The New iOS4 Shortcuts, Features, Settings You Need To Know

The New iOS4 Shortcuts, Features, Settings You Need To Know

Apple just released iOS4 for the iPhone and iPod touch, and now that you’ve downloaded and upgraded to the much-hyped iDevice update, here’s a look at the new shortcuts, settings and features you’ll need to know — and want to use.

The New Shortcuts

On a little device with just one button and no major forms of interaction beyond tapping a screen, shortcuts can be serious timesavers. Here are the new shortcuts in iOS4 you’ll want to know:

  • Hold then drag-and-drop to create app folders: You can now create folders to store and organise the apps on your iPhone’s home screen, particularly handy if you’re a bit of an app junkie. To create a folder, tap and hold any icon on the home screen until they all start wiggling. Then drag and drop any application on top of another to create a folder with those apps together.
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  • Double-tap home for quick app switching: The quick app switching shortcut pulls up your most recently opened applications whenever you double-tap the home button. Then just tap on any app you want to quickly switch to it without going back to the home screen. Note: You’ll need at least an iPhone 3GS or later generation iPod touch to use multitasking. Photo via Gizmodo
  • Hold to kill background apps: Currently in iOS4, if an application supports multitasking, it’ll run in the background by default — kind of a strange choice, considering Apple asks you to confirm push notifications for apps. What this means is that as more apps start supporting background processing, you may end up with a ton of apps running in the background that you don’t really need or want running. To remove an application from running in the background, just pull up your quick switch drawer (double-tap the home button), then tap and hold on an app (like you do when you want to delete an app from the home screen until you see a red minus sign (-) on the corner of the app’s icon. Tap it to kill the app.
  • Double-tap-and-hold to access your previous double-tap favourites: Now that double-tapping the home button pulls up the task switcher, that shortcut’s previous functionality (opening your Phone’s favourites, launching the iPod or camera) needs a new shortcut: Just double-tap and hold the home button to access your previous double-tap favourite. (3G and earlier users: Since you don’t get multitasking or quick app switching, double-clicking the home button should work as usual.)
  • Swipe to the left in the app drawer for iPod controls: For some quick app-switching access to simple iPod controls, double-click the home button to bring up the app switcher, then swipe to the left for pared down iPod controls. Note: 3GS and above only.

The New Features You’ll Want to Use

These are the handy new iOS4 in-app features you’ll want to get familiar with:

  • Unified inbox: If you access multiple email accounts from your phone but you’d prefer to be able to read through them in one unified stream, Mobile Mail now has a unified “All Inboxes” feature that does just that.
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  • Mail Archives Rather than Deletes Gmail Messages: The whole archive vs delete problem with Gmail on the iPhone has always been a bit annoying. In iOS4, the swipe-to-delete shortcut and regular old mailbox management defaults to Archive rather than Delete.
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  • Name your new playlists: For years, creating new playlists on an iPod created a default “On-the-Go” playlist that you could later sync to your computer and rename from there. Now you can just create and name a proper playlist each time (rather than “On-the-Go 1”, “On-the-Go 2”, etc).
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  • Smart links for dates: A lot of calendar events start off as email conversations. Now when you get an email with a date and time in it, Mobile Mail turns it into a link that can create a quick event in your Calendar and save the hassle of manually entering in that date that’s right in front of you. It’ll even automatically use the email’s subject as the event title. Handy!
  • Bluetooth keyboard pairing: One of the things that’s made the iPad extremely handy for writers is that you can pair it with an external Bluetooth keyboard for fast, hardware-keyboard typing. To pair a keyboard, go to Settings -> General -> Bluetooth, make sure it’s turned on, then walk through the normal discovery/pairing process. Note: Bluetooth keyboards are not supported on 3G and earlier devices.

New Settings You Should Know

Now that you’ve learned the need-to-know shortcuts and features, here’s a quick peek at the settings you should know:

  • Threaded email: Mobile Mail now has a Gmail-like threaded email option to keep related email messages close together. This feature was actually enabled by default when I upgraded, but just in case, you can find it by going to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars and making sure Organise By Thread is toggled to the On position.
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  • Change your home screen wallpaper: OK, this one’s mostly for eye candy, but if you always ached for some personality in your home screen background, fire up Settings -> Wallpaper, pick an image you want to use, and set it as your home screen wallpaper. Note: We can’t really imagine what possible reason there is for this one, but you can’t set a wallpaper for the home screen on 3G or first generation iPhones. Photo via Gizmodo
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  • Strong alphanumeric lock codes: A few months back we showed you how to add an alphanumeric passcode lock to your iPhone. Now to do the same, all you’ve got to do is go to Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock, toggle Simple Passcode to off, and enter your preferred alphanumeric pass.
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  • Tethering: To turn it on, head to Settings -> General -> Network -> Internet Tethering.
  • Tweak your keyboard layout: If you prefer a different keyboard layout from the standard QWERTY, head to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards -> English to try out an alternative layout for your software or connected hardware keyboard.
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Got a favourite feature in iOS4 that we didn’t highlight that you think deserves a mention? Share it in the comments.


  • Really surprised by the way multitasking works. There seems to be no way to kill the currently running app. If you want to do that you have to follow a rather long-winded process:
    – Click home button to return to home screen OR double click home button to switch app
    – Double click home button to show running apps
    – Hold finger on an app to make them wobble
    – Click app to close

    No major deal, but does seem a little complex!

  • short cuts in folders WOW why hasn’t that ever been thought of b4 iOS4…
    Wallpapers even 4 short cuts… wow, nothing exists that has done that b4 right?

    it’s not that I’m not a fan of apple, its that I’m not a fan of the “iHype”.

    “blue tooth pairing with a physical keyboard.” isn’t that a reason people buy these because there are no keys?

    Last of all, if the “iOS” is the best thing since xxx… why does it need upgrades?

  • I saw a video of a guy using the beta, and he press the lock button 3 times I think, and the screen turned white, like the flashlight app. I don’t know if this is in the release.

      • he he, get co-worker’s iphone and take screenshot of the locked home screen (or whatever it’s called where is says ‘slide to unlock’). Then leave that screenshot open and put the iPhone to sleep. Watch confusion as they slide to unlock, then get the same screen again

    • no need to cry. he was only saying tethering via optus doesnt have a huge fee. if this is the case on froyo, iphone might be the same. unless tethering isnt device agnostic.

  • The archive instead of delete button only seems to work if you’re using the IMAP version of Gmail. If you’ve set up Gmail using Exchange settings (so that push works) the button is still labeled “Delete”. If you press it the message isn’t deleted it’s archived 🙁

    To delete a message you still have to move the email to Gmail’s Trash.

  • Can anyone confirm the double-click + hold for phone faves on a 3GS?

    Used to be able to change home button shortcut through Settings app, but that’s gone in iOS4, and the double-click+hold does nothing for me.

    While I think I might like the multi-tasking, I do miss the quick shortcut to get to my phone favourites.

  • Seems mainly lots of hype here and surprisingly the ‘multitasking’ is very poor. It’s all a little like the GEOS program on the old Amiga in ’84!

  • “Strong alphanumeric lock codes: A few months back we showed you how to add an alphanumeric passcode lock to your iPhone.”

    After updating to iOS4, you need to delete the 9to5Mac add-in before Passcode settings will work properly. Do this through the Settings>General page.

  • On the 3GS with the update process I can not get the double-tap-and-hold to work for “access your previous double-tap favourites”, it sits there without doing anything.

  • I just found out that you can create a ‘App Webpage Shortcut’ on your Home Screen for iPhone 4:

    1) While on your fav website with Safari, open the bookmark options
    2) press ‘Add To Home Screen’
    3) Give your app a name, then press ‘Add’
    4) it then adds a app to your home screen for quick access


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