How to master iOS 10: the 22 best tricks for your iPhone and iPad

Rewire your brain's iNeurons with these ingenious iOS 10 skills...

Apple's iOS versions might not get mouth-watering codenames like Nougat, but they still have some tasty treats hidden inside their Kinder-like shells.

Take iOS 10 - it didn't look like a radical change when it arrived in September 2016, with the familiar grid of app icons still intact a decade on from its debut.

But underneath were reinvented features like Widgets, a new Messages app and 3D Touch integration, which gave developers new tools to work their magic. In fact, for developers, iOS 10 was like getting Marvin's Magic Box of Tricks

We're now starting to see the fruits of their labour, which makes it a great time to brush up on some of the hidden iOS 10 functionality that hasn't made it into your repertoire.

So whether you're just dipping your toes into a new iPhone or iPad, or fancy exploring the more challenging terrain of shortcuts and VPNs, we've rounded up our favourite tips and recorded a little demo video for each. Time to up your iOS game... 

The Basics...

Become a super-typer


Typing on iOS can be a pain, but you can define shortcuts for phrases that automatically expand. These can include multiple words, emoji, and ASCII text art.

In Settings, go to General > Keyboard > Text Replacement, and add phrase/shortcut pairs. Consider using a system for phrases, such as two commas after a memorable word – ‘email,,’ could expand to your email address, for example.

Shortcuts sync via iCloud, and on Mac you can take them further - use Alt+Return to add a carriage return, when creating multiple-line phrases to trigger.

Master your widgets

Widgets arrived back in iOS 8, but now they're really hitting their stride and have become one of our most-used features. Swipe right on your lock screen or head left of your leftmost Home screen find your iOS widgets. Now scroll down and tap Edit for a list of available widgets.

To remove an existing widget, tap its ‘-’ button and then Remove. To add something from ‘more widgets’, tap the relevant ‘+’ button. Widgets can be arranged using the drag handles and content varies wildly, so some may need configuring inside a parent app.

Avoid displaying private information in widgets other people may see or, alternatively, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, disable Today View under ‘Allow access when locked’.

Which widgets should top your list? It depends which apps you use the most, but our favourites include Citymapper, Fantastical, Shazam, Launch Center Pro and Dark Sky.

Nighty night

Yes, iPhones and iPads are addictive little critters, but using them near sleepy-time can harm your slumber score. Use the Night Shift feature (in Settings > ‘Display & Brightness’) to reduce your screen’s blue light levels during the evenings and you might just feel a bit sprightlier in the morning.

That’s because blue light can pour cold water on your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can leave you in a prolonged wake mode. Warmer screens can also help reduce eye strain too. In short, your body will thank you.

Get some fancy wallpaper

We don't mean hours of scraping with a putty knife. Did you know you can set a live photo as your wallpaper? Turn on live photos by pressing the concentric circles at the top of the iOS viewfinder, take a snap, then go to Settings > Wallpaper.

Choose ‘Choose a new wallpaper’ then find your live photo. Pressing the screen will now make it animate for a few seconds. You can also choose from Apple’s slightly odd official Live Wallpapers, or get more options with the likes of the Ink Live Wallpapers app (£1.49). 

Say it with lasers

Make sure your other half understands the urgency with which new loo roll is needed by adding some lasers to the message, which will fill the screen of their iPhone when they open it.

When you’ve written what you want to say, hold the send button firmly and a menu will pop up, allowing you to choose the effect or animation you want to add. Pro tip: it’s best not to use them when telling your neighbour their budgie died while they were on holiday.

Awesomise your iMessages...

Did you know you can now spruce up your iMessages in iOS 10 with some rather nifty effects? Here are some of our favourites...

Make an iMessage song

If you fancy making music with a friend but aren’t armed with guitars and a room in which to be noisy, try MusicMessages!.

This tiny app lives inside of Messages and lets you fling music back and forth between two or more people. You can select from dozens of instruments, tapping out notes and rhythms on a grid. Just don’t go nuts with a massive (virtual) flute solo.

Note that for free, you get a stripped-back MusicMessages! with three layers and fewer things to play. For 99p, you get up to five layers, selectable user colours, and many more instruments.

Get a translator

As a standalone app, iTranslate is a powerful product for translating text between over 90 languages. But inside of Messages, it becomes a kind of Babelfish for text messaging.

Using the app’s custom keyboard, you can dictate or type and send bilingual messages to a contact. Need to translate an existing message? Just tap-hold to copy it, tap the iTranslate message button on the keyboard, and you’ll get a translation between your chosen languages.

Note, though, you must be online for iTranslate to work, unless you splash out for the pro version.

Release the gifs