Part of the fun of buying new gadgets or trying out new software is to discover new things about them, hidden features that most users miss. I got my share of Aha! moments with the iPhone in the past months:
- Shaking the iPhone while you are writing in a text field will pop up a message asking if you would like to undo typing – much quicker than pressing Backspace repeatedly. It’s actually a pretty old feature, introduced two or three iOS versions back;
- In the camera app in iOS 5 you can swipe left to reveal the camera roll or right to come back to the camera. Basically the photo controls screen behaves like your last (not yet taken) picture;
- My personal favorite: from the lock screen you can hold the icon of any notification message and slide to the right; this unlocks the phone and launches the corresponding app. Again, it’s a quicker way to do things compared to unlocking the device and then reaching for the Notification screen to start the app. But be careful, for missed calls sliding the notification will immediately call the person back – not necessarily what you want!
- Even though iOS doesn’t allow apps to install themselves as defaults, some apps can add their own actions to context menus. I noticed this while viewing a PDF file, the menu has two entries for Evernote and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, so you can open the file in one of those apps and upload it to SkyDrive, for example.
Of course, being so popular, there is no shortage of articles with iOS tips online. These are some of my favorites tips for productivity or just plain fun:
- The native Emoji keyboard;
- Rearrange the order of notifications in the Notification Center;
- And finally a bug/feature that caused me some headaches: apparently iOS stops syncing photos with the PhotoStream when the battery level of the device drops below 20%. In a way it makes sense to conserve battery power, but the user experience is not exactly what you would expect, since there is no information about it. Another problem – or limitation, if you like – I encountered with PhotoStream sync recently is that it doesn’t sync photos more than a month old to other devices. In my case I left for Paris for some two months leaving my laptop unused back home. The photos I took in the mean time with the iPhone appear in the PhotoStream on the phone, but only the more recent ones have been downloaded on my PC… It’s somewhat problematic, since there is no other official way (that I know of) to retrieve those photos from the phone.
In the mean time I tried a couple of other things to get my missing photos from the iPhone. First of all iTunes is useless for this, because it can only copy photos to the device, not from it - really, Apple?! But it turns out that if you connect the iPhone to the PC via USB cable Windows 7 will recognize it as a digital camera, allowing you to copy the image files stored there just like with any other camera - like my Canon 600D!
But wait, there’s more! While copying the files I noticed that, even when PhotoStream did sync the photos from the iPhone to my PC, it randomly missed some of them! It appears to be happening whenever there are multiple photos to sync, somewhere in the range of 50 to 100. The bottom line: if you’re using the iPhone as a photo camera replacement, don’t rely too much on iCloud for photo backup, because you might be loosing some of them in the process!