7 iPhone features that have changed my life

  • 6 min read
  • May 13, 2023

I have been using an iPhone for many years, dating way back to the original, first-gen model. A lot has changed since then, with new hardware design and the addition of more innovative features and functions.

Today, the iPhone has tons of hidden features that even long-time users don’t know about. How can that possibly happen? Sometimes, OS updates are dominated by a few key features while other useful and interesting ones are quietly mentioned in the background. In other cases, there are features iPhone users know exist, but they have never actually tried them. For me, it can sometimes be the simplest usability features that mean the most. And there are a handful of them that have changed my life in a good way.

1 Using the spacebar as a cursor

A finger on the spacebar of the iPhone, turning the keyboard into a trackpad.

Until I knew about this feature, I would painstakingly try to position my finger exactly where I needed to add or remove text in an e-mail, instant message, or social media post. It would inevitably never go to the right spot, leading me to delete text and re-write it or frustratingly start the missive all over again. This feature for using your iPhone keyboard as a trackpad, however, is a total game-changer and one I use daily.

When you’re typing an e-mail, message, note, or post, hold the spacebar on the virtual keyboard, then slide your finger upwards. It instantly becomes a cursor, so you can position the vertical line exactly where you want to type or backspace and proceed. Do this again and again if you need to make multiple, precise edits. I can’t express enough how much this feature has made sharing on social media and composing messages on the go from my iPhone 14 so much easier for me.

2 Lifting a subject from a photo background

It’s more of a fun feature, but I’ve been able to create compelling wallpapers and lock screen images for my phone as well as share creative shots with family and friends by extracting an object from a photo. This pulls the main subject, like a person or a delicious dish of food, and crops it from the background. You can get rid of all the distracting, extraneous details and highlight exactly what you want.

To lift a subject from a photo background on iPhone, tap your finger over the subject of the image and release after a quick second. You’ll see a glowing white border around them. From there, you can either copy the image and paste it where you want or share it, like in a group chat, e-mail, via AirDrop, or other channels. You can also select “Save Image” and save it to your Camera Roll to do what you wish with it later.

Depending on the background, the cropping isn’t always perfect. But with a bit of editing, you can get a beautiful photo on a plain, white background to work with. Get creative and try it with everything from selfies to group photos, single-person photos, animals, plant life, objects, and more.

3 Being able to take Live photos

iphone live photos feature

Being able to take Live photos, in general, is a lifesaver for me, especially when I’m trying to capture action photos, like my son at his softball game or on a ride at an amusement park. When I take photos with others, including selfies, being able to scroll back and forth to find the perfect image where the lighting is right, no one’s eyes are closed, and we all have beautiful smiles means I don’t have to re-take the same photo over and over again until it’s just right.

Keep in mind that Live Photos on iPhone takes up more room on the device since with each photo, you get 1.5 seconds before the shutter is depressed and 1.5 seconds after. But it’s worth it if you’re constantly missing great moments because you didn’t notice a shot was blurry or someone walked by in the background. A fun tip: press and hold a Live photo in your Photo Library, and you’ll see it animate like a short video clip.

4 Using Home Screen folders to organize

I’m an admitted packrat in my real life, and that translates to my digital life, too. Both my iPhone and MacBook are loaded with files I likely don’t need, but I never get around to deleting them. The same goes for apps on my phone. I have a ton, some of which I rarely use but a lot that I use all the time, unlike my colleague Mahmoud Itani who only has nine. Being able to drag and drop them into folders allows for some level of organization and is just one of many ways you can customize your home screen on an iPhone.

I keep my most frequently used apps out of folders on the first 2–3 pages of app icons. All the others (or most of the others) are put into folders with identifiable names like Photography, Games, and Shopping. If I’m ever unable to find something, another useful tip is to simply pull down from the top of the phone screen and tap the name of the app in the Search bar to call it right up.

5 Loading more than credit and debit cards in Apple Wallet

Setting up Apple Pay on my iPhone was one of the best things I have done in a long time. I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. But Apple Wallet isn’t just useful for credit and debit cards. I use it for loyalty program cards for everything from grocery stores to the movie theater, event tickets, virtual venue passes, and even, where available, digital gift cards.

It's a simple spot where I can pull up everything I need, from scanning my local grocery store points card to then paying for the items. I use both cards that reside there permanently and special event cards that I pull up when needed and then remove once the event is over (or they automatically move into the expired passes section of the app).

6 Apple AirDrop

apple airdrop

Apple AirDrop is an incredibly convenient feature that I use multiple times a day. If I take photos and videos to use in articles (like this one!) using my phone, I can simply AirDrop the content to my MacBook (provided Apple AirDrop is activated on the computer) and then drag the files into Adobe Photoshop to make my edits. There’s no arduous process of uploading them to a cloud server or e-mailing them one by one to myself. It’s a simple process of selecting all the photos and videos I want to AirDrop, tapping the AirDrop button, then waiting for them to arrive on my MacBook within seconds. Because the two devices are synced, I don’t need to accept the transfer: they are just automatically sent.

This is also a simple way to send large files that might otherwise not be able to upload to a cloud service or sent via e-mail. While I don’t often use AirDrop to transfer files to other people, this could easily be done as well. Recently, for example, I was able to transfer my son’s large video animation project for school from his phone to my laptop so I could help him easily upload it to his Google Classroom.

7 Making full use of seamless Apple Watch integration

apple watch iphone fitness syncing feature

One of the first things you should do with an Apple Watch is pair it with your iPhone. Once paired, the seamless integration between iPhone and Apple Watch has made my workouts go much more smoothly. I can initiate a workout from my phone and have the watch automatically sync to it to start tracking. I can also see my Apple Watch battery level on the iPhone, as well as know once it’s fully charged. All the compatible apps from my iPhone automatically appear on the Apple Watch, making it simple to access the functions I need the most, from my calendar to messages, music, photos, workout apps, and more.

All these features are available for the best iPhones, even older models dating back years. Indeed, I have been using many of them for years, while admittedly, a few were only recent discoveries. Even if you're a long-time Apple iPhone user, you might not be aware of some of these features. (Several people have commented to me that the spacebar function they learned about from my article has changed their lives, too!) For others, you might be using them but not really leveraging them to the fullest. Play around with each, and you may find they change your life, too.

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