Rediscover Your iPhone: Seriously Useful Built-in Features You Probably Aren’t Using – Part II


In December 2009, I posted an article named: Rediscover Your iPhone: 10 Seriously Useful Built-in Features You Probably Aren’t Using. As a follow-up to that post, I’ve taken a fresh look after a recent iOS 4.2 free upgrade and here’s another Top 10 list for your enjoyment.

Editor’s note: Based on iPhone’s software Ver 4.2.1 for iPhone 4. To see what version you’re running on your iPhone 3G, 3GS or 4, select the Settings app > General > About and look down the list for Version number. To update connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC and follow the onscreen instructions in iTunes.

1. View Meeting Invitations:

When you receive an email meeting invitation, you can now click on the .ics file attachment at the bottom of the email to view meeting invitation details.

iPhone Meeting Invitations

In addition to viewing the Event Details, you can add the event to your calendar by tapping the “Add To Calendar” button.

EMail Meeting Invitation

2. Stock Price Range View:

In the Stocks App, you can swipe the lower portion of the screen to access the chart view. By turning the iPhone sideways, the chart view expands to full screen. Using any two fingers, tap and hold both simultaneously at different points along the timeline. Now, swipe either or both fingers to calculate the return on investment within two dates.

iPhone Stock Price: Custom Date Range View

3. View Photos by Location:

When you take photographs (and videos) with your iPhone, a location based longitude/latitude coordinate is stored. When you launch the Photo App, the “Places” view option (in the bottom navigation) displays thumbtacks on the map. By tapping on a thumbnail, you’ll see how many photos are associated with each location. Be sure to zoom in on the map to your local neighborhood to explore the power of this feature. You can zoom in by touching the screen with two fingers, then spreading your fingers apart.

View Location of Photos

4. Assign Unique Text Tones to Individual Contacts:

Would you like to know who’s texting you without having to look at your screen? You can now assign custom tones for people in your contact list. To do so, launch the Contacts app, Edit an existing record and set the “Text Tone” option as shown below:

Assigning Custom Text Tones

Choose from over 20 unique sounds:

Text Tone Sounds

5. Multitasking:

Multitasking offers the ability to quickly switch between apps. When you click the front facing home button while using an app, apps with background support will continue to run in the background. Double click the front facing home button twice to view your most recently used apps in a tray along the bottom of the screen. Scroll to the right within the tray to reveal apps and tap to re-open. The re-opened app picks up where you left off the last time used.

Apps running in the background can handle audio playback, GPS tracking, movie downloads, draft of a text or email message and more. Note: Be sure to have the latest version of your favorite apps. For example, if you don’t have Pandora’s 3.1 version or later, it won’t run in the background. To get the latest version of your apps, click on the App Store app and select the “Updates” icon in the lower navigation. Then select Update All option in the upper right (preferably when you’re on a WiFi connection).

I recently found multitasking to be particularly beneficial when toggling between the Email app and the Settings app. My Email app contained an email with info from a colleague who sent me instructions on how to configure my corporate email within the Settings app. Each app retained my prior location and the multitasking tray provided quick access to each app. I used the copy and paste function for a few iterations between the apps.

If you want to shut down an app running in the background, activate the multitask panel by double clicking the front facing home button. Press and hold the app icon until a red badge appears in the upper left of each icon as shown below. Tap on the red badge to close the app.

Multitasking Tray View and Close Option

6. Easy-Access Music Controls:

When you run third-party music apps in the background (ex. Pandora Radio and ooTunes Radio), quick access to turn down the volume or advance the song is often not at hand. Note: Be sure to have the latest version of your favorite music app. For example, if you don’t have Pandora’s 3.1 version or later, it won’t run in the background. To get the latest version of your apps, click on the App Store app and select the “Updates” icon in the lower navigation. Then select Update All option in the upper right (preferably when you’re on a WiFi connection).

Double click the front facing home button twice. You’ll see your most recently used apps in a tray along the bottom of the screen. Now, swipe to the left to reveal audio controls including play, back and next.

Audio Controls in the Multitasking Tray

Another swipe to the left reveals a slider to control audio volume as per the screen shot below.

Volume Controls in the Multitasking Tray

7. Lock Portrait Orientation

Within some apps, the screen orientation is programmed to change to and from portrait and landscape mode when the phone detects rotation slightly past 90 degrees. In many cases, this creates the desired user experience, however, there are times when you’d prefer to lock in portrait orientation.

Double click the front facing home button twice. You’ll see your most recently used apps in a tray along the bottom of the screen. Now, swipe to the left to reveal the portrait orientation lock icon. Tapping the icon toggles between portrait lock and unlock states.

Option to Lock Portrait Mode

8. Add Birthdays to Calendar:

A well populated Contacts App, complete with family, friends, co-workers and business contacts makes the iPhone an even more productive tool. When you choose to Edit or Create a new contact record, the “add field” option appears at the bottom of the screen as shown below.

Adding Birthdays to Calendar

Your contact’s birthday can be entered as per the screen below.

Birthday Option

After you enter and save the birthdate, the Calendar App displays that information on the corresponding day of the year as per the example below.

Calendar and Birthdays Shown

9. iPhone Capacity:

When you sync your iPhone to iTunes you can clearly see how much space remains on your iPhone. If you’re like me, you can go 2 months without a sync up. To get a quick view of your iPhone capacity that remains, open the Settings app, select General then About. Scan the list for the rows named Capacity and Available.

iPhone Capacity and Available Space

10. HD Video:

The iPhone 4 can record video in high-definition (HD) at 1280×720 (720p) and uses an aspect ratio of 16:9 with up to 30 frames per second including audio.

After opening the iPhone’s Camera app, controls include start/stop, optional LED flash (which can be enabled/disabled at any time during a recording) and front facing (VGA) vs. rear facing camera activation (HD). You can tap the screen [a blinking square will appear] to focus and set exposure on your subject.

iPhone 4 HD Recording Controls


Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.

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4 responses to “Rediscover Your iPhone: Seriously Useful Built-in Features You Probably Aren’t Using – Part II

  1. thanks for this, Tim. I’m going to upgrade my 8-year old Palm phone when the iPhone comes to Verizon in February. You reinforced my decision.

    • Wow! An 8-year old Palm phone? That takes me back a bit. I remember using a Palm Pilot with a snap-in wireless attachment so that I could receive email on-the-go. When you get your iPhone 4, drop by to post again; I’d love to hear what you think first hand!

  2. Mr. Cascio,
    I got linked to this blog post from LinkedIn and thought I’d take a gander at what you had to say. I really enjoyed learning about ALL of the features you mentioned. In the process of playing around with my iPhone (while reading each feature of your article) I discovered other features I didn’t know existed. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

    • Hey there Brian! Great to hear from you. I left off some features that are worth including like emailing multiple photos. Recently, I used 2-way video FaceTime with my Verizon MiFi 2200 device while walking through the airport. It was very, very cool! No better way to say good night to a two year old from 500 miles away!

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