5 iOS tips to boost productivity

These iOS tips allow you to accomplish more in less time while on-the-go and are sure to please every multitasking mobile professional.


Image: Apple

Apple's iOS operating system is found across the company's entire line of mobile devices--from the various incarnations of the iPad to the iPhone--and the company's commitment to iOS and its annual development can be seen with each subsequent release.

While each version of iOS typically brings new features and gestures along with it, security updates or point updates (e.g., 14.0.2) often focus more on slight modifications to tweak the underlying code or bug fixes to correct known issues to fortify the system.

These types of changes will be listed in the changelog to each release to give administrators and developers a guide as to what changes were made and why. But every so often, Apple developers will include minor changes that, while not quite stacking up to full-fledged features, provide very helpful perks to users--especially those who rely on getting more done in less time.

I highlighted five iOS hidden shortcuts that will boost productivity--here are five more tips that will help you multitask in Apple's mobile OS easier and more efficiently.

SEE: iPhone 12 event: What Apple announced at its 2020 Hi Speed event (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Ask Siri to announce callers while hands-free

Imagine you're on the road traveling to your next meeting or perhaps getting a bit of a midday workout on on your lunch break and your phone is either in your pocket or otherwise out of reach, but you do have your device connected to Bluetooth speakers or headphones. Taking a call while doing these or any number of other activities isn't difficult by any means, but taking attention from what is directly in front of you could lead to a serious injury as you glance to see the ID of who's calling you.

Well, as of iOS 10, this little-known gem of a setting can be enabled to have Siri announce the name of the user calling you so that you can make a quick decision on whether to take that important call or just let it wait until a safe, more convenient time to return the call. To enable this feature, simply go to Settings | Phone | Announce Calls, and select the entry that best suits your needs: Always, Headphones & Car, Headphones Only, or Never, and you'll never wonder who's calling you again.

2. Set up Control Center for maximum convenience

Apple's Control Center is a highly efficient way to sort the apps and functionality that you most commonly use to make them easily accessible to the user in a snap. By default, Apple pre-populates this field with some basic features, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Savvy users will customize their Control Center for maximum usability across any number of apps and features that support it. By navigating to Settings | Control Center, then tapping on Customize Controls, you'll be brought to a screen with two sections: Include and More Controls. The former shows the apps/features that are configured on your device that will show up in the Control Center when swiping up from the bottom of the screen; the latter showcases those features and applications that are available for users to add to customize their view.

3. Enable Safari extensions for cross-app support

Apple finally included support for extensions in Safari to allow for cross-app support and additional functionality which take Safari a few steps closer to functioning like its larger, full-featured sibling included in macOS.

SEE: iPhone 12: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Extensions enable a whole host of features and functionality while using Safari to cut down on much of the flipping back and forth between applications in iOS while trying to accomplish a task. Some extensions are native to Safari, such as copy or print, and can be accessed by tapping the share icon to bring up the submenu.

However, by scrolling to the end and tapping the More button, an Activities menu will appear with each extension available to your device, including those that are available as part of a third-party app that is installed on your device. These are marked by an on/off toggle next to the name of the app or function, which requires users to explicitly enable its use prior to using it the first time. Check here for a brief listing of Safari extensions available. While it is geared toward the desktop version of Safari, many of the developers listed support Safari extensions for iOS, as well.

4. Adjust flashlight brightness

I lost count of just how many times I've entered a dark room trying to find my way around, fumbling with the keys, or been in a tight crawlspace in a network closet somewhere needing just a bit more light.

Apple's flashlight functionality is heaven-sent more often than not, and I can definitely count it as my first Control Center customization. And yet, sometimes the light emitted from the camera's flash is not as powerful as I need it to be or worse, it's too powerful and washes out what I'm trying to focus on. Luckily, Apple has a fix for that: By pressing and holding the flashlight button in the Control Center for a few seconds, the app will switch to a meter offering four brightness levels that increase as you tap the next level in the meter.

SEE: Apple Watch Series 6: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5. Add text replacement entries for speedier communications

While this last tip is a bit of an oldie, it's certainly a goodie and perfect example of efficiency and time-saving in one fell swoop. Using Apple's text replacement function, end-users can add custom-made entries which will automatically expand, based on what the user sets as a trigger, to expand into a larger statement or more.

For example, as I'm on the road a lot, I often have multiple places that I visit on a given day. One of my go-to entries has a trigger of "OMW." When I type or dictate those letters, iOS automatically references the text entry that matches those letters and expands them to instead read "On my way." Other examples of highly useful scenarios where text replacement can be used to save time is to fill out parts of an email that are commonly used, such as signature lines, specific messages (also known as canned responses), or any other repetitive piece of information that must be written out often.

To set up text replacement, go to Settings | General | Keyboards | Text Replacement. Next, click the "+" at the top of the screen to create a new entry. On the following screen, next to Phrase, enter the phrase you wish to appear in full. For this example, enter "Laugh out loud." Remember, to include punctuation and check for grammar as this is what recipients will see. Last, next to shortcut, enter a short phrase to identify what the entry will be. It is best to think along the lines of common Internet shorthand such as "LOL," for example. To test it, fire up iMessage or Notes and enter "LOL" to see it automatically convert to "Laugh out loud" as entered.

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