Remember when the iPhone was first released, 12 years ago? We gazed into its sleek, glass surface. We watched the screen adjust as we rotated the phone in our hands. In an instant, the Blackberry looked quaint and old-fashioned. The smartphone era had arrived, and there was no turning back.

There are ways to tinker with your device’s appearance and functionality — most of them unknown to the average iPhone owner. For example, tap or click here for the steps on how to have your medical and emergency contact information show up on a locked screen.

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Check out these awesome ways you can customize your iPhone to your liking. Not only will they help your iPhone look better, but it will work better, too.

Use the hidden touchpad

There’s a secret touchpad hiding out in your keyboard. Depending on your phone or tablet, there are a couple of ways to access it. On many newer iPhones, you need to press down on any key, and you will see the keyboard become blank. Now, you can move your finger around, and the cursor will move with you.

On some iPhones and iPads, you will need to hold down on the space bar to access this mode. It’s a great way to move around in a document, or simply place your cursor somewhere specific in an email, text or note.

Spice up your screens

If you don’t want your health and emergency information showing on your phone, try a new background. Change the appearance of your screen by going to the Settings menu, then tapping Wallpaper. Tap Choose a New Wallpaper and decide if you want to use a Dynamic, Still, or Live image. Then, select the location where you want to get the new wallpaper. You can get one from Apple’s gallery, your camera roll, or download one from a website.

Finally, if you don’t like the default settings for your specially chosen image, you can change that, as well. For example, if it’s a photo from your camera roll, you can slide it around and pinch to zoom in and out to frame it the way you want it.

Now, tap Set Lock Screen if you only want to change the wallpaper of the Lock screen. Select Set Home Screen to change just the Home screen. Or, select Set Both to change both the Lock screen and the Home screen wallpaper.

Customize notifications

Every time a text, call, or email comes through, we receive a notification on our home screen. Unless we switch it off, many apps will send us updates, as well. There are other ways to receive these notifications.

Choose your own notification style by going to Settings, then Notifications, and select the app you want to change notifications for. Select from different Alerts, Banner Style, Sounds, and more.

Now, if you want to make receiving an email sound like a horn honking, or receiving a text message sound like a dog barking, you can. You can use these alerts to differentiate the various notifications, so you can decide which ones deserve immediate attention.

Grab a cool new ringtone

Everyone tends to leave the default iPhone ringtone when they could be changing it to just about anything they could ever want. Many people stick to that ringtone out of habit, or because they believe changing it is more complicated than it is.

Really, all you have to do to change your ringtone is head into Settings, then choose Sounds. From there, choose Ringtone. Select the one that best fits your personality.

If you feel like the default options just aren’t cutting it, you can always head over to the iTunes Store to buy more ringtones later, whether you snag an Ariana Grande song or a Super Mario Bros. jingle.

Make it easier on eyes

Optometrists can’t stand backlit screens, and the effects of “blue light” have sparked a lot of discussion in the eye-care community. If you find yourself staring into that bright rectangle in the dark, you may want to rethink your phone use — and, at the very least, adjust the screen, so it’s more ocular-friendly.

You can use a feature similar to Dark Mode instead, which should make your phone quite a bit easier on the eyes. Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility. Once there, select Display Accommodations, and then Invert Colors.

From here you have two options, Smart Invert or Classic Invert. Smart Invert Colors reverses the colors of the display, except for images, media, and some apps that use dark color styles. Classic Invert Colors reverses the colors of the display.

Give Siri a fresh accent

Here’s a fun way to change up your interactions with your Apple gadgets. We’re all familiar with the Siri assistant’s main voice, that of an American woman. You probably already knew you could change the gender, but you can also choose from a selection of different accents. The options are American, Australian, British, Irish, and South African.

Go to Settings; Siri Search; Siri Voice to check out the different sounds and choose a new accent.

Light up the night

Not interested in plain old notifications when it comes to texting? You can forgo sounds and badges entirely and opt for a flashing light that’ll go off instead (or even combine them all if you prefer).

Open Settings; General; Accessibility; Hearing. From there, select the LED Flash for Alerts slider to on/green. Next time you get a notification, you’ll get a flashing light greeting you.

Set photos for incoming calls

True, you can change the names of callers when they ring your phone, but you can also change the image of the caller. You can set a full-screen photo of the person you’re getting a call from. When Mom calls, you’ll see a picture of her. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can add ridiculous photos: a call from your friend could bring up the image of Chewbacca.

Just tap the Phone icon, then Contacts, and choose the person you want to assign a photo to. Tap Edit, then Add Photo. Now, the next time they call you, you’ll be greeted with a picture.

Set personalized ringtones

Just like you can set certain photos for different callers, you can also opt to set custom ringtones. You can set up something funky for your best friend, or a romantic love song for your significant other.

Tap the Phone icon >> Contacts. Then tap the person whose ringtone you’re looking to change. Tap Edit and then Ringtone and select the ringtone you want to hear for that person.

You can do this for everyone in your contacts list, so you know exactly who is calling just by the ringtone. Have fun hearing your phone erupt in a customized song!


Listen to Kim Komando’s show from 1-4 p.m. Sundays on KRMG am740 or fm102.3. Read her columns or get her newsletters at komando.com.

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