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15 Quick Tips to Boost iOS Productivity

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Person using their iPhone

A recent study showed that the average person spends almost 3 hours per day on their smartphone. And if you are a mobile veteran watching someone poke around on their iOS device for the first time, it’s quick to see why. Many people don’t know about the time-saving shortcuts available on iOS devices because you can’t necessarily see them. Unless you know about them already, they are usually hidden. So in this post, we’re going to share 15 tips to help you be more efficient on your iOS device.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Macstock Conference and Expo. It was a blast, and I learned a lot from the other excellent presenters as well. One of the sessions I particularly enjoyed was “iOS: What you can do to be more organized and efficient in your life” by Dave Ginsberg, President of the Suburban Chicago Apple Users Group and co-host of In Touch with iOS. While I knew about some of the shortcuts Dave shared, there were a couple that blew my mind (like #9 and #10 in particular). Dave’s presentation really got me thinking about all the ways that it is now possible to save time on your iOS device. Dave inspired me to do some research of my own, and in this post I’ve taken what I got from Dave’s presentation and added to it to come up with 15 ways to increase iOS productivity.

We’ve broken this post down into 3 sections:

  • 3D Touch
  • Long Press
  • General Productivity Tips

3D Touch

3D Touch is limited to only a couple of Apple devices at the moment, but it can be a very efficient way to do execute common tasks on your iOS device. Here’s a couple tips for saving time on your iOS device using 3D Touch.

#1: View Recent Contacts

If you 3D Touch on the Messages icon, you can actually go straight to a recent contact. This allows you to skip an additional tap by opening the Messages app, then tapping on the contact you want to send your message to.

View Recent Contacts

#2: View Most Recent Voicemail

Sometimes you just can’t get to your phone in time. If you aren’t able to answer your phone and someone leaves you a voicemail, you can access the most recent voicemail message by 3D Touching the Phone app icon.

View Most Recent Voicelmail

#3: Share Your Location in Maps

If you want to share your location with someone via the Messages app, you can actually do that via 3D Touch as well. Just 3D Touch the Maps icon and select “Send My Location.”

Share Location

#4: Move the Cursor

When using a text editor on iOS, it can be a pain to place the cursor in the correct position. But if you are in a text editor and you 3D Touch on the on-screen keyboard, you can actually drag the cursor to the exact right position quickly and easily.

Move the Cursor

#5: Set Quick Timers

It’s great to have the ability to set timers from Control Center, but sometimes opening the app and then selecting how long you want the timer for is more trouble than it’s worth. But with 3D Touch, you can quickly set 1 minute, 5 minute, 20 minute, or 1 hour timers without even opening the app.

Set a Quick Timer

#6: Open the Camera in the Right Mode

The camera on your iOS device can do a lot besides just take normal photos. And if you 3D Touch the camera icon (either the app or the Control Center icon), you can select between normal photo, Slo-mo video, regular video, and even take a selfie.

Camera Modes

#7: Get Results from Calculator Memory

The calculator on your iOS device can be great for quick calculations, but it can be a pain when you paste the result and need to go back and get it again later. But if you 3D Touch the Calculator icon you can actually copy the last result without having to renter the calculation.

Calculator Memory

#8: Change the Flashlight Brightness

Occasionally I have to get up in the middle of the night and I don’t want to wake up my wife, so I use the flashlight on my phone to see where I’m going. The problem is that the flashlight can be very bright. But if you 3D Touch the flashlight icon in Control Center, you can actually select Low Light as an option.

Flashlight Brightness

Long Press

It’s not very obvious where you can actually use a Long Press in iOS, but in certain apps it can be VERY useful.

#9: Close All Browser Tabs

Safari on iOS is actually a pretty great little browser, but on the iPhone it only shows the frontmost tab. This means it’s very easy to lose track of how many open tabs you have. But if you Long Press on the Tabs icon in the lower-right, you can actually close all open tabs at once.

Close All Tabs

#10: Request the Desktop Site

Some sites don’t have feature parity between their desktop and mobile sites. This can be frustrating when using your iOS device because it will often load the mobile version by default. If you need to get to the desktop version and there is no link on the page itself, just Long Press the reload icon in the address bar and select Request Desktop Site.

Request Desktop Site

#11: Access Your Drafts

As much as I dislike Apple Mail, the iOS version does have some nice features. For example, you can actually access all your drafts quickly in Apple Mail by Long Pressing on the Compose icon in the lower right.

Drafts in Mail

#12: Delete OR Archive

Quick actions on email messages are great, but they usually give you the ability to Archive OR Delete, not both. But by Long Pressing the Archive button for a message in Apple Mail, you can actually select either option quickly.

Delete or Archive

General iOS Productivity Tips

These are general things you can use to speed up whatever you’re trying to do on your iOS device.

#13: Manage Your Storage

Most iOS devices have limited storage. Whether it’s Live Photos, podcasts, or 4k video, iOS storage can fill up fast. When it does, it can slow down your device considerably.

Fortunately, there is a way to find out which apps are eating up all your storage. Go to Settings —> General —> Storage & iCloud Usage, then tap Manage Storage under the Storage tab to see how much space is being used, how much is free, and which apps are taking up the most space. You can even delete the offenders straight from this screen by tapping on the app name and then selecting Delete App.

Manage Storage

#14: Use Spotlight for EVERYTHING

Most people use Spotlight very infrequently on their iOS devices (usually to launch apps). But Spotlight is actually a very powerful search tool that can make finding information on your iOS devices much more efficient.

To access Spotlight, just swipe from anywhere but the top of the screen. You’ll get some Siri app suggestions right away, but if you start typing in the search box you’ll see that it will actually return content from many different sources, including:

  • Contacts
  • Music
  • Messages
  • Email
  • News
  • App Store
  • Wikipedia
  • Calendar events
  • Email messages
  • Pages documents
  • Much more

Using spotlight to search for information instead of tapping through the app it’s located in can save you a ton of time.

Spotlight Search

#15: Make Spotlight Faster

Speaking of Spotlight, if you have an older device you might have noticed that occasionally it can be VERY slow. That’s because it is indexing a ton of information, and you might not want everything that it returns to you. For example, Spotlight indexes Slack be default, but those tens of thousands of messages can take a lot of time to go through when you search. If you want to remove certain sources from being indexed by Spotlight, it can have a significant increase in the speed of your Spotlight search.

To do this, go to Settings —> General —> Spotlight Search, and scroll down to the section marked Search Results. Toggle off any apps that you don’t want to see in Spotlight search and you’ll notice Spotlight will now run much faster.

Optimize Spotlight Search


Please note this is not a complete list of ways you can do things faster on your iPad or iPhone. There’s lots of other ways you can save time on your iOS device. Let us know your favorite iOS timesavers in the comments!

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Posted by Rick Holzer  | July 30, 2017 at 11:20AM | Reply

Nice article, Mike! I had forgotten about some of these! I didn’t even know about a couple of them! I am looking forward to enhanced 3D Touch options in iOS 11. I would point out that a lot of third-party apps also support 3D Touch – e.g., 3D Touch the Facebook icon for some quick options into the app.

Posted by David Ginsburg  | July 25, 2017 at 5:29PM | Reply

Another tip I found after my presentation. Scroll down from the top to show notifications. Tap and hold the X at the top right and 3D Touch gives you the option to close all those notifications at once! Thanks for the kind words and this amazing article!

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