Like System Preferences on a Mac (which we have been exploring here: System Preferences on your Mac), Settings on your iPhone or iPad offers access to tools for adjusting screen brightness, setting up a password, configuring your WiFi, and more. But in addition you will will also find options for handling phone calls and mobile broadband, as well as many additional security features that protect your personal files, photos and other information. So here’s our guide to the main settings that you need to know about in iOS 9.

We're going to be updating this guide with more information as we work through all the settings in the Settings app, so be sure to come back to find out more.

(If you'd like to know more about iOS, take a look at our iOS 9 guide.)

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iOS Settings explained in this article:

Page 1: Settings, Control Centre, Airplane Mode, plus: New settings in iOS 9

  • How to change Settings in iOS
  • New settings in iOS 9: iCloud Drive, Low Power Mode, Lower Case Keyboard, Notes, WiFi Calling
  • Control Centre
  • Airplane Mode
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, data roming
  • Notifications

Page 2: iOS General settings, handoff, privacy, iCloud and more

  • General settings
  • Software Update
  • Auto-Lock
  • Background App Refresh
  • Handoff
  • Privacy settings
  • iTunes settings
  • iCloud settings
  • Personal Hotspots
  • Siri

Page 3: iOS Privacy settings

  • Searching
  • Personal Hotspots
  • Spotlight
  • Handoff
  • Restrictions
  • Stop Siri
  • In-App Purchases
  • Website controls
  • Purchasing settings
  • Location Services
  • Sharing location

Page 4: Keyboard settings, syncing, accessibility and more

  • Keyboard settings
  • WiFi syncing
  • Shortcuts and Dictation
  • Syncing
  • Resetting settings
  • Controlling the Parallax effect
  • Guided Access
  • Display and Brightness
  • Adjusting Alerts
  • Accessibility options
  • Touch ID
  • Changing the passcode
  • Lock screen
  • Privacy settings
  • Sharing

Page 5: iCloud storage and automatic download settings, stop auto-renewals

  • Cloud options
  • Automatic Downloads
  • Stop autorenewals

How to change settings in iOS

If you are new to the iPhone (or iPad) you may not know that it is possible to make various adjustments to the settings of your device. To do so, tap on the Settings icon on your Home Screen, the one that looks like a cog.

By default, the icon for the Settings app is the last one on the main Home screen on your iPhone or iPad, and you can view the various options that it contains just by tapping on it like any other app.

New settings features in iOS 9

Before we launch into the entire Settings line up, there are a few recent additions that came with the launch of iOS 9 in September 2015...

The iCloud Drive App, and how to hide it

Just when we thought we’d covered all the settings for iCloud, Apple goes and introduces a brand new app for iCloud that makes it much easier to manage files that you store up in your iCloud account.

The new iCloud Drive app that was just introduced with iOS 9 is a bit like the Finder on the Mac, as it allows you to view all the files and folders that you have stored within your free 5GB of iCloud storage. That’s great if – like me – you constantly need to transfer work files between multiple devices running different apps when you’re on the move. However, the iCloud Drive app might be a little confusing for people who aren’t familiar with cloud services such as iCloud or Dropbox. And if you ever let your kids or other people use your iPad or iPhone there’s also the possibility that they could use this app to view personal files, or even delete some important work files without your permission.

To prevent this, iOS 9 allows you to hide the iCloud Drive app so that it’s no longer visible on your Home screen. Your iCloud account still works, and all your files and emails stored in iCloud can still be opened up within apps like Mail or Pages, but hiding the iCloud Drive app ensures that no files can be viewed, moved or deleted by mistake. So, if we return to the main iCloud Settings panel once more, and tap on iCloud Drive, we’ll see the ‘Show On Home Screen’ switch, which allows us to show or hide the app as required.

Read next: How to use iCloud Drive in iOS and OS X

iCloud and third party companies

And, at long last, there are some third-party apps from companies other than Apple that are starting to use iCloud Drive as well. The latest version of Excel for iOS can now use your iCloud Drive to store files – as can the iOS versions of Word and PowerPoint too.

Each app that uses iCloud gets its own control switch that lets you turn the iCloud storage option on or off, so you can turn it on just for the main apps that you work with, and turn all the others off in order to avoid using up extra space unnecessarily.

Some files – such as PowerPoint or Keynote presentations – can be pretty large, so there’s also a switch that allows you to restrict file uploads to wifi connections so that you don’t bust your mobile broadband data cap. 

Read next: Best iPad buying guideBest cheap iPad deals UK | iPad reviewsHow to set up a new iPad How to speed up a slow iPad

Low Power Mode in iOS 9

Another important new feature that you’ll find inside your Settings panel is the special Low Power Mode that Apple introduced with iOS 9. Apple claims that some clever fine-tuning in this latest update can give you an extra hour of battery life all by itself. But, if you need to keep your iPhone or iPad going a bit longer at the end of the day, you can turn also activate Lower Power Mode to help out even more. 

Low Power Mode is turned off by default, but you’ll be prompted to turn it on whenever your iPhone or iPad gets down to 20% battery power, and then again at 10%. You can also turn it on yourself at any time by going into Settings and then scrolling down to the new Battery section. 

Low Power Mode helps conserve battery power by deactivating features such as ‘push’ mail that constantly checks for new emails even when Mail itself isn’t actually running. It also turns off automatic downloads and updates, along with a number of visual effects and animations, and according to Apple shutting down all those features should keep your battery going for an extra three hours. Turning off those features will affect the performance of some apps, though, so iOS 9 will automatically turn Low Power Mode off again once you’ve recharged your battery back to 80%.

Read more Battery saving tips here.

Lower case keyboard in iOS 9

I remember once complaining to Apple that the iOS keyboard always showed upper-case characters even when you were typing in lower-case, which could easily cause confusion if you were typing in a hurry. Apple has finally fixed this in iOS 9, as the keyboard now automatically switches between upper- and lower-case characters whenever you tap the Shift key or start a new sentence. But guess what? Now that we’ve got this feature that I asked for, I actually find it a bit distracting seeing characters switching on screen all the time. Fortunately, you can turn it off by going into Settings/General/Accessibility/Keyboard. Just tap the button marked Show LowerCase Keys to turn this feature on or off. 

There’s also an option to turn off the preview display that shows a large version of each letter that you type, although this Character Preview option is found in Settings/General/Keyboard instead.

Read: How to get rid of the lower case keyboard in iOS 9

Taking Notes in iOS 9

That covers most of the general settings that are used in iOS 9, but many of the apps that you use will also have their own individual sections within the main Settings panel that provide some important features. Sitting near the top of the list of key apps is Notes – which is appropriate, as Notes got a major upgrade in iOS 9. We’ve already written a tutorial that covers the many new features found in Notes, but there are some other important options found within the Notes settings panel too.

 

Notes now allows you to use a number of different text styles when writing your notes down. By default each new note starts with the Title style, which uses a large, bold typeface, but then allows you to switch to other styles for headings, body text and bullet-point lists. However, you can change this behavior in the Notes settings panel, by tapping on the option labeled ‘New Notes Start With’. This allows you to start all new notes with one of three different text styles, including the basic Body style that was used in older versions of Notes.

 

Apple also improved the syncing options in this new version of Notes so that it now stores all your notes within your iCloud account and syncs them to Notes running on other iOS devices, or on Macs running El Capitan. However, it’s also possible to create a special ‘On My iPhone’ account that stores certain notes only on that one device. I’m always writing little notes on my iPhone that I use as reminders for shopping or other chores, and these don’t really need to be synced onto my office iMac or my laptop, so using this option keeps the notes on my iPhone without using up any extra space on my iCloud account.

If you turn this option on and then open Notes again you’ll see a new folder called On My iPhone, which appears under the main iCloud folder. You can then choose which notes get stored in iCloud and which ones just stay on the iPhone. You can also go back to the Notes setting panel and tell Siri which folder to use when using voice commands to create new notes. Just remember that turning off the ‘On My iPhone’ option will delete just the notes that are stored on your iPhone – although notes stored on iCloud will still be available to all your Macs and iOS devices. 

Wi-Fi Calling in the UK

Apple recently introduced a feature called Wi-Fi Calling that allows you to make calls using a wifi connection in areas where you may not a good signal for conventional voice calls. Apple’s web site says that you need an iPhone 5s/5c or later, running iOS 9 in order to use Wi-Fi Calling, but Wi-Fi Calling may also be available on iOS 9 too – although this is something that’s down to your individual mobile network.

Unfortunately, UK mobile networks have been a bit slow in adopting Wi-Fi Calling, and each network handles this feature in its own way, so it’s worth checking with your network to see how Wi-Fi Calling works on your particular model of iPhone.

 

Wi-Fi Calling has to be turned in the Phone settings panel, but there’s another useful option in here as well. You can use ‘Add Wi-Fi Calling For Other Devices’ to make wifi calls from other devices that are signed into your iCloud account. You can even make calls from a Mac or an iPad using the FaceTime app on each device. However, this option can cause confusion too – many people have been surprised to hear their Mac or iPad ringing at the same time as their iPhone when they’re receiving a call. Fortunately, you can turn this option on or off for each individual device that you own, simply by scrolling down in the Phone settings panel and selecting the devices that you want to use with Wi-Fi Calling.

Now onto the rest of iOS Settings...

Access Control Centre in iOS

Apple recognized some time ago that Settings was getting a bit complicated, so it added a new feature called Control Centre with iOS 7 a couple of years ago.

You can activate Control Centre by placing your finger on the solid border below the bottom edge of the screen, and then swiping your finger upwards onto the screen.

That gesture pulls the Control Centre panel up from the bottom of the screen and gives you instant access to a number of important settings.

These easy-access settings include screen brightness and volume, On/Off controls for WiFi and Bluetooth, and the ability to activate the camera.

The Control Centre is available at all times – even on the Lock screen – so you can get at the main controls for your device whenever you need to.

Airplane Mode on the iPhone or iPad

Control Centre only shows a few of the options available within the main Settings app, so let’s tap on Settings now to take a closer look. The various settings are arranged into groups, apparently reflecting Apple’s idea of the main priorities for daily use. So top of the list is Airplane Mode – because, of course, we are all rich Apple executives who spend all of our time jetting off to meetings with Bono and Dr Dre.

Read: How to save battery power on the iPhone.

WiFi, Bluetooth and Data Roaming on the iPhone or iPad

Next on the list are other key settings, such as WiFi and Bluetooth, and on the iPhone and iPads with mobile broadband there are settings for your mobile network and data communications.

One really important option that you’ll find within the Mobile Data settings panel is for Data Roaming. Turning Data Roaming off restricts your data and Internet connection to WiFi only, so that you don’t run up a big bill by accidentally trying to use mobile broadband when you’re overseas.

Read: How to avoid data roaming charges when abroad

Notifications on the iPhone or iPad

Next on the Settings list is a group of options that relate to your device’s Lock screen. These include the ability to deactivate Control Centre on the Lock Screen, and to set up the Do Not Disturb option, which can be used to silence incoming calls and notifications.

You can also activate Do Not Disturb by using Control Centre – it’s the crescent moon icon right at the top – or even set up a schedule so that Do Not Disturb turns itself on and off at certain times of day.

But the most important option here is Notifications. Many of the apps on your iPhone or iPad can send you ‘notifications’ – messages that pop up on screen to announce that you’ve just received a new message in Mail, or perhaps a breaking news story from the BBC News app.

It’s useful to know when an important email has arrived, of course, but many notifications can just be plain annoying – yes, Plants Versus Zombies 2, we’re looking at you.

The Notifications panel shows a list of all apps that can send notifications, and allows you to turn notifications on or off for each individual app. You can also fine-tune notifications – perhaps blocking them from the Lock screen, but allowing them to appear when the device is unlocked and in use. 

Read: How to use Notification Centre

Read on for the General settings on the iPad and iPhone...

Page 1: Settings, Control Centre, Airplane Mode, plus: New settings in iOS 9

Page 2: iOS General settings, handoff, privacy, iCloud and more

Page 3: iOS Privacy settings

Page 4: Keyboard settings, syncing, accessibility and more

Page 5: iCloud storage and automatic download settings, stop auto-renewals