Category: iPhone Tips

Basics: The iPhone’s Separate Volume Controls for Ringtones and General Audio

A little-known and somewhat confusing fact about the iPhone is that it has two different volume levels: one for ringtones/alerts, and one for general audio. And the confusing part is that both can be controlled with the iPhone’s volume buttons. Here’s how to set which of the two the iPhone’s volume buttons control.

How to Switch the iPhone’s Volume Buttons to Control Ringtone Volume or General Audio Volume

If you go to into the iPhone’s Settings and tap Sounds, you’ll see the following:

The slider for Ringer and Alerts does what you’d expect: it adjusts the volume level for ringtone/alerts. But it’s the Change With Buttons switch where things get confusing.

If the toggle is set to Off, the volume of ringtones/alerts cannot be changed with the volume buttons (with an exception).

If the toggle is set to On, then the volume buttons will change the volume of the ringer when other audio isn’t playing.

Whenever you press the iPhone’s volume buttons, you’ll know which of the volumes the buttons are changing via one of two graphics that can appear:

To Confuse You Even More…

There are a few exceptions to the above.

When a ringtone/alert is actually playing, you can lower/raise the volume of the ringtone/alert with the volume buttons, regardless of your iPhone’s settings. If you change the volume while the ringtone is playing, the ringtone’s volume will remain at that level until you change it again by either going into the iPhone’s Settings (if the Change With Buttons switch is set to Off) or via the volume buttons (if the switch is set to On).

Likewise, if you are listening to general audio (like music), the volume buttons will always change the audio’s volume, regardless of your iPhone’s settings.

Basics: What Does the iPhone Ringer Switch Mute (And Not Mute)?

The iPhone’s ringer switch seems like it should be a simple thing. You move the iPhone’s ringer switch to the “mute” position, and all sound is muted, right? Wrong. Just ask the gentleman who infamously brought the New York Philharmonic to a standstill because his iPhone’s ringtone started playing even though he had the ringer switch set on mute. How could that happen? Because the ringer switch only mutes some sounds but not others. What exactly does the ringer switch mute and not mute? It’s complicated, but let’s start with what it doesn’t mute.

What the Ringer Switch Doesn’t Mute

  • Alarms from the Clock app (example, setting an alarm to go off at 6 am).
  • Timers from the Clock app (example, setting a 15-minute countdown timer).
  • Audio from the iPhone’s Music app (example, playing the Beatle’s “Hey Jude”).
  • Audio from the iPhone’s Video app (example, playing an episode of Lost).
  • Some audio from third-party apps like streaming radio, video, and music (examples, playing a radio station via the TuneIn Radio app or a video in the YouTube app).
  • Tones when tapped in the iPhone’s various settings (for example, when changing your ringtone or text-message alert tone) and in the Clock app (for example, when selecting what sound the iPhone will make when the timer runs down to zero).
  • Tones when changing the volume of Ringer and Alerts in Settings–>Sounds
  • A sound alert when sent from the Find My iPhone service.

Basically, Apple’s rationale for the ringer switch not muting these sounds is that if a user does something and expects the iPhone to make a sound, like tapping the play button for a song or setting an alarm to wake them up, the iPhone should make that sound regardless of the ringer switch’s position. Apple has this advice for developers in their developer guidelines:

The Ring/Silent (or Silent) switch does not silence sounds that result from user actions that are solely and explicitly intended to produce sound.

So what exactly does the ringer switch mute then? Basically, everything else.

What the Ringer Switch Does Mute:

  • Phone-call ringtones
  • Text-message alert tones
  • Notification alert tones (from iPhone apps and third-party apps)
  • Calendar alerts
  • Reminders
  • Camera sounds (snapping a photo)
  • Game music

There’s been much debate about whether this is the best way for the ringer switch to behave. Some feel there is no perfect solution and that Apple has reached the right balance. Others feel that the ringer switch should simply mute all sound and the burden of error should fall on the user (eg, my alarm didn’t wake me up because I had my phone on mute…my bad!). I’m on the side that Apple has made the correct compromises.

Notes and Interesting Facts:

  • By law, iPhones in Japan must make a sound when a picture is taken, even if the ringer switch is on mute. This is because men snapping photos up women’s skirts and down their shirts have become a big problem in Japan.
  • The iPad’s switch is not called a “ringer” switch. Apple simply refers to it as the “side” switch. The iPad’s side switch can either mute alert sounds or function as an orientation lock, depending on what the user selects in the iPad’s settings.
  • The iPhone has separate volume levels for ringtones and for general audio (music, videos, etc.). You can find and change the separate ringtone/alert volume in Settings–>Sounds
  • Using the volume buttons, you cannot decrease the ringer volume to zero (0), it will only go to 1. To completely silence tones, you must use the ringer switch.
  • The ringer switch does not effect sound through headphones. For example, even if the ringer switch was set to mute, you will still hear your phone ring through your headphones.

iPhone Tip: Too Many Apps to Update in iTunes? Update Only the Apps on Your iPhone Instead

After you’ve owned an iPhone for a while, you’ll collect a lot of apps…likely hundreds of apps if you’re anything like me. Many of these apps you’ll use once and delete off your iPhone. The problem is, these apps can stick around in iTunes on your computer. And when the apps are updated, iTunes will ask you to update them all. This can lead to dozens of annoying and useless app updates waiting for you in iTunes. But here’s a little tip to minimize useless app updates: update only the apps on your iPhone.

This can be done by tapping the Update All button in the iPhone’s App Store app. For instructions on how to find it, see the step-by-step instructions below. Note that you should be connected to a Wi-Fi network so that app updates over 20 MB will download.

1. Launch the App Store app on your iPhone:

2. Tap the Updates tab in the launch bar at the bottom right corner:

3. Tap the Update All button in the top right:

4. Enter in your iTunes password to begin downloading. Apps will download one by one in the background.

iPhone & iPad Tip: Use iOS 5’s Reader Feature to Automatically Load the Next Page of an Article

Multipage articles on the web can be annoying, especially when you have to click to the next page every few hundred words. It’s a dirty trick websites use to inflate pageviews for advertisers, all at the expense of user experience. Apple has your back though with the new built-in Reader feature, which can load the next page of an article without you having to do anything.

To see it work, simply tap the Reader button in Mobile Safari’s URL bar and then scroll down to the end of a multi-page article. When the end comes into view, the next page will load automatically. Oh Apple, you clever bastards, you.

What Is Reader?

New to the iPhone/iPad and don’t know what I’m talking about? No problem, Reader is simply a button that (sometimes) appears in Mobile Safari’s address bar when you browse to an individual article on the web. Whether the button appears or not depends on different factors, but it’s supposed to appear on articles and not on things like home pages, etc.

When you tap the Reader button, Reader strips away advertising and extraneous formatting and presents just basic text to you for a more comfortable reading experience. On a multi-page article, when you scroll down to the end of one page, it should begin loading the next one. Reader doesn’t always work perfectly though, as some sites can break the feature and/or Reader won’t recognize an article as more than one page.


  • The Reader button doesn’t always appear after loading individual web articles, as the coding on some sites isn’t compatible with Reader, but it should appear most of the time.
  • The next page won’t load until the end of the current page becomes visible in Reader’s window.
  • Reader lets you adjust font size. Just tap the two letter A’s in the top left corner to increase/decrease font size.

iPhone Tip: Full Song Title Not Visible? Hold Your Finger On It

One major annoyance for me on the iPhone is when long song titles, podcasts, videos, etc, don’t fit on the screen and are cut off. Thankfully, Apple offers a simple solution to see the full title, just hold your finger on the track, and the full title will appear in a pop-up (see image below):

How to Sort Your Photos Into Albums on the iPhone

Photo albums are a new feature introduced in iOS 5. Sorting your photos into albums is not only a way to give order to the chaos that is the Photos app, but it also makes it easier to show off all the pictures of your new baby, latest vacation, or new car.

Another cool feature of albums is slideshows. With one tap, you can also easily play the album as a slideshow and use any music on your iPhone as background music.

Below are step-by-step instructions on how to organize your photos in albums on the iPhone (works for the iPad too).

How to Sort Photos Into Albums on the iPhone:

1. Open the Photos app:

2. Tap Edit in the top right corner:

3. Tap Add in the top left corner:

4. Enter in a name for your album, then tap Save:

5. Tap the photos you want to place in the album, a blue and white checkmark will appear when you select them. Note that photos can be placed into more than one album. Tap Album in the top left to navigate to other albums and select the photos within:

6. Tap Done in the top right corner:

And that’s it, you’ve created a photo album.

Extra Tip: How to Move a Photo Into an Existing Album

Let’s say you’ve already have created an album called Friends, and you want to move a new picture into that album. Here’s how (hat tip to Michelle in the comments). Important: note that this only works for albums created on the iPhone. If you created an album on your computer and synced it to the iPhone, the instructions below won’t work.

1. In the Camera Roll or in any album, tap the arrow in the top right corner:

2. Tap the photo(s) you want to move into an album, then tap Add To:

3. Tap Add to Existing Album:

4. Tap the album you want to move the photo(s) into:

And that’s it.


  • Deleting an album does not delete the photos inside. They photos will stay on your iPhone even though the album has been deleted. Think of it as throwing away the folder but keeping the images.
  • Photo albums created on the iPhone don’t currently sync back to iTunes/your computer. Here’s hoping Apple fixes that in the future.
  • If you own an AppleTV, you can wirelessly play albums as slideshows from your iPhone to your TV via the built-in AirPlay feature. And it’s easy—just a few taps.

Tips for Child Proofing Your iPhone and iPad

1. Binder Clip

Childprooding iPad with Binder Clip

Image via Make.

A common binder clip is a simple solution for preventing kids from pressing the home button and quitting out of apps—a huge source of frustration for parents and kids alike. Best of all, you may already have a binder clip around the house. It’s awkward looking but effective, especially for toddlers.

If you’ve ever used a binder clip, you’ll know that it requires a good amount of wrist strength to remove, especially when the binder is already attached to a thick object, so young kids will have trouble removing it.

Binder clips are cheap too. Amazon has a box of 12 for $1.99.

This tip comes via Make Magazine.

2. BubCap

The BubCap is a more elegant solution for preventing kids from pressing the home button. The BubCap is a thin but rigid piece of plastic that fits over the home button via strong adhesive and prevents a toddler from pressing the home button. The adhesive is strong enough that young children will lack the coordination and strength to remove it, yet adults can remove it without adverse effects to the iDevice.

BubCaps are mainly designed for toddlers, as older children and adults will still be able to push the button through the plastic and remove the BubCap itself.

BubCaps sell for $6 on Amazon for a set of four Bubcaps, which includes two different rigidities.

3. Child-Friendly Cases

If it makes you nervous to hand over your expensive iDevice to a child, a good protective case can be an insurance policy against damage.

BigGrips are thick, colorful iPad cases that will give the device a softer, kid-friendly feel. They are available for the iPad 2 and original iPad for around $35.

If you don’t like the bright colors and would rather have a full-time protective case you’re not embarrassed to carry around yourself, we recommend checking out a company called Otterbox, which is known for its ultra-protective cases that even the US military uses to protect its iDevices. Their MSRP is usually over $60, but you can find them at deep discounts on Amazon.

4. Restriction Settings

iPhone Restrictions

In the iPhone’s Settings, a feature called Restrictions can prevent kids from accessing certain apps and features. Once Restrictions are turned on, they are passcode protected, so kids can’t change them without the passcode. Restrictions are mainly meant for older kids, but there are a few that could come in handy for toddlers too, preventing them from:

  • Deleting apps
  • Installing apps
  • Making in-app purchases

To access Restrictions, open up the Settings app and go to General–>Restrictions. Apple has made it easy to turn off restrictions with one tap. You can find out more about Restrictions on Apple’s site here.

5. Passcode

Kids may try to play with Mommy’s iPhone when Mommy isn’t around, which can lead to trouble. It’s recommended that everyone, parents and nonparents alike, use a passcode to protect their iPhone from unwanted intrusions.

Sure, passcodes can be annoying if you access your iPhone a lot, but you can change the amount of time that must pass before your iPhone passcode locks itself to make it less annoying. For example, my iPhone is set to require a passcode after 1 hour of non-use.

How to Easily Share an iPhone Contact’s Details Via Text Message or Email

You can easily share any of your iPhone contact’s details with just a few taps. The iPhone is compatible with the vCard format, which is essentially a digital version of a business card. iPhone vCards can be exchanged via text message or email, and all the recipient has to do is tap the vCard to add that contact and their details to their iPhone’s address book. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to send a vCard on the iPhone:

1. Open the Phone or Contacts app:

2. Select a contact, then tap the Share Contact button toward the bottom of the screen:

3. Select Mail or Message (text message):

4. Choose your recipient(s), then tap Send:

5. When your recipient receives the vCard, it will look something like this:

Now all the recipient has to do, if on an iPhone, is tap the card to add all the contact’s details to their iPhone as well. Easy as pie!


  • vCards can be used to share name, phone number, postal address, email address, and URLs. Some devices also support vCards with logos, photos, and audio clips.
  • Apple was part of the consortium of companies that invented the vCard. The vCard was originally called the Versitcard and was intended for email clients.
  • Extra tip: Create a contact entry for yourself on the iPhone. That way, when someone asks for your details, you can send them a vCard!

How to Launch a Website From Spotlight Search (iPhone & iPad Tip)

You may know the iPhone’s Spotlight Search feature can be used to quickly find and launch apps, but it can also be used to launch your favorite websites. This can save you a lot of typing and frustration. Web clips, which are simply bookmarks you save to your home screen via the iPhone’s Mobile Safari browser, are considered apps by Spotlight Search, and thus will show up when you search for apps. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to create a web clip.

1. Open the iPhone’s Safari browser:

2. Navigate to your favorite website, then tap the arrow button at the bottom of the screen:

3. Tap Add to Home Screen:

4. Give the webclip a name that you’ll remember when searching for it:

Note: Some websites have an icon that will show up when you create the web clip. For example, will have a nice ESPN logo on the icon.

5. Tap Add in the top right corner:

6. The web clip will now have its own icon on the the iPhone’s home screen:

7. To test it out, open up the iPhone’s Spotlight Search and enter the name of the web clip:

Notes and Troubleshooting:

  • Did you know you can create web clips that take you directly to an iPhone Setting like your Wi-Fi connection? It sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Check out our article on this neat little trick.
  • Are web clips and apps in general not showing up in Spotlight Search? You need to make sure the settings for Spotlight Search are set to show apps. Read our instructions here.
  • You can clean up Spotlight Search by preventing emails, contacts, notes, etc, from showing up. Read our instructions here.

Tip: Quickly Insert Emoji Using iPhone Text Shortcuts

Everyone loves emoji, the cute little icons most commonly used in text messages. But inserting them can be a lumbering, multistep process. Here’s a much quicker way to insert emoji using the new text shortcuts feature on the iPhone. Just follow the step-by-step instructions below for a one-time setup. Then you’ll be able to instantly insert emoji by typing just a few characters.

1. Make sure you have emoji activated. They are not turned on by default (you only have to activate them once). Follow our instructions on activating them.

2. Once emoji are activated, open the iPhone’s Settings and tap General:

General in iPhone Settings

3. Scroll down and tap Keyboard:

4. Scroll down and tap: Add New Shortcut…:

5. In the field labeled Phrase, insert the emoji. (You can access the emoji keyboard by tapping the globe icon on the keyboard):

6. Now, in the shortcut field, type in a combination of characters that will turn into the emoji. Pick an uncommon combination of characters to help prevent accidental auto-correction from occuring, but also pick something that will help you remember the shortcut. For example, for a shortcut for the heart emoji, you may want to use the letters hht, as it’s not a common combination of letters and the two H’s will allow you to quickly type the characters.

7. To finish, tap Save:

And that’s it. To test your new emoji shortcut, type in your shortcut anywhere you can enter text on the iPhone, tap spacebar, and your cute little emoji will appear!


  • Emoji first gained popularity in Japan, but thanks to the iPhone, they are growing in use in the US. Even Gmail now supports them.
  • Did you know that you can use emoji in the names of your app folders? For example, you could use the hamburger emoji to label a folder of restaurant apps.