Pro tip: Use phone dialing shortcuts in iOS to quickly dial extensions

With a simple phone dialing trick, you can have single-tap access to extensions instead of manually dialing extension numbers or access codes when calling into meetings or switchboards.

Dial iOS extensions

We've all been there: We go to dial into a phone conference a minute before it's time to start, and we forget the access code or extension number. We quickly look up the email invite only to finally get into the conference after roll call. Surely, there has to be a better way to dial into voice calls, right? Fortunately, there is. Within the iOS phone dialer, you can specify that contacts' numbers have extensions and other access codes built in that you can either tap to dial manually or have iOS do the dialing for you.

You can use the dialing shortcut features of iOS to access your bank accounts with ease over the phone, access meetings, or get through tedious phone systems without having to wait for menu items to be spoken before making selections.

Let's take a look at how to put this feature to use with your own contacts.

Configuring extensions for contacts

To configure a contact's number for extension dialing, open the contact in either the Phone app or Contacts app on your iPhone. Next, follow these instructions to set an extension for the contact:

  1. Tap the Edit button in the contact's detail view
  2. Tap the Add Phone button in the edit view
  3. Enter the phone number as you normally would (Figure A)
    Figure A
    Figure A
  4. When reaching the end of the phone number, tap the +*# button to enter extension information
  5. In this view, enter either pause or wait (right below the 1 and 3 on the keypad, respectively), then enter the required extension number(s) (Figure B)
    Figure B
    Figure B

The entered extension number will be dialed exactly as you insert it into this phone number string.

Note: If you have an extension, access code, and more information (such as a menu hierarchy) to navigate through, you can stack multiple pauses, waits, and extensions together to form a larger phone number string that will be dialed for you automatically when calling the contact's number.

So, what's the difference between pause and wait? The difference between these two is huge: A pause will automatically dial the next numbers after a brief wait of a few seconds. The wait option, however, will ensure that you must manually tap a button (as we'll see later) in order to dial the following numbers.

You'll want to use a pause, which appears as a comma on the screen, on systems that allow you to dial after only a few brief seconds of being connected to the call. A wait, which appears on the screen as a semicolon, is best used when the system requires a long period of time for menu options to be read before making a selection.

After you've entered the correct contact information, tap the Done button to save the newly added number. Next, we'll see how to dial the extension using the iOS Phone application.

Dialing extensions

Once you've set up the extension correctly, dialing is the easy part. Simply call the contact as you normally would. You can use Siri or tap on the phone number from within the iOS Contacts app or Phone app.

If you've added a pause before the extension, after the call has been connected, you'll notice that iOS will pause for about 5 seconds, and then it will proceed to dial the extension exactly as you have it entered. This is great when systems allow for instant dialing after the call has been connected, and it will save you time from hunting for the keypad button and pecking in the numbers. There's no visual indication that these extension numbers have been dialed, but you'll hear the auditory tones as the extension numbers are dialed, one after the other.

If you've added a wait option to the extension, the extension number that you've added will appear underneath the end call button when dialing a number. Once the call has been connected, the button will be enabled, allowing you to tap the Dial "ext" button at the bottom of the screen to have the extension number dialed (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C
A dial indicator will appear under the end call button.

If you have multiple extension numbers added with the wait functionality, the succeeding extension number will appear under the call button after you tap the currently visible one.

The great thing about adding the wait extension is that it works with all systems, regardless of if they allow for immediate dialing or not. The wait feature also means that you'll have the option to dial the number instead of having that pre-programmed into the contact; the pause option will automatically dial the extension whether you want to or not.

Final thoughts

If there are extension numbers that you have to dial each and every time that you call certain phone numbers, then adding extension dialing shortcuts to those numbers is a great way to save time (and your sanity). This can be especially handy if you're connected hands-free in the car and need to dial an extension number for the call to be connected to the correct person.

Have you used this phone dialing shortcut on your iPhone? How did it work for you? If you have any tips or tricks that we haven't mentioned here, let us and others know in the comments below.

By Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...