If you're new to the iPhone or iPad, you may not know that it's 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.
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.
(If you'd like to know more about iOS, take a look at our iOS tips roundup.)
How to search the Settings app
Before we jump into the detailed walkthrough, here's a quick tip that could save you a lot of time.
The list of options tucked away in the various Settings panels seems to go on forever, but the search option can help you find what you're looking for. The search tool appears right at the top of the Settings panel. It might not be visible if you previously scrolled down to view other options, but you can make it visible by tapping at the top of the screen to jump straight up.
Just tap in the name of the feature that you're looking for - such as iCloud - and you'll see a list of all the related options.
Notifications & Control Centre
Apple recognised some time ago that Settings was getting a bit complicated, so it added a new feature called Control Centre which you can activate Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen. Here you'll find instant access to a number of important settings, including screen brightness and volume, On/Off controls for WiFi and Bluetooth, and the ability to activate the camera.
Since the launch of iOS 11 you can customise the options that appear here. Go to Settings > Control Centre > Customise Controls, then tap the red circle next to any controls you want to remove, or the green circle next to ones you'd like to add.
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.
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.
Low Power Mode
Apple claims that Low Power Mode can give you an extra hour of battery life. It's turned off by default, but you'll be asked if you want 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 Battery section or (if you've chosen to include it) in Control Centre.
iOS will automatically turn Low Power Mode off again once you've recharged your battery back to 80%.
Low Power Mode helps conserve battery power by deactivating some features and turning off automatic downloads and updates, along with a number of visual effects and animations. Read more Battery saving tips here.
Wireless, Bluetooth & cellular
Wi-Fi Calling allows you to make calls using a Wi-Fi connection in areas where you may not get a good signal for conventional voice calls. Each mobile network handles this feature in its own way, so it's worth checking with yours.
Wi-Fi Calling has to be turned on in the Phone section: just select Wi-Fi Calling, then tap the slider.
WiFi, Bluetooth and Data Roaming
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 Wi-Fi only, so that you don't run up a big bill by accidentally trying to use mobile broadband when you're overseas.
iPhone settings for Handoff
The General panel also includes settings for Handoff - a feature that allows you to start a document or message on one device and then switch and finish it off on a Mac or another iOS device. You can read more about Handoff here: Complete guide to Continuity
Using Handoff on the iPhone
When activated, Handoff allows you to start using an app, such as Pages or Keynote, on one device and then switch to the same app on another device so that you can carry on working on the same document straight away. You can even pick up a phone call on your Mac when your iPhone rings, or use FaceTime on your Mac to make a phone call via your iPhone.
To be honest, Handoff is a bit of a Handfull, and it takes a little effort to get it working properly, but before you can even start you need to turn Handoff on in this settings panel. Once that's done you'll see a little icon displayed on the lock screen of your iPhone or iPad, indicating any apps that are using Handoff and waiting for you to pick up where you left off.
Creating Personal Hotspots
I travel around quite a lot with my MacBook laptop, and it can be frustrating when the wifi coverage in many locations is slow or doesn't work properly at all. The Personal Hotspot feature has come to my rescue on a number of occasions, as it allows you to share the mobile broadband on an iPhone or iPad with your laptop or other devices.
Turning on Personal Hotspot prompts you to choose from two different options. You can connect your iPhone to your computer by using a USB cable - which is a little untidy, but uses less battery power. Alternatively, you can activate the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your iPhone and link to it using either of those connections.
The connection is also password-protected to make sure that nobody else can use your internet connection without your permission. If you've got Yosemite or later running on your Mac you can even detect when your iPhone is nearby and use your Mac to turn on Personal Hotspot without even having to unlock it.
Next page: security & privacy settings >>