iPhone gestures and hidden menus

    Apple iPhone 13 mini

    Todd Haselton | CNBC

    You use your iPhone every day, but you may only scratch the surface of what you can do with it.

    For example, the iPhone has a series of “hidden” menus that help you do things like search across apps, go back to the last screen, find widgets that show snapshots of certain information, or quickly turn your Wi-Fi off and on.

    They are hidden because they require you to perform specific gestures that are not necessarily predictable. But once you know where they are, they’re pretty useful.

    Apple adds more functionality to the iPhone every year. The company announced Wednesday that it’s holding a fall event on September 7, which is almost certainly for the iPhone 14. We’ll likely hear about when its next update, too. , iOS 16, will be released to everyone. And that will bring even more features.

    Here’s a quick overview to get you going.

    How to do Quick Actions

    Many iPhone apps have a hidden menu called Quick Actions. All you have to do is long-press the icon of the app you want to see the Quick Actions menu.

    Apps that come pre-installed on your iPhone, such as the Camera, Mail, Notes, Settings, Messages, and Phone apps, have these menus. Accessing them can help you perform tasks on apps quickly. Each Quick Action menu has functions that are appropriate for that application. All you do is just long press on the icon on the home screen.

    For example, if you hold the Notes icon, a Quick Actions menu will pop up giving you shortcuts to compose a new note, create a new checklist, insert a new picture, or scan a document. Here’s what it looks like:

    Quick Actions menu for Notes app on iPhone 13 Pro.

    Sophia Pitt

    If you hold down the Phone app icon, a Quick Actions menu will pop up giving you the option to view your most recent voicemail, create a new contact, search for a contact, or view your most recent call. Here’s what the Quick Actions menu looks like on your phone:

    Quick Actions menu for the Phone app on iPhone 13 Pro.

    Sophia Pitt

    How to reach the top of the iPhone screen without dropping the phone

    If you have small hands like me, you may have noticed that it is difficult to access all iPhone functions with one hand. You can quickly access the icons at the top of your phone without stretching your fingers with an option called “Accessibility”. This reduces the screen so you don’t have to fumble with two hands. Accessibility is disabled by default, so do so to enable it:

    • Open settings.
    • Tap Accessibility.
    • Select Touch.
    • Turn on the Accessibility option.

    Now that it’s turned on, use it by swiping down quickly on the bottom edge of the screen. The keyword here is fast. This is what the screen will look like after you turn on Accessibility.

    iPhone 13 Pro when Accessibility is on.

    Sophia Pitt

    I find myself using Accessibility when I’m cooking with one hand and trying to use my iPhone with the other and can’t get my thumbs up all the way to the top of the screen.

    How to use Control Center

    Control Center iOS 11

    Nina Raja | CNBC

    You probably already know how to swipe down from the top center of your home screen. That’s what shows your recent notifications.

    However, if you’re coming from an iPhone with a Home button, you might not know that you can also swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen (or from the bottom if your iPhone has a Home button.) This will open the Control Center, giving you quick access controls to common functions. You can use it to turn on the flashlight, to recognize a song with Shazam, control your smart lights, turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on/off, launch your computer and more. But you have to set it up so it has the right entries in it.

    To manage what appears in the Control Center, do the following:

    • Open settings.
    • Tap Control Center.
    • Scroll down and tap the green button next to any option you want to see when swiping from the top right of the screen.

    How to use widgets on iPhone

    Utilities on iPhone

    Todd Haselton | CNBC

    You can place small small apps, called widgets, on your home screen. But there is also a hidden section entirely dedicated to widgets.

    This is to the left of the home screen, so you can access it by swiping right on the screen. You can customize it with any app that has widgets. I have a photo gallery and an icon showing the remaining battery life on my iPhone and Apple Watch. I also use it for a quick look at Apple Fitness rounds, CNBC Trends, and stock quotes.

    There are two ways to load widgets on this screen. For built-in Apple widgets and some other custom built widgets, do the following:

    • Swipe right on your home screen until you see the widget panel with the Search bar at the top.
    • Scroll down and tap the oval “Edit” button at the bottom.
    • Press the + button at the top left.
    • Select the widget you want to add.
    • Click Add Widget.

    If you don’t see the extension you want to add, you may need to take an extra step. In this case:

    • After you hit “Edit”, scroll to the bottom of the screen again and select “Custom”.
    • There, you’ll see widgets for other apps you’ve installed on your iPhone. Press the green + button to add them.

    How to search everything on your iPhone at once

    Apple iOS 15 Spotlight Search


    You can search through apps, the web, maps, dictionaries, files, and more using the iPhone’s general search menu.

    You can bring this up by swiping down from the center of the home screen. You’ll also see Siri suggestions for your most common actions.

    (Reminder: swiping down from the top shows notifications, and swiping from the top right down to Control Center.)

    How to switch apps quickly

    Switch apps on your iPhone

    Todd Haselton | CNBC

    You can quickly change or close apps by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and then holding until you feel a slight vibration. Swipe right to move through apps. Tap an app to switch to it, or swipe up to close it.

    Here’s an extra tip: did you know you can switch between apps by simply swiping right or left at the bottom of the screen? Try it! Open an app, then swipe right across the bottom. It will go to the last app you opened. Swipe left to go back or keep swiping right to move between apps

    Here’s the second bonus: You can go back to the last screen in an app, like the previous web page, by swiping right from the edge of the screen. The best way to try this is to open a website, go to another, then swipe right across the screen. You will be back where you started. If you swipe left from the right side of the phone, you will move forward again.

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