Welcome to our iOS tips megaguide! In this roundup of handy tricks, essential tips and lesser-known features we walk you through the intricacies of iOS 11, iOS 10 and earlier versions, and help you get the most out of your updated iPad or iPhone.

iOS 11, the latest update to iOS, offers a raft of new features, and there are sure to be more features and tips that we haven't yet covered here. If you think you've spotted something worth a mention, let us know via the comments.

We've divided the article into 10 categories, running the gamut from socialising to travel, from privacy to health. 

To read more about iOS 11, turn to our iOS 11 review. Not to mention our tutorial showing how to install iOS 11.

Contributors: Serenity Caldwell, Dan Moren, Lewis Painter, Lucy Hattersley

General interface tips


iOS 11 or later; iPad only

The old dock was just a set of four to six app icons (usually your most-used apps) that were always at the bottom of the Home screen. As of iOS 11 you can have far more icons in it (we've seen as many as 14) and it does much more, too.

For one thing, the apps that appear in the Dock to the right of the line are dynamic - either recently used, or currently being used on other devices you use, thanks to Handoff.

And the Dock is now accessible from any screen, not just the Home screen(s): swipe up from Safari, say, and it'll pop up, giving you easy access to your favourite apps - and if you tap and hold one of the icons so it starts jiggling, you can drag it on to the main screen and it'll turn into a split screen tab, if your screen supports it in your current viewing orientation.

We cover this feature in more detail in a separate article: How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11.

iOS 11 tips: Dock

App switcher

iOS 11 or later

The Dock is accessible from anywhere by swiping upwards, so you might be wondering what happened to Control Centre. Wonder no more: just continue your upward swipe further up the screen and the new Control Centre will appear too, with the Dock at the bottom.

Actually, assuming you're assuming an iPad, it doesn't stop there. As well as the Dock (at the bottom) and the Control Centre toggles and app shortcuts (on the right), you'll find that most of the screen is taken up by the app switcher, showing your four most recently opened apps; tap one to jump to it, or swipe right to see more.

iOS 11 tips: App switcher

Social & communication

How to get quick access to contacts

For iOS 8 and later

The multitasking screen can be accessed by double-clicking the home button.

You'll see a row of circular icons along the top. These represent the people you recently called or messaged, and tapping one will bring up a series of options: Call mobile, Call home, Message or FaceTime, for example, depending on which options apply.

If you would like to add favourites that will always appear on this screen, you can do so by going to the Phone app, tapping Favourites and then tapping the Plus icon to add contacts. Now, when you double-tap the home button, swipe right on the icons to reveal your Favourites.

Sketch in Messages

For iOS 10 and later

The ability to sketch out messages was first introduced on the App Watch. It's a fun feature, but bound to find many more fans now that Apple is bringing it to the iPad and iPhone.

Open Messages and tap the Sketch icon (shaped as a heart with two fingers). Sketch a drawing on the black rectangle and it'll be sent to the other person. It's sent as an animation, so they see your finger sketching it out as it goes.

Read receipts

For iOS 10 and later

While we're on the subject of Messages, let's talk about read receipts - those notifications people receive when you've seen their messages. If this feature is turned on, they will see a little 'Read at 15:15' next to the message; if it's not, they'll just see 'Delivered', which might not mean anything.

Sometimes read receipts are a useful service - if a bunch of colleagues are co-ordinating work over iMessage, say, this could save you constantly having to text back 'yes ok, got that'; at others it's intrusive and could get you in trouble when you're planning to claim that sorry, you didn't see that message about the mother-in-law needing a lift so you went to the pub instead.

Which is why it's lucky that you can now choose whether the receipts are sent or not, on a per-conversation basis. Which in practice roughly translates into a per-contact basis.

First of all, decide whether you want read receipts to be sent by default. Open the Settings app, then scroll down to Messages. 'Send Read Receipts' is the fourth option down. If it's white, receipts won't be sent unless you specify otherwise on a given conversation; if it's green, they will.

Now open Messages and go into a conversation you want to have different settings to the default. Tap the little I at the top-right of the screen. In the next screen, tap the slider next to 'Send Read Receipts'. This will apply to this conversation only.

iOS tips: Read receipts

Filter unread emails in Mail

For iOS 10 and later

In iOS 10 it's easy to quickly filter your emails in Mail so you only see unread messages: tap the circular icon at the bottom left of the screen. It will become filled-blue (instead of just outline-blue) and you'll see a message reading 'Filtered by: Unread'. Tap the icon again to turn the filter off.<

Open up nested thread emails in Mail

For iOS 10 and later

While we're talking Mail, what do you think of the new way iOS 10 Mail organises email threads? Instead of showing each message individually, it groups linked emails together. Tap the email and you'll see all the linked messages organised in a thread.

This is better in some ways - if you've been getting a lot of emails from one particular threads, it stops those messages from filling the screen and obstructing your view of unrelated messages - but some people (such as Chris Phin, who pointed this issue and its solution out on Twitter) prefer the old system. To open up a thread within the Mail app you just need to tap the little blue right-pointing double-chevron next to the email in question - it will point down instead, and show the full thread. Tap it again to close the thread back up.

If iOS 10's Mail threading really does you head in, turn it off completely. Go to Settings > Mail and then tap the green slider next to 'Organise by Thread'.

Sending attachments

For iOS 9 and later

As of iOS 9, you can access and send any type of attachment. When writing an email, tap and hold the screen until the menu appears, then select the option 'Add Attachment'. Attached files can be from iCloud Driver or other services like DropBox.

You can also save attached files that have been sent to you by email directly to your iCloud Drive; just tap the attachment until a bar menu appears on the screen.

How to set up notifications for email replies

For iOS 8 and later

It's unlikely that you want to be notified every time you get an email, but there are always those important email threads that require immediate attention. Now, Apple lets you stay on top of emails by enabling reply notifications, which you can turn on for individual emails and email threads.

To do so, open the email you want to get notifications for, tap the flag icon in the bottom left corner, and then tap 'Notify Me…'. Now, click Notify Me to confirm you want to turn Notifications on. To stop notifications, tap the same icon and then tap 'Stop Notifying'.

How to minimise an email

For iOS 8 and later

Another really handy email feature introduced with iOS 8 is the ability to hide/minimise your New Message window. If you've started writing an email but want to check something from a separate email, you can do so by dragging down from the top of the window.

Tap the New Message bar at the bottom of the app to get that Message back and continue writing it.

Find out more about the new features in the Mail app here.

How to send audio messages

For iOS 8 and later

You can send short audio messages in the iOS 8 Messages app instead of typing. Touch and hold on the microphone icon beside the text box to record a message, and swipe up when you've finished to send it.

Alternatively, you can hold your device up to your ear and speak to record the message while in the messages app, and then when you lower the phone again it will send automatically.

You can listen to audio messages you've received by lifting your iPhone up to your ear. You can then immediately speak your reply into the iPhone once the original is finished.

How to exit group conversations

For iOS 8

Another really useful feature we've discovered in the iOS 8 Messages app is the ability to mute group conversations, or if they're getting really out of hand, leave them completely.

You can now go to the Message group, tap Details, scroll down and then tap 'Do Not Disturb to mute notifications or 'Leave This Conversation.'

More iOS 8 Messages tips

Next: Notifications & Control Centre >>