Some of the most useful smartphone features are hidden away in your settings menu, which means you might not have tried them out yet. To help you get more from your mobile, we’ve rounded up 10 need-to-know tips.
Whether you’re using an Apple iPhone or an Android smartphone, you can easily configure your gadget so that it bats away scam texts or helps you reduce your screen time.
If you want to make better use of your phone, have a look at our advice on dealing with distractions, improving usability and keeping your personal information secure.
Which? Best Buy mobile phones – if you’re due an upgrade, consult our expert reviews to see which phones have aced our tests
Smartphone tips for iOS and Android
1. Silence annoying notifications
If you have lots of different apps installed on your smartphone, it might be beeping and buzzing more often than you’d like.
To stop your phone lighting up with notifications every hour of the day, take a trip to settings and decide which app alerts are genuinely important.
- Turn off notifications on iOS – Go to Settings > Notifications to show the list of apps. Click on each app to turn off notifications and change the alert settings.
- Turn off notifications on Android – Open the Settings app, go to Apps & notifications > Notifications to take control.
2. Use Do Not Disturb mode for some peace and quiet
With Do Not Disturb turned on, you can temporarily disable notifications at specific times. You can still allow calls from certain numbers even while it’s enabled, or have it turn on automatically when you’re driving.
- Turn on Do Not Disturb on iOS – Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and turn on or off and find other settings.
- Turn on Do Not Disturb on Android – Open Settings, then go to Apps & notifications > Notifications > Advanced. Tap on Do Not Disturb to get started.
3. Cut down on your screen time
With many of us still working from home, it can be hard to mentally switch off after a long day of work. If you’re worried about how much time you’re spending on your phone, you can track your app usage.
Parents might also want to use this feature, also known as ‘Digital Wellbeing’, to monitor how often their little one uses their own smartphone.
- Track screen time on iOS – Go to Settings > Screen Time to see daily and weekly use tallies, time on apps and even set a screen time passcode for children’s devices.
- Track screen time on Android – Open the Settings app and select Digital Wellbeing to set time limits or use tracking.
4. Adjust screen brightness to protect your eyes in low light
Most modern smartphones now have a feature that can reduce levels of blue light thought to interfere with sleep. If you’re using your smartphone in a dimly lit room, you might want to give it a try.
- Adjust brightness on iOS – Go to Settings > Display & Brightness to adjust brightness, light and dark screen, background and night-time settings.
- Adjust brightness on Android – Open the Settings app and tap Display for brightness levels, night settings and adaptive mode that automatically adjusts the screen to your surroundings. If you just want to adjust brightness, pull down the notification shade and slide the bar at the top.
5. Increase text size and strength
If you’re straining your eyes to read from your smartphone screen, you can increase text size in just a couple of taps.
- Increase text size on iOS – Go to Settings > Display & Brightness and Text Size to adjust the size, turn on Bold Text settings and adjust the display to zoomed, to enlarge text and app display size.
- Increase text size on Android – Open the Settings app, then select Display to adjust font size.
6. Delete apps and organise apps into folders
Setting aside some time to tidy up your smartphone can make it easier to find your most used apps.
We suggest you try a bit of digital housekeeping to remove unused apps (they take up space on your phone) and organise the apps that you’re keeping into labelled folders.
- Delete apps on iOS – Hold down the app’s icon on your home screen and click Delete App to remove or Edit Home Screen to remove multiple apps, or hold and drag into a folder.
- Delete apps on Android – Click and hold on an app’s icon and go to App Info > Uninstall.
7. Block unwanted contacts and nuisance calls
Suffering from a constant barrage of phishing texts or spam phone calls? Blocking these numbers is straightforward and it’ll stop you from being tricked into handing over personal information.
- Block numbers on iOS – Click the Phone app, go to Recent and press the i icon on the right. Scroll down and click Block this Caller.
- Block numbers on Android – Open the Phone app and select Recent. Hold on the number and from the pop-up menu, choose Block/ Report Spam.
8. Decide which apps can access your location
Location tracking is vital for GPS and mapping, but not every app needs to use it. In fact, if you download an app that requests unusual permissions considering its primary function, that’s a red flag. For example, a calculator app shouldn’t want access to your camera.
You can allow an app one-off access to your location later if it needs it. To manage location settings, follow these steps:
- Location settings on iOS – Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to toggle GPS, Bluetooth, wi-fi hotspot and mobile tower tracking. For individual apps, select an app and set the permission.
- Location settings on Android – Open the Settings app and select Location > App permission to review and adjust the permission status for each installed app.
9. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your online accounts
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is essentially an extra layer of security for your online accounts. It usually means that a unique code is sent to your phone, which you then enter after your password to confirm it’s you.
- Use two-factor authentication on iOS – Go to Settings and select your name > Password & Security to turn 2FA on or off.
- Use two-factor authentication on Android – Go to your Google Account settings at myaccount.google.com > Security. Select Google > 2-Step Verification, click On and follow the steps.
For more details, see our guide: What is two-factor authentication and should you use it?
10. Make an emergency call
If you haven’t configured your emergency call settings, there’s no time like the present. Doing so means you can quickly contact the emergency services without having to flick through your contacts.
- Emergency calls on iOS – Go to Settings > Emergency SOS to turn on or off Auto Call. In an emergency, press the sleep/wake button five times to call an emergency number automatically, or after countdown, depending on Auto Call setting.
- Emergency calls on Android – Hold down the power button and from the menu, click Emergency > Emergency Information to add contacts and any relevant health information.
Upgrade your smartphone using Which? reviews
If you’re using an older smartphone that’s starting to slow down, or you just fancy having access to a better camera, you may be considering upgrading.
To help you pick the perfect smartphone for you, Which? expert reviews score the latest mobiles on important features such as battery life, camera performance, ease of use and speed.
Our expert reviews also highlight which models are able to offer regular security updates, which is vital if you want to keep your device secure. You can also use the Which? phone support calculator to find out if the phone you own is still supported.
Discover the very best of iOS and Android with our full selection of expert smartphone reviews.
Sign up for Which? Computing
- The UK’s largest computing and technology title, published six times a year.
- Easy, jargon-free advice so you can make the most of your tablet, laptop or smartphone.
- One-to-one support from our friendly Tech Support team, ready to respond to unlimited member queries.
You can sign up to Which? Computing here, or contact our helpful customer service team today on 029 2267 0000.
- How to use your Android smartphone from your PC – plus other home office hacks
- Father’s Day gift ideas
- The best alternatives to Google Maps in 2021
Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.