Getting the Most Out of Your iPhone

MDNG Primary Care, January 2010, Volume 12, Issue 1

Check out these suggestions on how to maximize battery life and up-time and other tips and tricks to help you get maximum performance from your iPhone.

Everyone interacts with technology in their own way. The iPhone may be simple to use, but there are many hidden “easter eggs” that let the device do more than the marketing messages convey. Not only is the iPhone loaded with “silent” features, there are also unique ways to use it that can benefit anyone—especially the busy medical professional. It’s with this in mind that MDNG collected the following 20 tips and tricks to help iPhone users get the most out of their device. This collection of tips includes ideas on how to save battery life, make best use of the browser, improve the typing experience, use the home screen tools, and use the iPhone as a tool in everyday life.

Battery Tricks

One of the iPhone’s weaknesses is battery life. If used often for Internet-related activities, it can easily become drained before the end of your day. Here are a few things to consider if you need your device to last well past 5:00PM.

1. Turn Off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you rarely connect your iPhone to a Bluetooth headset, there’s no point in keeping the iPhone’s Bluetooth radio on. Same goes for Wi- Fi. If you’re not regularly surfi ng the Web via Wi-Fi, turn the Wi-Fi radio off.

2. Fetch Mail/Data Less. The iPhone can be set to retrieve e-mail as often as every 15 minutes. The more often it checks, the faster the battery drains. Set it to check manually so that it only pulls down e-mail when you want to see it. Also, sync only the e-mail accounts that are essential when on the road. More accounts lead to lower battery life. Don’t use push mail accounts at all.

3. Kill 3G and GPS. Using the 3G radio on the iPhone is a double-edged sword. It offers the best in wireless browsing and data speeds, but also dramatically decreases battery life. Find out if you’re covered by AT&T’s 3G network. If not, turn off that 3G radio! The iPhone also performs on AT&T’s 2G EDGE network, which is available everywhere. Same goes for GPS. Unless you really need to have access to concrete location data, that GPS radio is draining battery life.

4. Manage Screen Brightness. After the cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios, the iPhone’s display is what drains power the most. When set to the dimmest setting, the iPhone’s screen is still quite bright in dark rooms. Never have the screen brightness set more than halfway to save battery life.

Browser Tricks

Perhaps the iPhone’s shining feature is its Web browser. Capable of rendering full HTML websites, it provides the best mobile Web experience available on a handset today. However, not everything about the browser is intuitive. Here are some browser tricks to improve the Web experience.

1. Zoom to Top. Some Web pages are longer than others. If you’ve just reached the bottom of a really long Web page, rather than manually scrolling back to the top, simply double tap the top edge of the screen. It will automatically take you to the top.

2. Set Bookmarks on Home Page. We often use the same Web tools over and over. If you use the same set of websites consistently, consider placing a bookmark link on the home page. Pressing it will take you straight to that site rather than to the Safari home page.

3. Open Multiple Pages. The iPhone’s browser supports up to eight open Web pages at a time. Rather than navigating away from a page that you might want to go back to, press the button in the lower right corner of the browser window to open a second (or third, or fourth...) page.

4. Save Web Images. Did you see an interesting Web graphic or image embedded on a website that you’d like to look at later? Tap and hold on any image and it can be saved to the iPhone’s photo library.

Typing Tricks

Everyone has an opinion about the accuracy or usefulness of typing on the iPhone’s glass screen. Whether you have two left thumbs or highly nimble digits, here are a few tips to make typing better.

1. Inserting a Period. Just like with a BlackBerry, it is easy to type a period on the iPhone without actually typing it. When you come to the end of a sentence, simply double-tap the space bar. It will insert a period and a space.

2. Alternate Characters. Need to type an «umlaut» or other non- standard character? Press and hold the associated letter to see a list of character options, including umlauts and other hashes. Same goes for punctuation and “.com”, “.net”, and “.org” when using the browser keyboard.

3. Access Bigger Keyboard. That tiny on-screen keyboard too small for your thumbs? Use the bigger one. When entering text, rotate the iPhone 90 degrees onto its side. The iPhone will automatically bring up a wider version of the keyboard, which makes typing just a bit easier.

4. Copy and Paste. It isn’t perfect, but the iPhone’s copy-and- paste feature lets you transport text from one app or message to another. Press and hold within a text fi eld, use the on-screen tools to select the text you want to copy, and hit the “copy” button. When you’re ready to paste it somewhere else, press and hold within the text fi eld and then touch “paste.”

Home Screen Tricks

The iPhone has a potentially unlimited number of home screens on which to store apps, links, or other content for quick access. Be sure to use the home screen tools to maximize effi ciency.

1. Customize the Dock. The four main applications that are placed by Apple at the bottom of the iPhone’s screen (phone, browser, mail, and iPod) are NOT set in stone. Use the text messaging app more than the e-mail app? Replace it! Hardly ever make a phone call? Get rid of the phone! Those four apps can be moved to anywhere on the iPhone’s home screen.

2. Use iTunes to Manage Apps. One of the best features of iTunes version 9 is that it provides a visual tool to help users organize their applications from iTunes on their computer rather than on the device itself.

3. Force Quit an App. Have an application that appears to be locked up or frozen? Press and hold the home key for 6-10 seconds to force the application to quit and return to the home screen.

4. Customize Home Button. The “Home” button (the only actual button on the front of the iPhone) does more than just take you home. Use the iPhone’s tools to set it up to open custom apps. For example, double-pressing the home key can be set to open the iPhone Search app, Phone Favorites, the Camera, or the iPod. Setting it to Phone Favorites is the fastest way to reach your most-used phone numbers.

Random Tricks

Following is a short list of unique and interesting ways to use the iPhone.

1. Take Pix, Not Notes. See something that you need to remember for later? Don’t bother to jot it down as a note. Instead, use the iPhone’s camera to take a picture of it. Not only is it faster than typing, but it lets you capture more information.

2. Instant Screen Shot. If you need to save something you see on your iPhone (whether it be a website, e-mail, or image) be sure to take a screen shot. Press the home and power keys at the same time for about two seconds. The screen will fl ash white, and an image of the iPhone’s desktop will be directly stored into the camera roll.

3. Speak, Don’t Write. Despite all the tips offered above, sometimes typing can be a real pain. Download a dictation application (such as Dragon Dictation), and let the app do the typing for you. As long as you’re in a quiet environment, you can speak words, sentences, and paragraphs, automatically transfer the text to the clip pad, and paste it into any text fi eld.

4. Voice Control. The iPhone 3GS lets people use their voice to control some of the features. With Voice Control on, you can use commands to call saved contacts, dial phone numbers, and control the iPod music player.

Hacking An iPhone

If you’re a rule breaker and don’t want to live by the strictures that Apple and its partner AT&T impose, you might consider hacking your iPhone. “Jailbreaking” is the hacker term used for unlocking the iPhone. The actual act of jailbreaking an iPhone is all-too-simple. There are a handful of programs that can be used, but the best are Sn0wbreeze and Yellowsn0w. The iPhone must be connected to a computer in order to be hacked. The process can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. The software clients mentioned are free downloads, and are easy enough that any person can use them. T

he biggest benefit of jailbreaking an iPhone is that it can then be used on wireless networks other than AT&T’s. In the US, the best bet is T-Mobile as an alternate to AT&T, but you’ll lose 3G functionality and visual voicemail entirely. The other benefi t is that you’ll then be able to use applications that are not approved by Apple. The risks are that you’ll void the iPhone’s warranty. Apple will not repair or replace hacked iPhones that go kaput. You could also brick the iPhone, making it completely useless and unusable. If you’re willing to live with those risks, then have at it.

Eric Zeman is an editor and writer with more than 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He writes about smartphones and other technologies on his MoBlog (Mobile Web Blog) at www.hcplive.com/ technology/blogs/Moblog.