Cool phone features not everyone knows about

With every update to the Android and iOS operating systems, there come waves of new features, shortcuts, apps and settings. Many of them you know about and use to make your phone work better for you. But many other handy features may have escaped your notice.

So we put together this post to highlight some cool, often-overlooked Android and iOS settings.

First, the Android features

— prefaced by the proviso that not every Android phone has the exact same settings menu, so some of the steps we describe may not exactly match the steps necessary on your phone. If not, just use the search function in your phone’s settings menu or do a Google Search to find the right steps for your phone.

1. Change default apps

This is a good, perhaps necessary first step when you get a new Android phone. Your new phone will usually be set up to use apps offered by the manufacturer by default. For example, Samsung phones are set to use Samsung apps for internet browsing and texting.

You may be happy with the manufacturer’s preset apps—or you may want to use others, like Google Chrome instead of Samsung Internet. You can easily change your default apps to those you prefer. Go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps and select the apps you want.

2. Show the battery percentage in the status bar

It can be hard to tell exactly how much battery life you’ve got left by squinting at that little battery icon. You can see exactly how much juice is left by adding a percentage next to the icon. Go to Settings > Battery, then slide the Battery Percentage toggle switch to on.

3. Turn on notification history

Sometimes notifications are annoying. Often they’re useful—and likely you’ve at least once cleared all your notifications by mistake and wished you hadn’t.

Android phones after the Android 11 update have a Notification History setting you can turn on to see your recent notifications if you clear them by accident. Open Settings and go to Notifications > Notification History, then turn on the Use Notification History toggle.

4. Stop intrusive app notifications

Speaking of notifications, sometimes there are too many. Your notifications panel gets flooded with alerts submerge those you do care about. You can stop notifications from the notifications panel. Just long press on the notification you don’t want and you’ll see options. You can silence that app’s notifications or turn them off entirely.

Or, in the settings menu, go to Notifications > App Settings. Here, you can manage notifications from individual apps and even choose what kind of notifications you want and don’t want. For example, you can set a shopping app to send you order updates but not marketing messages.

5. Turn on Live Caption

Sometimes you want to watch a video or “listen” to a podcast without the sound. With the Android 10 update came a neat feature called Live Caption that lets you do this. It adds captions to all speech in real time.

Go to Settings > Sounds and Vibration > Live Caption. Turn it on and, whenever you use your volume control, you’ll see a button show up beneath the volume slider. Tap the button and Google AI will generate captions on your phone screen whenever it detects speech—from a video, social media, podcast or video call.

Handy iOS tips and tricks

People who have iPhones tend to really like their iPhones. But even the most loyal users don’t know all the cool features and settings their phones offer. Here are 5 that we find helpful.

1. Use the Measure app as a spirit level

Your iPhone’s Measure function does measurements, obviously, but it does more. It shows you if your shelf or artwork is absolutely straight. Go to Measure > Level, then hold your phone against your shelf or picture frame and skooch the shelf or frame till you see green on your phone.

2. Turn your keyboard into a trackpad

If you’re writing a text or email on your phone, you often need to move the cursor to make an edit—and that can be frustrating, because fingers are big, cursors are small. For easy cursoring (and less cursing), turn your keyboard into a trackpad.

Just press and hold the spacebar on your iPhone keyboard. You’ll see the other keys fade to gray and you can then slide your finger around the keyboard and use it like the trackpad on a laptop.

3. Flip a coin to decide

Who carries coins anymore? Not lot of people. If you find yourself with a vital decision to make (who gets the last cookie, who rides in the front seat) but no change in your pocket, you can flip a coin on your iPhone. Siri will do it for you. Just say, “Hey Siri, flip a coin.”

4. Store medical information

If you’re ever incapacitated in an emergency, it’s critical for first responders to know any medical needs particular to you, like your blood type, allergies, medications and emergency contacts. They can get it all from your lock screen. Open the Health app, tap your photo at top right, tap Medical ID, then tap Get Started or Edit.

5. Cancel the noise

You can spend a lot of money on noise-canceling headphones—up to $1,500 (no kidding). Or you can use your iPhone. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual (under Hearing) > Background Sounds. You can choose from Balanced Noise, Bright Noise, Dark Noise, Rain, Ocean and Stream.

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