prefer one of those. You don’t need to do a whole lot, but it’s worth checking out if you didn’t know it was there. To get started:
Make sure Waze and/or Google Maps is installed on your iPhone.
Plug your iPhone into a car with CarPlay.
Tap the apps button on your car’s screen.
Choose Google Maps or Waze.
Change the background blur on a Portrait picture
If you have an iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, you can now change the bokeh, or the background blur, after you’ve snapped a Portrait picture. It allows you to adjust how strong the effect is, and can help your pictures look much more professional.
To do this:
Take a portrait picture with the camera app. (Open the camera and scroll to Portrait.)
Now open the picture.
Scroll with the bar just to the left of the camera, where it says “Depth.”
You’ll see the blur change in real time.
Tap “Done” to save.