clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
iOS 7 little_1020
iOS 7 little_1020

Filed under:

The best hidden features in iOS 7

Be an iOS 7 pro

One hundred days and several hundred bug fixes after its announcement, iOS 7 is now available to download for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, and the fifth-generation iPod touch. Apple claims there are "over 200" new features in its new OS, and by now you've probably heard all about the big changes. If you read our iOS 7 review, you can also find out whether they've combined to make iOS a better operating system. But what about the little things? The little things are important.

We've all been there: you've been using a device for months and suddenly you discover something that you never knew existed. “Oh that’s what that button does.” No matter how simple our devices pretend to be, underneath the gloss and marketing lies an extremely complicated machine. Have you ever looked through every settings menu on your phone? Probably not, but we have. This guide will give you help you discover new settings, organize your iPhone, and show you some of the hidden features in iOS 7.

Roll over each iPhone to see what's new.

  • Messagestimestamps

    Know when that message was sent

    One of the most infuriating things about Messages in iOS is its lack of regular timestamps. Rather than giving you a time for every message, it’s always periodically defined the beginning of a conversation with a timestamp. In iOS 7, you can check on the exact time every message was sent and received by swiping message bubbles to the left.

  • Ringtones

    Party like it's 1999

    Selling a phone on the merits of its ringtones hasn’t been a tactic for over a decade, but that didn’t stop Apple from proudly showing off its new set on stage at the iPhone 5s / 5c launch. In addition to an all-new collection of ‘tones, there’s also a visual refresh to Apple’s little-known custom vibration menu. Hidden inside the Ringtone options, Create New Vibration lets you tap out a custom alert rhythm.

  • Siripicturesearch

    Search with Siri

    You’ve always been able to trigger web searches with Siri, but in iOS 7 the results are presented a lot smarter. Ask Siri to look up an image and it’ll display top results from Bing within the Siri interface. You can also search for tweets by name or topic, using natural language like "what is The Verge saying," it’s a great way to stay up on the latest news. Of course can still pull up restaurant and cinema information, as well as live and historic sports scores and results.

  • Sharedlinks

    Use Safari to never miss a link

    Why Apple has chosen to hide this new feature inside Safari’s Bookmarks menu, we’ll never know. If you click on the @ symbol inside Bookmarks, you’ll see a list of tweets from your Twitter feed that contain links. It’s a neat way to catch up on everything your friends and colleagues have been sharing without searching through vast swathes of tweets.

  • Siripronunciation

    Give Siri an elocution lesson

    If you’ve got an unusual name, or have friends with rare surnames, you’ve probably laughed at Siri’s innate inability to pronounce words that aren’t in the dictionary. Now you can call out when words are mispronounced and train Siri to say them correctly. Just say "that’s not how you pronounce that," run through a short exercise, and Siri should get things right from then on.

  • Compassspiritlevel

    Your iPhone is now a bubble level

    Another bizarrely concealed feature lies within the Compass app. Swipe to its second page and you’ll find a minimalist bubble level interface. It lets you tell if a surface is level or not, and, if people realize it’s there, puts an end to the 1001 spirit level options in the App Store.

  • Pagedfolders

    Homescreen zero

    Chances are you already group together a bunch of your apps into folders. With iOS 7, the limit on the number of apps you can place in each folder has been lifted, meaning you can now put an unlimited number of apps into a single folder. If you’re a neat freak, you’ll appreciate the ability to keep your home screen pages to a minimum.

  • Spotlight

    Use Spotlight for (almost) everything

    Previously housed on the far-left of the home screen, Spotlight search is now available from any page by using a downwards swipe. As long as you're a reasonably quick typer, you'll find that launching apps, finding contacts, and searching email is far faster from Spotlight than anywhere else.

    One thing you can't do from Spotlight is search the web and Wikipedia — Apple removed that feature in iOS 7, so you'll have to use Siri or head to Safari for your kicks.

  • Backgroundapp

    Take control of your apps

    With iOS 7, apps can now periodically download data in the background, ensuring they’re up-to-date when you need them. It’s a very useful feature, but it’s not particularly data-friendly. Luckily, Apple has included a granular Background App Refresh menu that lets you switch off background data on an app-by-app basis.

  • Boldtext

    Be bold

    Apple's made text a lot prettier in iOS 7, but the visual enhancements come at the expense of legibility. If you, or anyone you know, is having difficulty reading text in iOS, head to the Accessibility menu in Settings and activate "Bold Text." After restarting, your phone will now revert to iOS 6-like text, making everything a little easier to read — if a little uglier. If you're extremely visually impaired, there are also options to increase text size in supported apps, and invert the colors of the entire OS.

  • Parallaxswitch

    Make things even flatter

    By default, your wallpaper, icons, and labels will float and shift around as you move your phone. It’s a neat effect, but for anyone that doesn’t like Apple’s new-found love of depth, there’s a way out of the parallax.

    Nestled inside the Accessibility menu, the cryptically named "Reduce Motion" toggle will switch off the depth effects on your home screen.

  • Templecontrolcenter

    Never miss that jump

    No matter you allegiance, there’s no question that Control Center adds some much-needed functionality to iOS. Whether you need that functionality when you’re on a high score run is another matter.

    If you’re a keen gamer and you’re worried about accidentally triggering Control Center when you meant to jump, there’s the option to block the feature when inside apps. Similarly, if you’re worried about device security, there’s a separate toggle to disable Control Center from the lock screen.

  • Automaticupdates

    Always be updating

    The days of opening the App Store and manually updating your apps are over — if you want them to be. Within the App Store settings menu, you’ll find the option to set iOS to automatically update every app, and a separate toggle to switch off automatic updates when you’re using cellular data.

  • Happybirthdaync

    Happy birthday, user #94123210

    Giving your iPhone a little bit of information about you has a lot of benefits. Tell it your address, and you can quickly ask Siri to remind you to do something when you get home. You’ll also get more relevant traffic updates through the Notification Center’s Today screen. Tell it your birthday, and your iPhone will wish you a totally genuine "Happy birthday" when the big day is finally here.

  • Donottrack

    Stop them watching

    Last year, Apple quietly introduced ad tracking with iOS 6. What’s that? Essentially, your iPhone has a unique identifier that's used to keep track of your browsing activity in order to target you (technically, your device) with ads. Although it's anonymous, some people don't like the data being sent at all. The option to disable this used to be hidden deep inside the About menu. Now, more logically, it can be found under Privacy.