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Tech trends: secret iPhone tips
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I got my first iPhone, the 3GS model, as a college graduation present. The iPhone 3GS was the third generation of iPhone. I remember sitting in the student center at Georgia Tech watching the Apple keynote speech when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone in 2007.

"I have to get this phone!" I said to myself. "This is exactly the phone I've been waiting for!"

Alas, as a college student with no job and in the middle of another cellphone contract, I had to sit on the sidelines, sans iPhone, reading about all the cool stuff the iPhone could do. Yeah I know, "First World Problems," right?

Therefore, not surprisingly, when I got my iPhone, I couldn't put it down. I'm now using an iPhone 4S, and it's pretty much with me 24/7. There are some cool tips and tricks that Apple doesn't explicitly advertise that can make the iPhone experience just that extra bit better. Here are a few of my favorites:

Take photos with the volume button
Here's a cool tip for all the iPhone photographers out there to make your iPhone even more like a point-and-shoot camera. With the latest version of the iPhone software (iOS 5), you can use the "volume up" button to snap a picture.

I find it much faster to take pictures this way, as well as being a more stable way to hold the phone for photography. It feels more like a real camera with some tactile feedback when you press a button to snap a picture.

There's a second part to the this tip: you can also use the "volume up" button on your iPhone earbuds to snap a picture. You can even use wireless Bluetooth headsets to trigger the camera with the volume button. This is great if you have a iPhone tripod mount or some other mounting system to take pictures without holding the iPhone.

Tweet with Siri
If you have an iPhone 4S, you've undoubtedly played with the little virtual assistant to set reminders, get the weather or send text messages just by talking to your phone. Now, if you're into Twitter, there's even a way to dictate your tweets to Siri.

There is a basic Twitter functionality built-in to iOS 5, but unfortunately it's doesn't work with Siri. There are a few steps you'll have to take to get this tip up and running. Luckily, they are simple.

The first step is to set up "Twitter via SMS" (SMS is another name for text message), which was the primary way to tweet when Twitter was first created. Simply send a text message to "40404" with the message "Start." Twitter will reply soon after with instructions, which you simply follow. All in all, it takes just a few minutes.

Next you just need to add the "40404" SMS number as a new Contact, name it "Twitter" and then you are all set. For example, you can now tell Siri: "Send a message to Twitter saying ‘I'm tweeting with my voice.''' It works just like sending a regular text message with Siri. Fun!

Custom vibrations
This next tip is very nice. I hate ringtones. I hate awkwardness of having my phone ring loudly at inopportune times, like at night, in a meeting or at the movies. So, 99.9 percent of the time, I leave my iPhone on vibrate mode. If you hate having your phone ring like I do, then this tip is for you.

The main function of ringtones is to assign different ringtones to different people so you know who's calling without even looking. At least, that's how it's been explained to me. You can now get that functionality with custom vibrations on the iPhone.

All you need to do is tap "Settings > General > Accessibility" and turn on Custom Vibrations under Hearing. Next, you just record your new vibration pattern by tapping on the screen in the pattern of your choice. The longer you hold your finger down, the longer the vibration - kind of like morse code. You can then assign these custom vibration to your different contacts as you would a ringtone.

Scroll to the top in a snap
Have you ever finished reading a long article or scrolled all the way to the bottom of a page and then needed to go back to see the top of the page? You could sit there swiping your way back to the top, or you could make use of a little-known, un-advertised feature to help you out: simply tap the status bar.

The status bar is the thin gray bar that sits at the top of the screen that displays things like the clock, your cell reception indicator, battery life, etc. All you have to do is tap anywhere on that bar, and the page will automatically scroll to the top. Very handy.

Hourly weather forecasts
There are hundreds of weather apps on the App Store. Many of which have additional functionality compared to the default Weather App on the iPhone. However, sometimes it's nice to keep it simple. The default Weather App is nice
for a quick check for the temperature and current weather conditions.

However, the latest version of iOS added a nice extra feature to the default Weather App: hourly forecasts. Just open the Weather App and tap anywhere on the week listing to open a drop-down list of the weather forecast for the next 12 hours. It includes temperature, conditions and a percentage for any precipitation.

Do you know of any handy iPhone, iPad or other mobile phone tips and tricks you'd like to share? Send me an email and include the phrase "Phone tips" in the subject, and I may pick a few to share in a future article.


William Brawley is the Electronic Media Producer for The Covington News. He is an Apple fanatic and camera geek. If you have any tech issues or other questions email him at