Make Your Life Easier with Julie’s Best Smartphone Tips

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and at this point, most of us own one.

Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them….but either way, they’re part of our lives, and they’re here to stay.

Because I’m a photo organizer, you might think I use my phone strictly for taking photos and organizing images – but I actually use my iPhone for lots of other things. I use my phone so much that I get really uneasy if my iPhone isn’t within arm’s length at any given moment!

I know many of my clients love their smartphones, too, so today I thought I’d share all the different ways I use my iPhone, and give you some of the best tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.

Please note: Most of these tips are applicable to iPhone and Android devices, but when I give specific instructions, those directions are only for iPhones. The instructions will be different for Android phones.

Let’s dig in!

Customizing Your Smartphone Settings

Changing your phone settings can be a little daunting, because there is a lot of information in the settings area. Customizing some of these settings can make your phone easier (and more fun) to use, though, so I wanted to start with my best tips and tricks for understanding and adapting your settings to your individual needs.

1. Customize your passcode. On most phones, we set up a numeric passcode that we use to unlock the device. If you want to set up a passcode that is harder to hack, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Change Passcode. Then enter your old passcode, tap Passcode Options > Custom Alphanumeric Code and create your new one.

2. Understand your phone’s location services. Location services on your phone allow apps like Maps to help you with directions, so they can be really handy – but it’s important to understand this feature so you can take steps to protect your privacy. On my phone, I keep my Location Services turned on, but then I turn this feature off in certain situations,  or limit it on individual apps. You can read more about location services here.

3. Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature. You can put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode if you don’t want to be interrupted by phone calls, texts, or other notifications. This is a great feature to use after business hours, at night when you’re sleeping, when you’re driving, or when you’re trying to do focused work during the day. Want to make sure your immediate family or best friends can always reach you? You can set up your favorite contacts in your settings, so they’ll be able to override the “Do Not Disturb” mode for emergencies.

4. Customize your display and brightness settings. Here are some things you can do to adjust these settings to suit your individual needs:

  • Turn up (or turn down) the brightness of your screen. You can also set the screen to dim during nighttime hours (tap on Night Shift to set the start and end times of this dimming action).
  • Enlarge text size. This is a great feature for my middle-aged eyes!
  • Use display zoom. When you activate this setting, your phone will change things like your home screen, texts and emails from “Standard” view to “Zoomed” view. This helps you see things better, but be aware that you won’t be able to see as much content on your screen when you’re in zoom view.
  • Use LED Alerts. You can get alerts on your phone without having to hear a distracting sound or vibration! Turn on the “LED Flash” mode by changing the Alert settings. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Under the “Hearing” section, open the “LED Flash for Alerts”  menu. There are two toggles: one to turn on the feature, and one to use LED Flash for Alerts when the ringer switch is set to silent.

5. Be smart about managing your storage settings. You can manage your storage by going to Settings > General > iPhone Storage to see what apps are taking up the most space on your phone. Checking this periodically and deleting items from certain apps can help you manage storage on your phone and keep you from getting those dreaded “Out of Storage” messages on your phone.

6. Set up AirDrop for a quick and easy way to share files and photos. Sharing photos this way is quicker and easier than texting an image, so it’s a great way to share your best shots. You can share photos with anyone who has an iPhone, so if you’re in a group, only one person needs to take pictures!

To set up AirDrop on your phone, go to Settings > General > AirDrop. From there, you can turn AirDrop off completely, allow access to everyone, or limit it only to specific contacts. Not familiar with AirDrop, and what it can do for you? Check out this post for more details.

7. Make your keyboard easier (and faster) to use. You can set up customize keyboard settings (like double tapping at the end of a sentence to add a period to a text, note, or email).

Customize your keyboard (or add new keyboards) by going to General > Keyboards settings. You can even add foreign language keyboards! Be careful when adding third-party keyboards, though – the third party can access anything you type!

Saving Your Phone’s Battery Life

I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t like to let my phone get lower than a 20% charge, and I always keep a charger close at hand (in the car, carry on, purse, etc.).

You can preserve battery life by fetching your email (in the Mail app) manually, rather than setting your phone to check mail automatically. For quicker charging, you can also put your phone in Airplane mode.

I also make sure Background App Refresh is OFF to save battery life. To change this setting, go to Settings, then tap on General > Background App Refresh > Off.

Keeping Your Apps Organized and Running Smoothly

When you add a lot of apps to your phone, your screen gets cluttered really quickly!

You can keep your apps organized by putting them into folders. To set up a folder, tap and hold an app, or press lightly on your home screen until all your apps start to “jiggle” on the screen. Drag one app on top of another, and a folder will appear with those two apps inside. My folders include Business, Contacts, Communication, Entertainment, Games, Google, Health, Library, Navigation/Travel, News and Info, Photography, Social, and Utilities.

To keep your phone running smoothly (and keep your storage from continually filling up), review your phone apps monthly, and remove any app you’re no longer using.

Many of us also keep a bunch of browser tabs open at one time on our phones…this can really slow down the performance of your phone. In Safari, you can close all your open tabs at once by pushing down on the tabs button in the bottom right corner of your screen. Tap on the “Close X Tabs” option to close all your tabs with one quick click.

Having Fun with Emojis on Your Phone

I love using emojis when I’m talking with my friends and family members! I think they make texting more fun.

As you type certain words (like “orange”), a corresponding emoji will appear. If you’d like to replace the written word with that emoji, you just tap on the word. There’s no need to change your keyboard – your phone will do this automatically.

Predictive text or emojis work the same way. As you type, suggested text or emojis appear in the windows. Just tap on a word or emoji if you’d like to use it.

You can also create your own Emoji Shortcuts! Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement and tap on the “+” icon in the top right corner of your screen.. Enter the text and the corresponding emoji. Every time you tap the text you’ve assigned to an emoji, your chosen emoji will appear in a window for you to choose.

Managing Your Text Conversations

Texting is really convenient, but you need to make sure text conversations don’t take up all the space on your phone, and that you’re following proper texting etiquette with your loved ones, coworkers, and clients.

You can free up storage space on your phone by deleting text conversations you no longer need.

Delete individual messages by pressing and holding your finger on the text until you see the “reactions” bubble at the top of your screen. The words “Copy” or “More” will appear under the “reactions” bubble.

When you see the “More…” option appear, tap on it, and you will see a blue checkmark appear next to that text message.

You can then tap the trash can in the lower left corner to delete any individual text messages that are checked.

Have you ever needed to scroll through a huge conversation, just to find a particular photo that someone sent you? There’s an easy shortcut you can use to find photos in texts easily. Tap the Information icon (an “i” inside a circle) in the top right corner of a text conversation. When the person’s information appears, scroll down to see (and click on) all the photos sent to you by that person.

If you need to have a conversation with a group of people, you can create a text group (find out how by clicking here). Just make sure you don’t use a text group to communicate with only one member of the group, or share information that isn’t relevant to everyone in the group. Create a subgroup if your conversation only applies to some of the group members.

Using Your Phone’s Clock and Timer

Every morning, my phone wakes up by playing a song from my playlist. It’s a great start to my day! To set this up on your phone, tap “Sound” when you’re setting your alarm time, then under the  “Songs” section, tap “Pick a Song.”

If you’d like to set music to play for a certain length of time (and then shut off), tap on Clock > Timer. Then tap on “When Timer Ends,” scroll down, then check “Stop Playing.”

Quick Shortcuts and Tips for Using Your Phone’s Camera

You can snap a still photo while you’re filming a video by taking the round white button that appears in the corner of the screen while you film. Each time you tap that button, your phone will snap a still image.

If you like playing with panoramic photos, try taking photos from right to left (instead of left to right). You can switch directions by tapping on the photo box while in Panoramic mode.

Once you take pictures, you can edit them in the Photos app. Read more about that in our recent blog post about editing tools.

What Are Your Favorite Smartphone Tips, Tricks, and Apps?

Want to know my last smartphone secret? I use the Starbucks app to order my latte with my phone, and it’s ready as soon I walk in the door! 😉

I’d love to know your favorite ways of using your phone (or those little tricks you’ve discovered that make your life easier). Share your ideas and favorites in the comments below.

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