Seven Hidden Features In iOS 5

Seven Hidden Features In iOS 5

Apple claims that iOS 5 has over 200 new features, but not all of those features are apparent or easy to use, in fact many of them are somewhat hidden. We’ve put together a list of seven of our favorite hidden features of iOS 5 for your viewing pleasure.

User-Defined Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the cool hidden features is support for user-defined keyboard shortcuts. This essentially adds TextExpander-like functionality to iOS, allowing you to create abbreviations for terms, which iOS will then expand for you (like transforming “ttyl” into “Talk to you later.). While this may not be the best for character-limited applications like tweeting, it can certainly help you save your thumbs on words or terms that you frequently type.

To enable the user-defined keyboard shortcuts, go to, then navigate to General > Keyboard, then scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see an area where you can add new shortcuts. Just add the word or phrase that you want to create a shortcut for, add the shortcut, and you’re all set!

Custom Multi-Touch Gestures

Besides custom keyboard shortcuts, ModMyi points out that you can also create custom gestures in iOS 5. You’ll be able to use this any time from the shortcuts menu (by tapping on the small grey dot that appeared when you turn on Assistive Touch, as pictured below).

To create your own custom multitouch gestures, enter, then navigate to General > Accessibility. You’ll see an option called AssistiveTouch. Tap that, switch the slider to “on” in the next window, and then tap “Create New Gesture.” Now, draw the gesture of choice on the screen, and tap “Save.” I’ve found these to be most useful in drawing apps, where you can save basic shapes or strokes, and then automatically re-create them by selecting them from the shortcuts menu.

Hourly Weather Forecasts

As pointed out by our own Mark Greentree, iOS 5 has taken its weather app to a new level by adding hourly forecasts in addition to the regular daily forecasts. This is nice for when you’d like to know when it’s supposed to rain, as opposed to the fact that it’s simply supposed to happen.

Accessing the hourly forecasts couldn’t be simpler. From the main screen in, simply tap anywhere, and the hourly forecast will drop down for the current day (hourly forecasts only work for the present day, not for future days in the week).

Privacy Mode in Mobile Safari

Mobile Safari has gotten some upgrades in iOS 5, one of which is the inclusion of a new Private Browsing mode, which prevents Safari from storing sites you visit in its history while it is enabled. This is especially great for those that view sensitive data (or other things they don’t want others to see) on their iPhone, but still want to be able to let others use the device.

Safari’s new Private Browsing mode can be enabled by launching, tapping the Safari menu, and flipping the Private Browsing switch to the “on” position. If you have open tabs, iOS 5 will ask you if you’d like to discard them when you enable or disable Private Browsing.

Manage Your Storage (And see which apps are hogging your space!)

If your iPhone is getting close to its storage limits, or you’d like to add something new and don’t have enough space, Apple has included a way to find how much space each app is taking up on your iPhone, so you know which ones to remove to free up some space.

Viewing this detailed data usage info can be done by opening, tapping the iCloud pane, tapping Storage & Backup, and then tapping on “Manage Storage.” This can also be done by migrating to General > Usage, and tapping Manage Storage (if you don’t have iCloud set up, for instance).

Alternate Routes In Maps

Apple has also added a feature to Maps in iOS 5 that I have been wanting for a long time – the ability to view alternate routes! Sometimes you just aren’t happy with the route Google provides to your destination, or have to alter your course due to traffic or construction – and now there’s an easy way to do that.

You don’t actually even need to enable this feature – just enter Maps like you normally would, enter your destination address, and Maps will automatically display multiple routes, which you can select from by tapping on them.

Custom Vibrations For Individual Contacts

This is one of my favorites – you can now set custom vibration alerts for when a certain person calls you or sends you a message. This can help you decide whether a call is important or not without even having to look at your phone!

This is easy to set up. Head into Settings, then navigate to General > Accessibility. Scroll down, and you’ll see a switch for Custom Vibrations. Set that switch to on. Now, whenever you add or edit a contact on your iPhone, you’ll see a new field available called Vibration. Tapping that and scrolling to the botton will allow you to create your own highly customized vibration pattern for that contact.

That’s it – there are many other awesome hidden features in iOS 5, but these are seven of my favorites – I hope you find them useful, and I hope you’ll share the ones you like with me if I didn’t cover your favorite!

For more helpful tips, check out our full collection of tutorials by visiting our How-To category!

  1. hey, whats that “Profile” action?

    1. Profiles allow you to install apps on your device you otherwise wouldn’t be able to – their mainly used by developers and beta testers.

  2. CZ says:

    There is also a field under contacts that allows you to select “add field” and select relates people from you contacts. Any idea what this is for?

    1. For setting up relationships in Siri

  3. Pdavis says:

    I can see how to turn on custom vibrations but there is no Vibration field to select. ????

  4. Raindog2 says:

    How do you attach a new gesture to a specific action. I want one to bring up the tray and save a double tap but don’t know how to connect a gesture to desired action. Thanks.

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