15 Hidden iOS 15 Features Worth Knowing About

15 Hidden iOS 15 Features Worth Knowing About
Photo: nikkimeel, Shutterstock

iOS 15 has lots of excellent new features that we’ve covered in detail: When you update your iPhone, you’ll get cool additions like Focus Mode, Separation Alerts, and Background Sounds. However, iOS releases have a bunch of minor upgrades every year that aren’t as highlighted during Apple’s keynotes. These hidden features include quality-of-life improvements that are definitely worth trying, so we’re going to highlight the top 15 hidden features of iOS 15.

An alert tone for microphone muting

Screenshot: Pranay Parab

If you’re on a call and you tap the microphone mute button, iOS 15 plays an alert sound so you can figure out that you’ve muted or unmuted the mic. It’s useful given how often we all mute or unmute ourselves during calls without realising it. Now you can hear an alert whenever it happens and avoid the minor embarrassment. Note that this works best when you have the phone call open in full-screen view.

Access Spotlight search from the lock screen

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If you have a lot of stuff on your iPhone, you’ll find yourself reliant on Spotlight search to find everything. The good news is that you no longer need to unlock your iPhone to access it. From the lock screen, just swipe downwards to see the list of suggested apps along with the search bar up top.

Another neat addition is the ability to delete apps right from Spotlight search. Just search for any app using Spotlight, and tap and hold it to see the Delete option. It’s a lot faster than tracking down the exact folder where an app is buried just to delete that app.

Fast tab switcher in Safari

Screenshot: Pranay Parab

Safari’s redesign in iOS 15 has been a bit controversial, but the final iteration with the tab bar in the bottom of the screen is a lot better than what it was before. While you can always switch back to the single tab view from iOS 14 Safari, you might want to give the bottom tab bar an honest chance just to see if it works for you.

That’s because the tab bar is easier to access given that it’s within closer reach (especially if you’re using a bigger Max iPhone), and it also lets you switch between tabs with a swipe. You can swipe left or right on the tab bar to quickly switch tabs in Safari on iOS 15. This feature doesn’t work if you choose the old single tab view (with the address bar showing up at the top of the screen).

Check which apps have been accessing your data

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iOS 15 has a neat feature called App Privacy Report, which allows the OS to record when apps use your microphone, location data, camera, and so on. Once a week you’ll receive a report of this data, which will allow you to check if apps have been accessing your data when they don’t need to. It’s a nice way to keep an eye on whether apps are violating your privacy.

To enable this, go to Settings > Privacy > Record App Activity and enable Record App Activity. However, the full version of the feature won’t be available right away.

Block tracking pixels from your emails

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There’s another great privacy feature in iOS 15, which allows you to block tracking pixels from your emails. Companies use lots of invasive practices to check when and where you’re opening emails, and they track that data using tracking pixels embedded in emails that can reveal a surprising amount of information about you. iOS 15 allows you to block that tracking with Mail Privacy Protection. It hides your IP address from trackers and makes it harder for them to track your activity on the Mail app in iOS 15. This is enabled by default, but you can make sure by going to Settings > Mail > Privacy Protection.

Borrow iCloud storage to quickly set up your new iPhone

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If you’re migrating from an older iPhone to a new one, you don’t have to worry about a lack of iCloud storage space. You can temporarily borrow some storage for free to transfer all your data to your new iPhone easily. Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone to set this up.

Reduce notification overload in one fell swoop

Photo: Khamosh Pathak

If you feel overwhelmed by notifications and can’t get yourself to completely disable alerts from offending apps, there’s a solution called Notification Summary in iOS 15 that allows you to get a summary of notifications from specific apps at a set time during the day. This works really well for non-urgent alerts that you can push for later. Do you really need a notification every time someone likes your post on Instagram? If not, you can go to Settings > Notifications > Scheduled Summary and set it up.

Customise the Start Page in Safari

Screenshot: Khamosh Pathak

Safari on iPhone also allows you to customise the Start Page, provided you’ve updated to iOS 15. You can set custom backgrounds and remove clutter from the Start Page easily, just open a new tab in Safari on iOS 15 and scroll to the bottom. Now tap Edit and customise away.

Copy text from images

Photo: Khamosh Pathak

Yep, iOS 15 makes text in images easy to copy and paste. If someone sends you a screenshot of their address or email ID, you can easily tap and hold the address and copy it quickly without manually typing these bits of text or hunting for good OCR apps on iPhone. This feature works well with most kinds of images, provided the text is legible.

Use Siri even without internet

Photo: DedMityay, Shutterstock

Even if you’re in a place without internet, Siri on iOS 15 will be able to execute certain commands. It won’t be able to pull up information from the internet, but there’s no reason why basics like settings alarms should require Siri to have an internet connection. Apple says Siri can now set timers and alarms, call or text people, launch apps, control audio playback, and tweak certain settings without being connected.

Reorder the home screen

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If you don’t like the current order of your home screens, iOS 15 allows you to change that pretty easily. To do it, tap and hold the screen till all the icons start jiggling. Then tap the horizontal row of dots just above the dock. This will open all of your home screens on your iPhone, and you can just hold and drag the home screens around to re-order them. You can also hide some home screens by tapping the check mark below its thumbnail. To delete a home screen quickly, uncheck it first and then hit the minus icon in the top-left corner of its thumbnail.

Drag-and-drop across apps

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You can finally drag text or other elements from one app and drop it into another. It may not be the easiest action to execute in iOS 15, but it works well. If you’re the dexterous type, try holding and dragging a note from Apple’s Notes app. Use another finger to switch apps and open a new document in Google Docs while holding the note you dragged previously. With the new document open, drop the note to the place where you have body text and the entire note will appear there.

It’s not very easy to execute, but when you get it right, it’s really slick.

See who changed what in Notes

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If you have a bunch of shared notes in Apple’s stock Notes app, you’ll now be able to track who changed what. Open any shared note and tap the three-dots icon in the top-right corner, then select Show Note Activity to view the change log.

Block distractions while gaming

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You can use Focus Mode in iOS 15 to stop banner notifications from appearing while you’re gaming. Go to Settings > Focus and tap the + button in the top-right corner of the screen. Select Gaming, then tap Next. Here you can select who you want to allow calls or notifications from while you’re gaming. If you don’t want to allow these from anyone, select Allow None. Then you can select apps you want notifications from, and if you don’t want notifications from any app, hit Allow None again.

Finally, select Turn Gaming on Automatically to block all notifications whenever you launch a game.

New iPad-specific features

Screenshot: Khamosh Pathak

While most of the focus has been on iOS 15, there are several useful new features to try in iPadOS 15 as well. You can go to Settings > Battery and enable Low Power Mode to slow down battery drain. There are several helpful multitasking modes that will please the productivity obsessed too.