Tips and tricks to improve your iPhone experience

A few simple tricks can make a big difference in how well your iPhone serves your needs. Calvin Sun shares some basic tips he's discovered.

The iPhone is a wonderful device that can enhance your productivity and your ability to communicate, but knowing a few tricks will help you get more out of it. Here are some tips to prevent problems and make the experience easier.

Notes: This post was first published in TechRepublic's 10 Things blog.

1: Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts

Have you been frustrated, as I have been, over the lack of a non-destructive backspace key? If so, the magnifying glass is probably the next best thing. If you touch and hold your finger on a line of input text, regardless of language, a circle that contains magnified characters will appear with an i-beam within the text. As you slide your finger to the left or right, the i-beam will move correspondingly and non-destructively.

When you get to the end of a sentence, after typing letter characters, you could type a period by first hitting the "123" key, pressing the "period" key, and then pressing the "ABC" key to get back to the "letter keyboard." However, you can avoid all these steps by remaining in the letter keyboard and pressing the spacebar twice after the last word of your sentence. Doing so will put a period after the last word, insert a space and capitalize the next letter you type.

2: Silence a call without ending it

What is the number one annoyance regarding cell phones? The inappropriate ringing, right? So when your iPhone rings unexpectedly, your first impulse is to hide. Your second impulse is to kill the call. However, consider a third option: Silence the call (i.e., the ringing) without ending the call via the Ring/Silent switch on the left side of the phone. That switch, which controls whether the iPhone rings when receiving a call, doesn't just work when the phone is inactive. It works in real time as well, even when your iPhone is ringing, but before you answer.

Yes, you could also silence the phone by pressing "answer." But your phone would then be live and the caller will be able to hear what's going on -- something you might not want. Using the Ring/Silent switch keeps the call active (even though you haven't answered yet), silences the ringing, and gives you time to find the right place to answer.

3: The vibrate vs. non-vibrate decision is a setting

The choice of ring vs. silent is made via a switch on the phone. However, the choice of vibrate or non-vibrate is made via software, with the Settings app. You can choose whether the phone will vibrate, independently of the choice of ring vs. silent. In other words, you have four options regarding how the phone responds to a call: ring vibrate, ring non-vibrate, silent vibrate, silent non-vibrate. I know this is obvious to many of you, but it took me a long time to figure it out.

Note that in your Sound settings, you can choose vibrate options for both silent and ring modes. Of course, only one at a time will be in effect, depending on how your iPhone Ring/Silent switch is set.

4: Volume slider relates only to ring not to vibrate

At this moment, there is no way to control the volume of vibrate. What you have is what you have. The Volume slider in your settings controls only the volume of ringing, not the volume of vibrate. I found this fact out after becoming annoyed with my daughter, who was getting text messages every 10 seconds and whose iPhone was vibrating every 10 seconds as a result.

5: Remove from shirt pocket when using restroom

This point should go without saying, for reasons I prefer not to discuss. Find some place where you can secure the phone. Even better, put it in a separate place, perhaps a tray or table, but make sure you take it when you leave.

6: Put it in airplane mode when using the iPod for singing

If you are using your iPod app to play a backing track to accompany your singing, make sure you put the iPhone into airplane mode first. You don't want a ringing phone to come at the most important part of your song.

7: Get out of phone screens before putting phone away

Did you make that last call from your Recents, Favorites, or a contact screen? If so, the iPhone returns to that screen after your call is ended. If you accidentally touch the telephone number field or an entry in your Recents or Favorites, you will call that person unintentionally. Be sure you get out of that screen after you end the call, particularly if you are putting the phone back into your pocket.

8: Carry a safety pin, tape, and expired credit card when traveling overseas

If you have the SIM-card iPhone (the AT&T iPhone) and you are traveling overseas, you might be able to purchase a temporary SIM card from a cellular company in that country. Of course, you must then unlock the phone -- and unlocking involves risk, plus possibly voiding any warranty you might have. I am not recommending that you do or don't unlock your iPhone.

Nonetheless, if you decide after careful thought to unlock your phone for this reason, consider carrying with you a safety pin or needle, tape, and an expired credit card. The safety pin or needle will allow you to eject the SIM card tray of the iPhone so that you can swap SIM cards. Then, keep your original SIM card safe by carefully taping it to the credit card. This way, you lessen the chance that the SIM card will be lost due to its small size, and you can reinsert it when you return home.

9: Beware of limited functionality with mobile versions of Web apps

The mobile version of a particular Web application often has fewer capabilities than its full Web counterpart. Before you plan to finish something using your iPhone, make sure you really can do so before you leave your home or office and your regular computer. In particular, the Facebook app has what I call the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" syndrome. It lets you do certain things but doesn't provide a way to undo them. For example, if you post something to a friend's wall using your iPhone app, you can't delete that post as you can with the Web version.

10: Wi-Fi may be worse than useless

Yes, Wi-Fi is often quicker than a cellular connection and can save you money because your uploads and downloads via Wi-Fi don't count against your data quota. However, putting your iPhone into Wi-Fi mode may cause your phone to become stuck, even though you might have the correct security key. In that case, your Wi-Fi connection is actually preventing you from receiving or sending messages or Web information. If that happens, remember that your Settings app lets you turn off Wi-Fi.

Bonus tip: Apps remember where you were

Generally, an app will remember where you were when you left via pressing the home key. In other words, if you leave the app in midstream, the next time you return to that app, you will return to that very place. Whatever Facebook profile, email, or photo you were looking at will be what you see when you return. If you know you are the only one who will see the screen, and you are okay with this situation, fine. Otherwise, recognize that others might be using your iPhone or be around you when you use that app the next time. To avoid embarrassment, consider returning the app to a neutral starting position before exiting. For example, exit from that person's photo or profile page back to the Facebook home page.