Smartphone tricks every iPhone and Android user should know

Dec 4, 2023, 4:05 AM

iPhone and Androids have useful tricks...

(File Photo by Monika Skolimowska/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Monika Skolimowska/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you read the entire user manual for your latest phone. Yeah, none of us do — and most people don’t even realize user manuals still exist, even if they are digital.

There’s a ton packed into your smartphone you might not know about. Let’s walk through some of the best hidden features you’ll wish you knew about sooner.

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Start using back tap

I take a lot of screenshots, and I do it by tapping the back of my phone twice. Three taps, and my driveway entry gate opens. A friend of mine turns on his back patio lights the same way.

  • On an iPhone 8 or newer, you can use your finger to tap on the back of your phone two or three times to trigger a custom action.
  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Select Double Tap or Triple Tap. From there, choose a specific action.

Just a warning that you might accidentally trigger an action from time to time.

Android’s easy gestures

Android’s back gesture is usually performed by swiping from left to right. Power users know you can also complete the same swipe from right to left. Either way results in literally the same command. Perfect for the southpaws or just anybody hoping to swipe and forget about it.

Caption anything

You can get real-time captions on video chats, podcasts, calls, music and videos on an iPhone.

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning.
  • Toggle the switch next to Closed Captions & SDH to the on position.

Android’s Live Caption is available on Pixel 2 and newer and some select other Android phones.

  • Press the volume button. Under the volume controls, tap the Live Caption icon.
  • Live Captions are now on for all media on your phone.
  • To turn off Live Captions, press the volume button and tap the Live Caption icon again.

Set up shortcuts for your most-used apps

Not all apps have shortcuts, but you can find out by holding down on the app. Take the Amazon shopping app, for example. You can go to your cart, view your orders or see the deals with just one click.

Here’s how to do it on Android:

  • Press down on an app, then lift your finger. If the app has shortcuts, they will appear.
  • If you want to keep a shortcut at the ready, select and hold it, then move the shortcut to where you want it and lift your finger.

On an iPhone, here’s a super handy shortcut:

  • Press down on the Messages app icon, and you’ll see a few of your conversations.
  • Select and hold one of your most messaged contacts. Drag it to your home screen.
  • Now you tap that button to have a chat.

Find it faster

When you’re trying to find an app on your phone, stop going from page to page. On your iPhone, swipe right until a search bar appears at the top. Type in the name of the app you want to use. Done! On Android, swipe up from the middle of the screen. In the app drawer, tap Search.

Turn your iPhone into a magnifying glass

This is so handy when you really need it.

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Magnifier and turn it on. Now your Magnifier is an accessibility shortcut. This works on iPads, too.

To access it quickly when you need it, add it to your Control Center. Go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. Tap the + button next to Magnifier. You’ll see the magnifying glass icon in your Control Center when you swipe down from the top of your screen.

Your DIY best friend

Want to see if something is level? Whip out your iPhone and open the Measure app. Say you want to measure a frame. Open the app, then tap the screen on one side of the frame. Scan your phone across the frame and tap the opposite end. The measurement will pop up on the screen.

You may have to move your device around so your camera can capture an object’s dimensions. Save your measurement by tapping Copy, which adds the numbers to your clipboard.

Know who’s calling

Remember when ring back songs were all the rage? Now most of us keep our phones quiet. I like setting a custom vibration pattern for the people who call me most.

On an iPhone:

  • Go into your Contacts, tap the person’s name, select Edit and then Text Tones.
  • Tap Vibration and select one from the list.

You can use this same menu to give each contact a custom ringtone and text alert sound. You might as well go all the way while messing around in settings.

Every Android manufacturer and model is slightly different, so your steps might differ slightly.

  • In your Contacts menu, select More and then Vibration Pattern. From now on, you’ll know exactly who is calling without picking up your phone.

Listen in

Live Listen is meant for people with hearing problems, and you can set it up if you have a pair of AirPods or Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds paired with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

The range of AirPods combined with Live Listen is debated, but the consensus is about 50 feet. Listening to conversations through walls is possible at closer distances. No, I’m not encouraging you to snoop.

First, add the mode to the Control Center:

  • Go to Settings, then tap Control Center.
  • Scroll down until you get to Hearing and tap on the green + sign.
  • Tap on the back button to save the settings.

To use Live Listen:

  • Open the Control Center and tap the ear icon.
  • Tap the Live Listen icon.
  • Place your device in front of the audio source you want to hear.

Android’s Sound Amplifier feature works similarly.

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Sound Amplifier.
  • Choose Open Sound Amplifier. From here, you can add the icon to your app list if you want.
  • Choose whether you want to amplify the sound coming into the microphone or media playing on your phone.
  • Connect your headphones and follow the on-screen instructions.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: Journalism vs. AI, overtipping pressures & cable cord-cutting

Plus, is AI going to take your job? About 25% of American careers are on the line. A caller’s mom is drowning in scam texts, but I’ve got the remedy. Turn it on and off again? Solve tech issues with restarting. Find out how to remove location data before sharing photos.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

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Smartphone tricks every iPhone and Android user should know