iPhone: The Missing Manual Sneak Preview: David Pogue’s Favorite iPhone Tricks
The iPhone’s finger-driven interface seems natural and obvious. But when you really think about it, making it seem that way was no easy task. There are no menus in the iPhone software, for example, and no checkboxes or radio buttons. Everything on the screen has to be big enough for a fleshy fingertip.
On the other hand, the finger makes an outstanding pointing device; heck, you’ve been pointing with it all your life. It’s much faster to scroll diagonally with a fingertip, for example, than with fussy adjustments on two different scroll bars.
Here, then, are some of the iPhone’s unadvertised taps, double-taps, and other shortcuts, all culled from iPhone: The Missing Manual.
Double-tapping is actually pretty rare on the iPhone. It’s not like the Mac or Windows, where double-clicking the mouse means “open.” On the iPhone, you open something with one tap.
A double tap, therefore, is reserved for three functions:
- In Photos, Google Maps, and Safari (the Web browser), double-tapping zooms in on whatever you tap, magnifying it by a factor of two.
- In the same programs, as well as Mail, double-tapping means, “restore to original size” after you’ve zoomed in. (Weirdly, in Google Maps, you use a different gesture to zoom out: tap once with two fingers. That gesture appears nowhere else on the iPhone.)
See, the iPhone’s screen is bright, vibrant, and stunningly sharp. It’s not, however, the right shape for videos.
Standard TV shows are squarish, not rectangular. So when you watch TV shows, you get black letterbox columns on either side of the picture.
Movies have the opposite problem. They’re too wide for the iPhone screen. So when you watch movies, you wind up with letterbox bars above and below the picture.
Some people are fine with that. At least when letterbox bars are onscreen, you know you’re seeing the complete composition of the scene the director intended.
Other people can’t stand letterbox bars. You’re already watching on a pretty small screen; why sacrifice some of that precious area to black bars?
That’s why the iPhone gives you a choice. If you double-tap the video as it plays, you zoom in, magnifying the image so that it fills the entire screen.
Part of the image is now off the screen; now you’re not seeing the entire composition originally broadcast. You lose the top and bottom of TV scenes, or the left and right edges of movie scenes.
If this effect winds up chopping off something important—some text on the screen, for example—restoring the original letterbox view is just another double-tap away.
Secrets of the Sensors
The iPhone has three cool sensors. First, it has an accelerometer that detects when you’ve rotated the iPhone into landscape orientation. In programs like Photos, Safari, and iPod, it triggers the screen image to rotate as well.
Camouflaged behind the black glass where you can’t see them except with a bright flashlight are two more sensors: a proximity sensor that shuts off the screen illumination and touch sensitivity when the phone is against your head (it works only in the Phone application), and an ambient-light sensor that brightens the display when you’re in sunlight and dims it in darker places.
Apple says that it experimented with having the light sensor active all the time, but it was weird to have the screen get brighter and darker all the time. So the sensor now samples the ambient light, and adjusts the brightness; it does this only once—each time you unlock the phone after waking it.
You can use that tip to your advantage. By covering up the sensor (just above the earpiece) as you unlock the phone, you force it to a low-power, dim screen-brightness setting (because the phone believes that it’s in a dark room). Or by holding it up to a light as you wake it, you get full brightness. In both cases, you’ve saved all the taps and navigation it would have taken you to find the manual brightness slider in Settings.
Earbud Cord Switch
Without close inspection, you’d have a hard time telling the iPhone’s white stereo earbuds apart from a regular iPod’s—but don’t get them mixed up. The iPhone’s earbuds have a tiny, embedded clicker/microphone partway down the right earbud cord.
That’s right, “clicker/microphone.” The tiny bulge is the microphone for phone calls. But if you pinch the bulge, you’ll find that it clicks.
- Pinch once to answer an incoming phone call. Pinch for a couple seconds to dump the call to voicemail. (You can also double-tap the Sleep/Wake switch on top of the iPhone to send the call to voicemail.)
- During music or video playback, pinch once to pause the music; pinch again to resume playback.
- During music playback, double-pinch to skip to the next song.
Customizing the iPod Buttons
The iPod module on the iPhone starts out with buttons along the bottom for summoning four lists: Playlists, Artists, Songs, and Videos.
But what about Albums? Genres? Composers?
They’re there, all right, but hidden; you have to tap More to see them.
But what if you use those lists more often than Artists or Songs? No problem: you can replace one of those starter buttons with a list of your own.
Tap More, and then tap the Edit button (upper-left corner). You arrive at the Configure screen. Here’s the complete list of music-and-video sorting lists: Albums, Podcasts, Audiobooks, Genres, Composers, Compilations, Playlists, Artists, Songs, and Videos.
To replace one of the four starter icons, use a finger to drag an icon from the top half of the screen downward, directly onto the existing icon you want to replace. It lights up to show the success of your drag.
When you release your finger, you’ll see that the new icon has replaced the old one. Tap Done in the upper-right corner.
Don’t bother using the Shift key to capitalize a new sentence. The iPhone does that capitalizing automatically.
Don’t put apostrophes in contractions, either; the iPhone will put those in for you, too.
Force Quit, Reset
The iPhone is pretty darned simple and stable, but it’s still a computer. In times of troubleshooting, these tips may come in handy:
- Force quit a program. Press and hold the Home button for six seconds to force-quit a program that seems to be stuck.
- Reset. If the entire iPhone locks up—it can happen—press and hold both the Home button and the Sleep/Wake switch for eight seconds. You’ll see the screen go black, and then the Apple logo appears as the iPhone reboots.
More iPhone timesavers from David: a punctuation-typing shortcut. Perfect for heavy keyboard users.