You’ve just been given an iDevice: a magical entity that bestows the gift of more apps than you can fathom. We’ll help you make sense of it all with some great apps, tips, and tricks for your shiny new Apple toy.
Title image remixed from an original by Air0ne (Shutterstock).
Before you dive in, here are a few things you should do with your new iDevice first:
- Update to the Lastest Version of iOS – There’s a decent chance your new iDevice isn’t running the latest version of iOS, even if it’s just a very minor upgrade that’s necessary. Before you sync for the first time, check for updates in iTunes or in your iDevice’s Settings app, if your device is running iOS 5. If there’s an update available, iTunes (or your phone) should tell you automatically but it’s always good to double check.
- Get to Know iOS 5 – Once you’ve updated, you ought to know what you’re in for. We can teach you everything you need to know about iOS 5 in 7 minutes. If you want to go more in-depth, you can learn how to configure notification center, create contact-specific vibrations and LED notifications, hide the newsstand “app” in a folder, set up typing shortcuts, add some beautiful settings shortcuts to your home screen, and make your iPhone read any text aloud on demand.
- Sign Up For Free Find My iPhone – You no longer need to pay to use Apple’s great Find My iPhone app. Just download it from the iTunes App Store and follow the signup instructions. You’ll need to create a MobileMe account to get it to work but you will not have to pay for it. Once you’re all set up, you’ll be able to find your lost or stolen iPhone much more easily.
- Organize Your Home Screen – When you start downloading a bunch of apps, your home screen is going to get cluttered very quickly. Stay ahead of the game and start organizing. As you download apps it’ll be easier to keep track of where every app is and will be stored. Check out these reader tips for some ideas.
Download Some Killer Apps
One of the iPhones primary draws is the high quality of apps in the iTunes App Store. Here are some app suggestions to get you started.
Looking to power up your iPhone with the best free and cheap apps out there? Our second edition of the Lifehacker Pack for iPhone rounds up our favorite must-have iPhone applications. More »
Our App Directory is a new and growing directory of the best applications and tools for various platforms, and in this case the iPhone. If you’re looking for the best app in any category, this is where you want to look. Visit the iPhone App Directory »
Why store media on your iPhone when you can stream it? Whether it’s coming from the cloud, your computer, or a third-party service, these are our picks for the best media streaming apps for your iPhone. More »
Your iOS device is a killer pocketable computer; your desktop is more powerful with a bigger screen. They need to play better together. Here’s how to break down the barrier between the two and shuttle text, files, media, and more seamlessly between your desktop and iPhone. More »
With thousands of deals and tons of gifts to buy, holiday shopping can be a lot of work. Here are our top picks for iPhone shopping apps to help you weed through the deals and manage your holiday shopping. More »
Although writing in iOS might seem troublesome, with faster fingers or a Bluetooth keyboard you can actually get a lot done. Whether it’s just a note, your next novel, or new screenplay, here are the apps you’ll need. More »
iPhone: Visual speed dial is a nice idea, but when you have to launch a separate app to make a phone call it’s a little annoying. Here are two ways to add visual speed dial to your home screen.
There’s an app called Custom Dial 6 ($1) that lets you add six custom speed dial icons to your iPhone… More »
It seems Apple added text expansion to iOS 5 and decided not to mention it. This is a great, highly-desired feature that can save you tons of time typing frequent phrases and long words. Here’s how to set it up and some phrases you’ll want to add right away. More »
Holidays are the perfect time to capture magic moments with friends and family and take the time get creative with your photography. Here are some simple tips to get the best photos from your iPhone. More »
Out of the box Siri can do a few common things, but it struggles when you try to get too complicated with it. GigaOM offers up a few clever address book customizations to make Siri work more naturally. More »
iPad/Android: Want to eke out a little more value out of that tablet? Turn it into a second monitor for your PC or Mac and extend your screen real estate. More »
Apple, true to form, makes it simple to put media and files on your iDevice but the road really only goes one way. It can be pretty difficult to copy anything (or everything) back to your computer without a lot of trouble and sacrifice, but it’s even harder to find a good, free solution to that problem amongst the many choices available. You could spend the better part of your holiday sifting through your options, or you could just read this guide instead. More »
If you use a word processor, comic book or PDF reader, video player, or other app that requires syncing files through iTunes, you know how slow and awful it can be. Here’s a simple, fast alternative. More »
Whether the iOS 5.0.1 update didn’t fix all your battery woes or you’re just looking to improve your iPhone’s daily lifespan, we’ve got a few tips that can help you squeeze a little more juice out of your iDevice. More »
While most of us use Gmail for all our cloud computing needs, Apple’s iCloud actually has some really nice things going for it-especially if you’re a heavy Mac and iOS user. I’ve walked through why you might want to switch from Google’s apps to iCloud, so whether you’re migrating all your data over or just a few choice items, here’s how to move from Google to iCloud without losing any of your existing email messages, contacts, calendars, and documents. More »
Locked down for your “safety,” your iPhone is designed to operate the way Apple intended. With recently relaxed app store policies and great strides within the jailbreaking community, however, you can add great functionality that Apple never wanted you to have. More »
Neat iOS Tips and Tricks
Even if you don’t jailbreak, there are tons of neat things you can do with your iPhone. Here’s a selection of tips, tricks, and hacks to try.
The latest iPhone and iPod touch are nearly identical devices, ignoring the pesky reality that the latter isn’t a phone. We can fix that. Here’s how to turn your iPod touch into a viable (and cheaper) iPhone alternative out of the box. More »
Got Android envy? Just wish Apple handled sync, the web, and openness a bit better? You can’t have it all, but if you want to bring more Google paradigms to your iPhone, here’s how to do it. More »
With H.264 solidly planted as the codec of choice for just about every mobile device, we’ve come to a point where you can encode a video once and play it back on pretty much anything. More »
Mac OS X: You could use AirPrint Hacktivator (or do it manually) to add AirPrint support to your Mac, but if you don’t want to modify your system files and would like virtual printers, you should check out Printopia. More »
iOS does pretty well with handling various file types, but when it comes to compressed files you run into problems. Fortunately, with the aid of a file browsing app you’ll be able to view compressed files easily. More »
Want to lay down some tracks but all you’ve got is your iOS device and a Mac? With an OpenSound Control (OSC) app on your iPhone and server on your Mac you can record a virtual keyboard over Wi-Fi. More »
Do Even More: Jailbreak
If you’re looking to escape the walled garden that is Apple, jailbreaking your iDevice is the path to take. When you’ve got a successfully jailbroken device, check out our Top 10 iOS Jailbreak Hacks for some nice upgrades.
Note: Currently there is no untethered jailbreak for iOS 5. If you don’t know what that means, or are unsure if you want to take the risks of a tethered jailbreak, read this post before you do anything.
We hope we’ve been able to help create a foundation for a long, loving relationship with your brand new iDevice. If you’re an iOS veteran, maybe you’ve got some additional tips, tricks, and suggestions. If so, let’s hear ‘em in the comments.