You’d have to be really, really bored to devote some time to scrolling through all the settings on your phone or laptop—so the devices you rely on every day may well offer a selection of options and features that you’re completely unaware of. Here’s a rundown of 31 of the best lesser-known settings that you might find useful.
As usual, we’ll be talking about the most recent versions of these platforms at the time of writing, and for the sake of brevity we’ll concentrate on the stock (Pixel) version of Android 10—the settings on your own devices might vary somewhat.
1) Tweak your Quick Settings
You don’t have to settle for the default options on the Quick Settings panel—drag two fingers down from the top of the screen to see it, then tap the pen icon (lower left) to remove or add tiles. Some of the ones hidden by default are toggle switches for the system-wide dark mode and the recently launched Focus mode in Digital Wellbeing.
2) Configure default apps in Android
Unlike iOS, Android lets you set default apps—apps that launch automatically when you follow web links or want to send an SMS. To configure which apps are used by default, open Settings on your Android device, then choose Apps and notifications, Advanced and Default apps: All the available app categories will be listed on screen.
3) Hear audio output in mono
We might be talking to a small proportion of people here, but we’ve always found it useful to be able to turn a phone’s output to mono instead of stereo for those times when you have just one earbud in (at work, on the subway, on a bike). You can do this in Android: The relevant option can be found in Settings by tapping Accessibility and scrolling down.
4) Limit notifications on the lock screen
You don’t necessarily want your most private and sensitive messages getting previewed on the lock screen where they can be seen by anyone who glances at your phone. To hide the previews, open Settings then choose Display and Advanced—tap on Lock screen display and Lock screen to set how much information shows up before your phone is unlocked.
5) Keep chatting to the Assistant
If you missed it, Google added a new Assistant feature called Continued conversation—it means you don’t have to keep saying “hey Google” every time you’ve got a follow-up to your original question. To make sure this is enabled in Android, open Settings then tap on Apps and notifications and Assistant to find the Continued conversation toggle switch.
6) Use Android with a screen protector
Android has a built-in setting that will boost screen sensitivity and should make your phone or tablet easier to operate if you’ve got a screen protector on top of the display. To see whether or not it makes a difference on your particular device, open Settings and then select Display and Advanced to find the Increase touch sensitivity toggle switch.
7) Run Android by your Rules
This is an Android 10 and Pixel exclusive for now, though it may roll out more widely in the future—if you open Settings and choose System, Advanced and Rules, you can set up some basic automations. For example, you could have your phone switch to silent mode when you reach the office. There’s not much here yet, but it should expand over time.
iOS and iPadOS
8) Automatically remove apps you’re not using
When it comes to saving space on your iPhone or iPad, there’s a very handy feature called Offload Unused Apps under General and iPhone Storage in Settings. It automatically uninstalls the apps you use least frequently when you’re low on room, but keeps the app documents and data intact, in case you reinstall the app at some point in the future.
9) Make text easier to read
A surprising number of people—at least in the social circles I move in—don’t know that you can change the default text style and size on iOS/iPadOS in order to make it easier to read (or to fit more on the screen). To see the various options that are available, from Settings pick Display & Brightness, then look for the Text Size and Bold Text options.
10) Optimise battery charging
Every battery in every modern smartphone or tablet degrades over time, but iOS and iPadOS can help you keep your battery healthy for as long as possible by charging it more intelligently, based on your past usage habits. Open Settings, then choose Battery and Battery Health to find the relevant Optimised Battery Charging toggle switch.
11) Send out auto-responses when driving
One of the neat features in Do Not Disturb mode lets you send out a preset response automatically if someone texts you while you’re moving at high speed in a car. To make sure this feature is turned on, and to specify what you want the message to say, head to Settings and Do Not Disturb, then go down to Do Not Disturb While Driving.
12) Customise the mouse cursor
iPadOS now has full support for mice and trackpads, and connecting them is just a question of going through a quick Bluetooth pairing process. Don’t just accept the default cursor size, transparency, and speed though. You can customise all of these options by going to Settings and then choosing Accessibility and Pointer Control.
13) Make your device attention-aware… or not
If you’ve got a device that supports Face ID, it can tell whether or not you’re actually looking at the screen, and keep it active if you are. You may or may not find this feature helpful, but it’s up to you whether it’s enabled or not: To set attention awareness on or off, go to Settings, then Face ID & Passcode, to find the Attention-Aware Features option.
14) Renew or cancel your subscriptions
An essential settings screen to know about—especially if you don’t want to be charged by Apple after a particular free trial ends—is the one where you can view and manage all your active subscriptions. From Settings, tap on your Apple ID name at the top, then choose Subscriptions to see both your current and past subscriptions in the Apple ecosystem.
15) Avoid live sports scores
By default, iOS and iPadOS will show you live sports scores for the teams you’re interested in (and maybe some that you aren’t) inside the TV app. If you don’t want to know live scores (you’re catching up with the games later, perhaps), then you can stop this from happening by turning off Show Sports Scores in the TV menu from the Settings screen.
16) Have Siri read out your messages
If you’re got second-gen AirPods or certain Beats headphones connected to your iPhone or iPad, you can have Siri read out your incoming messages without having to unlock your device. To set this up, go to Settings and then select Notifications and Announce Messages with Siri—and you can opt to reply to messages with your voice as well.
17) Make the Control Centre your own
What appears in the Control Centre panel is very much up to you, so don’t keep the default gallery of icons in place if they’re shortcuts that you never use. From Settings, pick Control Centre and then Customise Controls: From the dark mode toggle switch, to the built-in screen recorder, to the iOS/iPadOS QR code recorder, it’s up to you what shows up.
18) Link your phone to Windows
Windows is getting better and better at letting you use your phone through your laptop or desktop—especially if you have an Android phone, in which case you can send and receive texts and make and take calls through your computer. All of this is managed through the Phone option on the Settings dialog box (you’ll need to install an app on your phone too).
19) Use a slideshow as your wallpaper
Avoid Windows background fatigue by cycling through a series of pictures as your desktop backdrop, rather than relying on one image and having to change it manually every time. From Settings, select Personalisation and Background, then open the menu under Background and pick Slideshow. You’ll be prompted to choose a folder of images to use.
20) Change colours with the wallpaper
While we’re on the topic of customisation—which Windows handles rather well—you can have the systemwide accent colour change based on the wallpaper that’s currently selected. This keeps everything consistent, and you can set it by going to Settings, Personalisation, Colours and Automatically pick an accent colour from my background.
21) Make the most of HDR
If you’ve got an HDR-enabled display attached to your Windows computer, then you certainly want to make sure that you’re taking advantage of it, and there’s a setting inside the operating system for this: Head to Settings and select System, Display and Windows HD Colour settings to make adjustments to the display output (if it’s HDR-ready).
22) Make sure programs don’t overstep the mark
When you install applications on Windows, they can request access to your camera, microphone, and various other bits of the system. If you want to manage these settings and revoke any permissions, head to Settings then Privacy: Select any of the permission types on the left to see the applications that have access to that particular data.
23) Reclaim your focus
One of the features recently added to Windows is Focus assist: Open Settings, then System, then Focus assist to find it. It’s essentially a sophisticated Do Not Disturb mode, for managing notifications and other interruptions when you’re gaming or working. Windows will fill you in on everything you’ve missed once Focus assist is disabled again.
24) Streamline the Start menu
You’ve got more control over the look of the Start menu than you might realise… at least until Windows decides to change it all around again. From Settings, choose Personalisation and then Start, and you’ll be met with a lengthy list of menu elements (recently added apps, recently opened items and so on) that can be shown or hidden.
25) Stop apps launching automatically
A crowd of apps will attempt to launch themselves automatically as soon as you log into macOS, but if you don’t need them right away, they can take up memory space and other system resources unnecessarily. To edit the list of items, open System Preferences, then go to Users & Groups—click on your username and then switch to the Login Items tab.
26) Trim down Spotlight
Spotlight is great at finding just about anything from anywhere, but maybe you don’t want results from the web and your documents and your calendars and your emails mixing freely together—especially if you only use Spotlight for one job. From System Preferences choose Spotlight then Search Results to limit the reach that the search tool has.
27) Tell macOS which wifi networks you prefer
If you’re in a spot where multiple wifi networks are available, then macOS might lock on to one that you don’t want by default, rather than the one that you do. To take control over how this works, head to System Preferences and then select Network and Wi-Fi: You can drag the wifi networks into your preferred order, or remove them from the list completely.
28) Type requests to Siri
You might not always be in a situation where you feel comfortable speaking out your requests to Siri, but if that happens, you can type out a message instead. From System Preferences you need to open up the Accessibility pane, then choose Siri and tick the Enable Type to Siri box. Click the Siri icon on the menu bar to start typing commands.
29) Put a message on the lock screen
You can put a message on the lock screen of your Mac if you want to warn off potential intruders, identify which computer is yours, or make it easier for someone to return your laptop if it gets lost. Open up System Preferences, then choose Security & Privacy, General, and Show a message when the screen is locked to enter your message,
30) Change window behaviour
Getting around open application windows on macOS is a lot easier if you know that you can double-click on a window title bar to increase its size (and double-click again to shrink it back to its original dimensions). You can change this so that windows minimise instead by going to System Preferences, then Dock, and Double-click a window’s title bar to….
31) Get your Mac to announce the time
Here’s a fun one you might never have come across: macOS will announce the time for you if you want, so you can get an audible reminder of how quickly the day is slipping away. From System Preferences, select Date & Time and then Announce the time—you can have it read out every hour, every half an hour, or every quarter of an hour as needed.