September 20, 2022

Hidden features on Android and iOS you have to try

Written by kevin-c

Tips & Tricks

You know about those “secret menus” fast food places have? For example, you wander up to the McDonald’s counter and whisper “Gimme a Monster Mac, please” and they hand you a Big Mac with eight patties in it? Boom, secret menu item!

Both Android and iOS operating systems have the smartphone version of this – hidden features or settings that aren’t advertised or even known by the average phone user.

These hidden features run the gamut from goofy stuff (like the Android easter eggs) to genuinely useful features that just aren’t explained well.

So, let’s pull the curtain back on Android and iOS secret features you have to try:

Hidden Android features you should try

Guest Mode

It’s shocking how little known this is, but you can create a “guest” on your Android phone! A guest login allows other people to use your phone’s default apps for calling and messaging, but does not log you into any of your personal information or accounts.

So, a guest could, for example, use your phone to call someone, but wouldn’t be able to open your contacts, or see any of your private data.

You can find this setting in Android quick settings, under your profile.

Emergency info

This next tip could legitimately save your life. Android phones have an “emergency” mode you can turn on from the power menu. When that mode is on, your phone will show an emergency contact or other info (like medications) that would be important for first responders to know about.

You can enter your emergency info on your Android under the main Settings menu, under Safety and Emergency.

Focus mode

This mode is sort of a cousin of the classic Do Not Disturb toggle. Focus mode sets a schedule for when you need to focus by pausing apps that can interrupt your work (looking at you, TikTok). Of course, you don’t have to use Focus Mode just for working purposes – why not set up a schedule to mute social media before bed so that you actually get a good night's sleep instead of doom-scrolling?

Perhaps that mental health tip is why you’ll consider turning on the Focus Mode setting under Android’s Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls in the main Settings menu.

24-hour notification history

This feature isn’t exactly hidden, but a lot of people don’t notice it. You know how you can swipe down on the homescreen to access your quick settings and currently running apps? Well, if you keep scrolling down that screen, there’s a history button. Tap on that and switch use notification history on. That will keep a cache of the last 24 hours of notifications on your phone – perfect for people like me who tend to swipe notifications without actually reading them, so you can go back later for reference.

Easter eggs

Android has snuck easter eggs into all its operating systems to date – everything from hidden games to secret wallpapers. In every case getting to them is super easy. Go to your Android phone's main settings menu and tap on About phone. Then scroll down and tap a bunch of times where it says Android version. (The exact number of times differs from version to version but if you keep tapping, you’ll eventually get a surprise!

Hidden iOS features you should try

Interactive weather map

I only recently found out about this, and it annoyed me I hadn’t before. It’s certainly no big surprise that iPhones have a built-in weather app, but it’s the “interactive” part that impressed me. Getting to it is simple: Open the weather app and tap on the map icon in the bottom left, then tap on the map layers button in the top right. From there you can access interactive maps about precipitation, temperature, and air quality. There’s a bar at the bottom where you can scroll through the next 24 hours of these maps to see the changes forecasted for your day. Very cool. Or hot.

Camera currency converter and translator

Taking a couple of pages from Google Lens, iOS recently added the ability to point your phone’s camera at a price tag and convert it to your phone’s default currency. Even more impressive are the translation features – point your camera at a block of text in a foreign language and it will translate it to your phone’s default language. (Any human language I should say – Klingon and Elvish are not supported.)

You can access the feature by pointing the phone camera at text, then tap the text button in the bottom right corner and highlight the text you want translated. Pretty nifty, right?

Merge duplicate photos

If you’re like me, you don't take a picture by pointing your camera and clicking once. No, I tend to take like ten shots at a time, uselessly. Happily, Apple came to my rescue, because you can now merge all those duplicate photos you took into one single picture, saving up storage space quite dramatically. Just open the Photos app and go to Albums, then scroll down to Duplicates and tap Merge.

Let us know about any other tips and tricks you’ve found on your smartphone in the comments below!