The 19 best new features of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 (and how to use them)

I finally got an iPhone 5 (I waited in line at the Apple store from 7:30am), and I love it.  I’m upgrading from an iPhone 4, so I’m seeing some real improvements over my old phone.  You’ve probably heard about some of them already, but I wanted to share my favorites and mention some of the lesser-known-but-still-worth-knowing-about features iOS 6 has to offer.  In no particular order, here they are:

1. Speed

It’s Fast.  Like, Really fast.  It’s 2 generations newer from my iPhone 4, so it moves like lightning by comparison.  The camera in particular is much, much faster.  It comes right on, and I can take a whole bunch of photos in rapid succession.  If you have a 3GS or 4 or 4S, you should be jealous.

Cute, new kitty emoji on iOS 6

2. New Emoji!!!!!  🙂

Either you love emoji, or you think they’re stupid.  Haters should probably just move on to the next item on the list.  But for you emoji lovers, there are some stunningly detailed new animals, new smiley faces (including some cute smiley-face kitty cats for some reason), some nice sun, moon, and stars, and there are even emoji of gay and lesbian couples.

This page highlights all the new iOS 6 emoji:

If you weren’t using emoji on your iPhone before, but you’d like to now, go into the Settings > General > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard and choose Emoji.  Now when you type a text message, there will be a little wire-mesh globe icon next to the space bar.  Tap that to access the emoticon characters.  Tap the globe again to return to the normal keyboard. Just a heads up: if you use emoji in your text messages, unfortunately only your iPhone-using friends will be able to see them.

Add VIPs for quick access to the emails they send you.

3. VIP Email

The email app has a new Inbox called “VIP”.  You can specify contacts on your phone whose incoming mail will be listed in your VIP box, so you’re sure never to miss another important email again.

You can configure the VIP mail settings from your list of email in-boxes. You can also set the preferred type of alert you’d like to get when you receive mail from a VIP (including setting a different alert sound for each email account) and whether you’d like the alerts to show up your lock screen.

4. Do Not Disturb

This is a much cooler feature than people give it credit for.  It’s not the same as airplane mode or turning your phone off.

  • Unlike with airplane mode, you can allow calls/txts through from specific groups of users (your mom, your boss, your boyfriend, etc.)
  • You can schedule the feature so that “Do Not Disturb” mode becomes active at the same time every day (while you’re sleeping, for example).
  • You can allow repeated calls to get through (for example, if the same number calls you 2x within 3 minutes, the assumption is that it’s an emergency)
  • Your notification screen will still let you know that people called or txted, even though your phone won’t ring or vibrate.

More details on configuration at

5. Multiple signatures

Each email account can have its own signature, which is great when you’ve got your work email account and your personal account both set up on your iPhone.  You might not want to put your phone number in your signature for one account, for example, while you might not want to put that funny little quote you like so much (you know the one I’m talking about) in the signature for your work account.

To configure: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Signature  and choose “Per Account” instead of “All Accounts”.  Then tap in the appropriate boxes to customize your signature for each account.

Txt ur callr bak.

6. Message Reply

Previously, when someone called you, you could answer the phone or you could decline the call to send them to your voicemail.  Now you have the option to respond with a text message (like “Call You Later” or “What’s Up?” or a customized message, or you can tell your iPhone to remind you to call the person back later.  When someone calls, swipe up on the little phone receiver icon right next to the green “Answer” button to reveal the “Reply with Message” and “Remind me later” options.

7. Facebook and Twitter Integration

Apple made a big deal about this, so you’ve probably already heard about it. Basically, you can now tweet things or post them to Facebook without actually needing to open the FB or Twitter apps. For example, you can tweet or FB a photo from within the iPhone photo app. Or from Safari, the share button now lets you tweet or FB the page you’re on.  If you’re a social media devotee, this is for you.  I’ve never been a fan of the Facebook app (it seems to take FOREVER to upload a photo or video), so I’m expecting this to save me some frustration as well.

8. View browser history

Seems like this feature shouldn’t be new, but it is. Just hold down the “back” button (except in full-screen browsing mode) to get a pop-up list of your recently-visited pages.  Tap on the page you want to re-visit.

9. Copy URL

Safari’s share button now adds the “Copy” option, which will copy the URL so that you can paste it somewhere else.

Top: regular browsing. Bottom: full-screen browsing.

10. Bigger safari screen

Finally full-screen browsing.  Just turn your phone sideways and hit the double-arrow button in the lower righthand corner, et voilà, the title bar, URL bar, and navigation buttons disappear, giving you much more real estate to do your browsing within.  Hit the button again or turn your phone back to portrait orientation to return to normal browsing.  The screenshots below give you an idea of how much extra space you can recover.

11. Add photos from the Email app

It always annoyed me that the only way to put a photo or video into an email was from within the photo app, and not from the email app itself.  But all that has changed now.  Start writing an email and double-tap in a blank spot in the body of the message to bring up the select/copy/paste menu. Tap on the little arrow button in the menu to reveal the “Insert Photo or Video” option.

12. Delete all music by artist

Instead of just deleting individual music tracks or albums, you can now delete all of the music on your phone by a given artist with one swell foop.  Just swipe right-to-left on an artist name in the music app to remove their content from your phone.

13. Panoramic photos!

This is one of those features Apple made a big deal of when they announced the phone, so you’ve probably already heard about it.  Basically, you can slowly pan your phone from left to right in camera mode to take a long, narrow panorama of a much larger area than would normally fit on the camera screen.  I take panoramas all the time with my Nikon D700 (not a paid endorser), but I have to use Adobe Photoshop to stitch them together.  This feature lets it all happen inside your iPhone automatically.  To be fair, there were already iPhone apps in existence that did the same thing, but this does work quite well, and it’s built into the operating system now.

Open the camera app and tap “Options”.  Choose “Panorama”.  Then tap the camera shutter button and follow the instructions on the screen.  Hit the camera shutter button again when you’re done.  Quick tip: you need to pan from left to right, not the other way around, for the iPhone to be able to work its magic. You also have to use the rear-facing camera, not the front camera, which actually makes sense when you think about it.

Here’s a panorama I did of the Vitale Digital Media Lab today:

Panorama of the Vitale Digital Media Lab

14. Shared Photo Streams

I haven’t had too much time to play with this yet, but it seems like it has potential.  You can create “photo streams” (think of them as photo albums) to share publicly, or just with certain friends, who will be able to “like” and comment on them.  If the friends you’re sharing with are iCloud users, they’ll get a notification when you add photos to a photo stream they’re following.  People viewing a public photo stream via the web will only be able to view the photos, not comment on or “like” them.  Here’s a photo stream of my own iPhone photos that I made when I was trying to figure this feature out:

More info on using the feature at

iOS 6 privacy settings

15. Consolidated privacy settings

Apple has added a top-level menu item in Settings called Privacy which allows you to tweak access to Location Settings, Contacts, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and more (see screenshot).  Tap each item to get a list of the apps that have requested access to that service. Tap the On/Off sliders to change the setting for a given app.  And seriously, please consider carefully before you give an app access to one of these services.  Does “Angry Birds” really need to know your physical location?

One new setting which is NOT in “Privacy” (but should be) is the Advertising setting (Settings>General>About>Advertising) which allows you to limit advertisers’ ability to track your behavior on your iPhone. Turn this ON to maximize your privacy on this front.

More info at

16. Bluetooth is now a top-level setting

If you use a bluetooth device with your iPhone (a wireless earpiece or an exercise heart monitor, for example), you’ll want to conserve your phone’s battery life by only turning your Bluetooth on when you need it.  That setting used to be buried slightly deeper in the settings, but now it’s at the top level, so it takes fewer taps to get to.

See some other changes to iOS settings at

Wake up to a song!

17. Musical Alarms

I started using my iPhone as an alarm clock many years ago when the power in my house went out and my clock radio didn’t wake me up in time for work.  But I’ve always been stuck with the built-in alarm sounds.  Now you can use a song in your iTunes library as the alarm.  Don’t pick anything too pleasant, though, or you’ll just lie in bed listening to the music instead of getting up for work.  I’ll be waking up tomorrow to the sound of Natacha Atlas’s “Omri Coulu Leek” from the Cheb i Sabbah benefit album.  How about you?

Create an alarm (or edit an existing one) as you usually would from the Clock app. Click on “Sound”.  Scroll to the top of the list of sounds and choose “Pick a song” to make a selection from your iTunes library.

18. Pull to Refresh

Apple finally caught up with the 3rd party app developers on this one.  No more “reload” button. Just pull down on a screen of email messages to refresh the list.

19. Password-free Updates

You no longer need to type your password to download an update for an app you already have on your phone!

That’s all for now

There are many more features (over 200, I’m told) I haven’t touched on, so if I left our your favorite, let us know in the comments below.

Recently from Apps On Tap…


  1. Good tips. Is emoji safer for the iPhone? I doubt the installation as it may hang up the phone. I have had this experience before that the non branded apps are not good.



    iPhone accessories

  2. David Toccafondi says:

    Hi Sophie. There’s no danger. The emoji are actually part of the operating system, created by Apple for the iPhone. You don’t need to download any apps to get them onto your phone. Just go into the Settings > General > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard and choose Emoji to enable them.

  3. I like the Do not disturb most,it helps alot 😀 also message quick reply comes handy at busy times

  4. Best feature in iPhone 5 is Compass after few glasses from my local pub I need this to get home…

  5. Fantastic info, every question I had was answered; done with ease and stress free.

  6. Hi, this is a great post, thank you! I haven’t upgraded to 5 yet, but many friends have. A lot of the Emojis they send come through as squares on my phone. Is this because I’m still on iOS5 with an iPhone 4S? Do you experience this with your non-iPhone5 contacts? Anything I can do to fix it?

  7. David Toccafondi says:

    I’m glad you found the post useful. You’re correct, the new emoji are coming across as squares because you’re not running iOS 6 yet. Running the update should fix that.

  8. pretty newbie with the istuff, but i have to contradict you about no-one else being able to see your emojicons, as i also have an android phone and i can see the emojis sent from the iphone(5).
    my question is, how do you see the emojis sent from an android in the iphone received messages, as currently they are converted to letters and punctuation…. ?

  9. Hi, I’m from Venezuela, the feature of quick reply with a text message for some reason was enabled with my carrier (Movistar) since 2011, i know is weird! i used to lived in USA, my carrier was for long time at&t then i moved back and got all my family using this feature! For long tome!, third world using something not used in the first world! O_O even tried it with my old iphone 2g from at&t and also works with that feature and the iPhone has version 3.0, meaning that one is an carrier service.

  10. Hi,

    I have iPhone 5, and latest update of iOS 6.

    My iPhone settings to receive an email alert and a sound while in lock screen or home screen mode have been verified as correct by an APPLE senior advisor and at the APPLE store.

    When I send an email from my IMAP Charter Communications PC desktop to my iPhone, I get an alert in lock screen mode or home screen mode, but no sounds.

    When I repeat this process by sending an email from my PC to my Gmail account on the iPhone, I get an alert and a sound in lock screen or home screen mode.

    If I set up a POP account on iPhone and on desktop and send an email, I get an alert and a sound in lock screen or home page mode (but I can’t use this system because Charter does not support outgoing server settings for the iPhone 5).

    I’ve repeated the above after reboots, restores, iOS uninstall/reinstall, and APPLE issued me a new phone, but have the same problems. They’re stumped.

    Can anyone offer any suggestions as to what is going on?

    Thank you for considering this.


  11. I want to take a full length message from FB and copy to email. Using my iphone 5. How/can you do this?

  12. Is there a way to receive a notification of a missed call or text. If you are away for a minute?
    Also, if I don’t have a pocket I can’t find a way to carry it. Attach? Don’t like arm band and there isn’t a wrist band.

  13. Can I link my work calendar on my iPhone 5 with my husbands work calendar on his iPhone 5?

  14. Hi how do you make those ‘multi-squares’ like utilities menus: a menu within a menu ?

  15. Hey David, iOS 7 is already out, but I’m still with iOS 6 and I’m surprised that I’m still unaware of some of these features.

    Thanks David!

    • Glenda Beaird says:

      I have a question. There used to be a little globe at the bottom of my text message screen. It’s now gone. Does anyone know how to get it back?

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  19. i think, iphone 5s is perfect for me

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  24. Can u tell me why when I try to add a number to my contact list the keyboard won’t put in all the numbers and some I can call or send messages to it says to use a ten digit number but even w area code it won’t work. I am very new to the iPhone (5c) and not technology smart so hopefully I can figure this out. I’ve had the phone about a month and still need to learn the camara to,wish there was instructions with this. Lol.

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