As fanboys and girls anticipate Apple's big iPad announcement on Wednesday, you're probably looking down at your scratched iPhone and starting to feel like it's kind of tired. In gadget years, the iPhone 4 is getting old. The fragile glass screen is still easy to break; the sharp edges are still difficult to grip; and the teeny buttons on the sides are still hard to use. If you are feeling morose about the lack of an iPhone hardware update, however, there are a few hidden features we've recently discovered -- many of them in the Accessibility area of Settings -- that will make your phone feel brand new again. While these features are designed to help the disabled, notably the vision- and hearing-impaired, there's a lot of utility for everyone in tinkering with these Easter egg-like tricks.
How to unlock it: Settings > General > Accessibility > Triple-Click Home > Ask
Coolest feature: White on Black
There are few different ways to use this feature. You'll see five options in the Triple-Click Home menu, but we recommend ask. That way, when you push the home button three times, a menu will appear that will invite you to turn on three different features: VoiceOver, Zoom and White on Black. We'll get into VoiceOver and Zoom in a second, but you should consider trying Black on White right away. It essentially inverts your iPhone's entire color screen. What was once grey and white with black text will become tobacco brown and black with white text. Your maps will look like a 1980s car racing game, and best of all, your camera viewfinder will look like an X-ray. You can also activate this effect by going to Settings > General Accessibility > White on Black > ON. However, we'd recommend using the Triple-Click home to activate it as it's most useful when you can quickly toggle back and forth between the two looks. White on Black is especially cool when used at night or in night clubs.
How to unlock it: Settings > General > Accessibility > Assistive Touch > ON
Coolest Feature: Custom Gestures
Although this one is a little tough to get used to, it's amazing once you start exploring the capabilities. Assistive Touch, as the name suggests, is designed to make the iPhone easier to use for people who might have trouble with the touchscreen or the buttons. Once you turn it on, you'll notice a white dot appear on the right side of your screen. You can move this around by dragging it to a new spot on your screen or activate the Assistive Touch menu by tapping it. When you do, a menu will pop up and give you four choices: Device, Home, Favorites and Gestures.
Tapping Device brings up a menu that serves as a quick way to access all of the basic actions of your phone, like Mute, Lock Screen and Volume Up/Down. It's pretty self explanatory. Home will take you to your home screen or, if you're already on your home screen, to your search screen. Favorites is a way to access custom gestures. It comes pre-programmed with pinch, but you can create your own by tapping any one of the squares with a plus side inside. It will take you to a new screen, where you record a gesture and save it to your Favorites menu. Then when you're using your phone, you can tap the Assistive Touch button, tap Favorites, select the gesture and your phone will replay what you recorded. Figuring out the most useful way for you to use this feature will depend on how artistic you are, we think. Gestures, the fourth and final option in the Assistive Touch menu, simply allows you to do two- to five-finger gestures with only one finger. The menu looks very cool.
It's fun to gesture around the main screen, but the real power of these features lies in the apps. Plenty of apps use custom gestures for certain things. We can imagine, for instance, that some games and music apps would respond well to custom gestures. However, they're not the only ones. You should fee free to play around with the settings, and if you ever get too mixed up, just back up your phone, wipe the hard drive and restore from your backup. In the meantime, have fun!
How to unlock it: Settings > General > Keyboard > International Keyboards
Coolest Feature: Emoji
Whether you speak a foreign language or not, you should consider turning on your iPhone's Emoji keyboard. It's pretty new to the iPhone, and it's also hilarious. Back in December, New York Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham wrote about how Emoji had made it to the mainstream by making it into the iPhone's international keyboard section. If you've never used Emoji, it's pretty self explanatory; just think of Emoji characters as more advanced emoticons. Once you activate the keyboard -- and any other international keyboards you might find useful -- you'll see a new globe button pop up where half of your left shift key used to be. Tapping this will toggle through the different languages, and yes, you can write messages in more than one different character set.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.