iOS

Lesser-known features in iOS 7

Jack Wallen takes a look at a few of the lesser-known features in iOS 7.

iOS 7

The latest iteration of iOS has been released with more than the usual ballyhoo, and with good reason. The newest release of the iPhone platform has been completely redesigned for the end user -- not only the look of the interface, but many of the features have been updated or added. Some of these features are quite obvious, but others escape the naked eye of the end user. Let's take a look at a few of the lesser-known features in iOS 7. 

Turn off Parallax

The new theme includes the Parallax Effect for the wallpapers, which is a pseudo 3D effect that attempts to match the motion of the screen (wallpaper and icons) with the movement of the device. If you don't like this effect, or if it seems to be draining your battery faster than usual, you can turn it off. Here's how:

  1. Go to Settings | General 
  2. Tap Accessibility | Reduce Motion (Figure A)
  3. Tap Reduce Motion to set it to On

Figure A

Figure A
iOS 7 running on a Verizon-branded iPhone 5.

Though the difference is subtle to the eye, it may improve your battery life significantly.

Control gestures and switches

iOS 7 allows you to control which gestures do what on your phone. This means you can create custom gestures that activate specific features. The only caveat to this is that it disables the built-in gestures (so you'll have to create every gesture you need). To create new gestures, you first have to enable Switch Control. Here's how:

  1. Go to Settings | General | Accessibility | Switch Control
  2. Tap to enable Switch Control
  3. Click Okay when you receive a warning that enabling this changes the gestures used to control your iPhone. 

Now, let's say you want to create a switch that will launch Siri by simply tilting your head to the right. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. From the Switch Control window, tap Switches
  2. Tap Add New Switch
  3. Tap Camera
  4. Tap Right Head Movement
  5. Scroll down and tap Siri

Now, hold your face about a foot away and tilt your head to the right. Siri should open. If your face is too close, you'll get a warning.

Block unwanted callers and messages

That's right! You can now block unwanted callers and messages. The only caveat is that the sender must be in your contacts. So, if there's someone calling or messaging you that you don't want to hear from, first add them in your contacts. Once you've done that, do the following:

  1. Tap Settings | Messages | Blocked
  2. From the Contacts listing, select the contact you want to block
  3. If that contact has multiple numbers, you'll need to add them again

Any call or message from that sender will now be blocked.

Turn on Wi-Fi/Bluetooth with Siri

Siri can now do more than ever. Launch Siri and then say “Turn Wi-Fi on” or “Turn Wi-Fi off.” You'll be surprised that Siri complies. This holds true for Bluetooth and other system toggles.

Swipe gesture to go back

For the longest time, to get back one screen, you had to tap the upper left corner of the home screen (a sort of “back” button). Now, with iOS 7, you can swipe the screen to the right and go back. This is very helpful when you're deep within the configuration options.

Auto refresh in the background

With iOS 7, you can set specific apps to auto refresh their data without having to re-open them. This feature takes a toll on your battery, but for frequently-used apps, it can come in handy. Here's how to use it:

  1. Tap Settings | General
  2. Tap Background App Refresh
  3. Locate the app you want to allow auto refresh
  4. Slide the on/off switch to the on position for that app

Now, you won't have to close and open that particular app to have its data refreshed.

Turn on or off application auto-update

iOS 7 also brings to life the ability to auto-update the applications on your phone. This happens in the background and will save you the time and hassle of opening the App Store and running the updates from there. To enable this feature, do the following:

  1. Tap Settings | iTunes & App Store
  2. Scroll down to Automatic Downloads
  3. Enable Updates by sliding the associated slider to the right (Figure B)

Figure B

Figure B
You can also enable the use of cellular data for automatic downloads (charges may be applied).

Disable advertising tracking

This last hidden feature is great for anyone who prefers a bit more anonymity on their mobile device. You can prevent iAds from using your location to help specify the type of ads you receive. To make sure you aren't targeted, you need to enable Limit Ad Tracking. Here's how:

  1. Go to Settings | Privacy | Advertising
  2. Slide the slider to the right to turn on Limit Ad Tracking

You can also tap Reset Advertising Identifier (after you've enabled Limit Ad Tracking) for even more privacy. You'll still get ads, but those ads won't be location-specific.

I've highlighted just a few of the lesser-known iOS 7 features, but there are many more new features included in the iOS 7 update, several of which will have an immediate impact on how you use your device. What's your favorite feature in iOS 7? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.


About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

7 comments
Lane L
Lane L

Enjoy the info. Noticed with updates they don't seem to remove themselves from the updates section any more after being loaded. How do you remove them from that screen?

bstankos
bstankos

Really need a way to change background colors on Email, Calendar, Notes, and Messages... Those skinny letters on the BRIGHT white background are burning out Retinas every day and night

JohnnyBee
JohnnyBee

Visually impaired folks desparately NEED BOLD letters on texting keyboard!  Please help if you can!  Thanks!

Lars_H
Lars_H

Thanks ! Useful for avoiding headache with IOS7 :-)

vonkprep
vonkprep

@Lane L They drop to bottom of any apps flagged "Update" and flag changes to "Open". Just open the app.

drm1
drm1

@JohnnyBee Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on the Bold Text setting. Requires a restart of the iPhone, so likely turns on Bold Text for all apps that support it.

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