How to get the most from your new iPhone

You’ve ripped off the wrapping, pried open that little black box, plugged in your SIM card and charged and registered your brand new iPhone. You spend an hour gleefully reading the BBC News site and checking your inbox for emails that don’t appear; you take a few photos and giggle as you zoom in and out by pinching. And then… err… then what?

How to get the most from your new iPhone

Tweak the settings

SettingsFirst things first. The iPhone’s battery isn’t its strongest point, so the priority is to get rid of any unnecessary drains. Go to Settings and change the Fetch New Data settings to a wider interval – or off completely – if you don’t need constant email updates, lower the auto-lock timer, and consider disabling Bluetooth and the GPS location services until you actually need to use them.

If you don’t generally need your phone for communication at night you should seriously consider switching on Airplane Mode, as it disconnects you from all networks – thus saving on power – but keeps the clock, alarm and all other basic functions running as normal.

Ditch the heaphones!

cx400-300x287We’ve all sat on the train listening to someone else’s leakage, but only the cheapest headphones have this problem – and despite charging you a fortune for the phone, Apple still has the cheek to bundle such a shoddy set. Ditch them, spend a small amount on a quality pair of noise-reducing headphones (we’d recommend the £40 Sennheiser CX400s), which create a seal in your inner ear to prevent your tunes leaking to all and sundry. The added bonus is that you won’t need the volume turned up so high, so you might still have ear drums in ten years time.

Fix the camera

Night CameraThe camera on the iPhone isn’t that great compared to those in most of today’s smartphones, and one of its weaknesses is poor performance in low light conditions. To improve it somewhat head over to the App Store and stump up $0.99 for the Night Camera app. Now, when you press the shutter button, instead of taking the picture immediately it measures the accelerometer until it determines the stillest moment to snap, thus minimising camera shake. It won’t work miracles but for less than a quid it’s well worth grabbing.

Learn the shortcuts

ShortcutsIt’s amazing how few people know how to really use their iPhone. They may know the little things like double-tapping on a web page to zoom the text to fit the screen; tapping the narrow bar at the top of Safari to jump straight to the address bar; or holding a finger in a text message to bring up the magnifying glass to edit more closely.

But then there are the lesser-known extras: pressing the Home (on the front) and Sleep (on the top edge) buttons together to take a screenshot; touching an image in Safari for a few seconds to bring up the option to save the file; double-pushing the Home button when the phone’s locked to bring up quick playback controls; holding down a letter while typing to bring up accented alternatives or symbols.

The general rule is simply to hold buttons down in every input screen and see what happens. The first time you auto-complete a web address with a when you thought you only had a .com button, you’ll kick yourself for not experimenting sooner.

Download the best apps

GoogleWhile you can search very simply using the search bar now built in to Safari, the Google app lets you rest your fingers while you speak your search queries (even if you may have to become an American to get consistent results, thanks Google). Better still, it’ll bring you location-based results first, so finding the nearest takeaway is as easy as drunkenly slurring “curry (hic)” to no one in particular. It gives you the ability to point your search not just at the web in general but also at Google’s maps, images and shopping services – plus directly into Wikipedia, which is great for rather indiscreetly ruining pub quizzes.

AroundMeLocation services are everywhere in the App Store. AroundMe (right) checks your GPS position and lists the nearest bars, pubs, banks and anything else you’re likely to need when you’re out and about – and gives you map links to help you find them. Where does the same thing on a map but feels a bit more coporate, with chains like Starbucks pre-programmed into your default searches. WikiMe is similar but more left-field, listing Wikipedia entries relating to sites in your vicinity – more for tourists and trivia purposes than genuine navigation, but you’ll learn while you walk. 

iTalkThe iPhone doesn’t have voice recording built in, but the free iTalk (right) application solves that. It’s a well designed dictaphone substitute which records at the touch of a big red button, and stores the results at a choice of three qualities. And once your interview’s complete, transcribe the results using EasyWriter, which gives heavy emailers a much-needed landscape-orientated keyboard. It’s a shame it doesn’t work (yet) for SMS messaging, but it’s another minor improvement to the iPhone’s interface that we’d hope Apple will one day incorporate itself.

MoviesOn to entertainment, and is the pick of the bunch for UK users. Sign in with your usual account details and access any genre of music you like. Similar recommendations follow, making it great for a commute, particularly once you’re tired of your own MP3 collection. If you’re connected by Wi-Fi you can always navigate to the BBC’s iPlayer website and stream programmes, although you can’t download them. And the iPhone can also find other entertainment for you: the Movies app (right) from Flixster uses your GPS signal to bring you locations, phone numbers and showtimes for local cinemas, along with DVD reviews and new releases.

And finally, let’s not forget that the iPhone is a very capable gaming device too. If you don’t want to pay, you should head straight for Sol Free Solitaire, with its many varieties of the card classic. You’ll also find the App Store crammed with countless versions of all the famous names, from Sudoku and Scrabble to Battleships and Monopoly – the quality varies and the ratings system doesn’t help much, so you should generally stick to freebies and apps recommended by friends if you don’t want to be disappointed.

Super Monkey BallBut if stumping up a few quid doesn’t put you off, there are two must-have games. Super Monkey Ball makes the most effective use yet of the iPhone’s accelerometer to turn an old console classic into a game that feels as though it was just made for a handheld like this.

FieldRunnersAnd what can we say about FieldRunners? If you’ve spent the number of hours we have fighting through any of the Flash-based Desktop Tower Defense games on the web you’ll know exactly what to expect: turrets, upgrades, waves of bad guys and goodbye to the rest of your evening.

There are plenty more out there; most are rubbish, some are good, a few are as essential as these. If you come across any you think deserve a place on this list please let us know. And above all else, enjoy your iPhone!

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