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Did Santa bring you a shiny new smartphone for Christmas? Lucky you! Here are some fun things to do with it that you might not know about

By Ross Campbell, Writer

Someone’s on the nice list! If you’re the recipient of a brand-new smartphone, you probably can’t wait to get it set up.


But beyond the super smart features you already know about, there’s a wealth of cool and sometimes random tricks your new device can do. For example, did you know your iPhone can track your eyeline during FaceTime calls? Or were you aware that you could ask your Android phone to tell you what song you’re humming?


Well, with a new device in the palm of your hand, what better time to test out some of the features you might not know about. We have picked out our favourite random features for both iPhones and Android phones right here – we’ve got ten apiece that are perfect to put your new pocket friend to the test.



1. Teach Siri your mates’ nicknames

Do you know three Daves, or maybe four Emilys? Did you know that you can tell Siri their nicknames, to help the assistant differentiate between them? This is how you do it.


  1. Head to your contact and open up their card
  2. Tap Edit > Add field > Nickname
  3. Type in whatever you call the Daves or Emilys of your life

You can also add titles, like my boss or my girlfriend. Just ask Siri to “Call my boss,” and she’ll ask you which contact you’d like to assign that nickname to.


2. Secret spirit level

Have you ever looked at a picture you’ve hung and wondered… is that actually straight? Now you can find out with your iPhone, using its built-in spirit level.

  1. Find the Measure app, give it a tap
  2. This app uses AR to measure stuff (and people) – so you can bin your ruler, too
  3. Tap the dots and lines option, top left > tap Level
  4. Rest the phone on a surface to see if it’s flat


3. Let it snow

You may not have been able to enjoy a white Christmas this year, but you can make it snow on your iPhone. Head to the Apple Store app on your iPhone, and head to the search menu. Type in “Let it snow” and little snowflakes will begin fluttering down the screen. Neat, huh?


4. Hide your private pics

“Don’t swipe that way” may be something you’ve uttered yourself, when handing your phone to a friend or colleague (or worse, your mum). To make sure your private photos stay that way – while saving you any embarrassment – you can hide them in a secret folder. This is how you do it:


  1. Open the Photos app
  2. Choose the photo you want to hide
  3. Tap the Share button > Hide
  4. Confirm you want to hide it
  5.  To find the hidden album, open the app again and tap Albums
  6. Scroll right to the bottom, and you’ll fine Hidden under the Utilities title


For double protection, you can hide the hidden album.


  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll down to Photos
  3. Toggle off Hidden Album
  4. This is also how you retrieve the album if you want it back


5. Are you using Back Tap?

Did you know you can capture a screen shot, activate Siri, or launch your notification centre with a few taps on the back of the phone? If you have iPhone 12, you can set up a new action called Back Tap.


  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll to Accessibility
  3. Choose Touch
  4. Scroll all the way down to Back tap
  5. Choose from Double tap or Triple tap
  6. Choose which action you’d like the tap to activate
  7. Tap twice, or thrice, on the rear of the phone with your index finger


6. Have some fun with Siri

Siri has a sense of humour built in, and can offer a bit of fun while checking out your new phone. Have a go of this lot, each offering a family-friendly, humorous reply.


  • Are you a robot?
  • Do you dream?
  • How old are you?
  • What are you scared of?
  • Do you know any pick-up lines?
  • What is The Matrix about?
  • Red pill or blue pill?
  • Siri, I am you father
  • Do you want to build a snowman?


7. Fake your FaceTime eye contact

Courtesy of the pandemic, we’ve all become quite accustomed to speaking to each other on video calls, but it can admittedly be a drag if we’re doing it all day. Now, Apple has created a cool feature, using AR, to basically fake your attention.


Using motion tracking, and Apple’s own ARKit, it will look like you’re looking into the camera lens, even when you’re not.


  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll to FaceTime
  3. Find Eye Contact and toggle it on


The feature is only available on iPhone 11 models, iPhone 12 models, iPhone XS models and iPhone XR, running iOS 14 or iOS 15.


8. Unlock quicker charging

If you need power in a hurry, stick your iPhone into Airplane mode. You won’t be able to make calls, browse the web, or receive messages, but it will allow the battery to absorb power quicker.


From the home screen, swipe down from the right-hand corner of the screen to get to your Control Centre. Then you just need to tap the button with an aeroplane on it.


9. Create your own shortcuts

If you want to streamline your typing, you can create your own shortcuts. For example, you could set “NGL” to automatically be replaced with “I’m not going to lie” to save you some time. To start creating your own text replacements, follow the steps below:


  1. Go to Settings
  2. Choose General
  3. Scroll to Keyboard
  4. Tap on Text replacement
  5. Type in your keyboard shortcuts


Now, when you’re typing out an email, a WhatsApp message or an iMessage, your abbreviations will automatically be lengthened.


10. Find an iPhone’s rightful owner

We can all appreciate the gut-wrenching feeling of losing your phone. Thankfully, Siri is on hand to help a good Samaritan. If you find an iPhone, launch Siri by holding down the home button and asking “Whose phone is this?”


Providing the owner has interacted with Siri and offered some information, Siri should say: “I believe this phone belongs to [name]” and offer the option to call any other linked Apple devices.


1. The Android Easter egg hunt

Every year, the smartypants at Google hide an Easter egg inside the Android software, for users to play with. And Android 12 is no different – this is how to find it.

  1. Head to Settings by pulling down from the top of the screen and tapping the cog
  2. Scroll down to About phone, tap it
  3. Navigate to Android version
  4. At the top of the menu, you’ll see Android version again
  5. Tap it about five or six times to reveal the Easter egg (a clock this year)
  6. Rotate the hands of the clock to the 12 o’clock position for the final reveal


Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to access the secret colour chart from your home screen – part of Android’s new “Material You” brand ethos, giving users more customisation options.


  1. Tap in an empty space on your home screen to get the widgets menu
  2. Choose the Android S Easter Egg options
  3. Drag it on to your home screen
  4. When you click it, you’ll see a breakdown of all the customised colours in your palette, relating to your background of choice


2. Unlock developer mode

This might not be for everyone, but if you want even more freedom when it comes to customising your phone, unlock the developer options.


  1. Head to Settings by pulling down from the top of the screen and tapping the cog
  2. Navigate to About phone, tap it
  3. At the bottom of the menu, you’ll see “Build number” and a bunch of numbers
  4. Tap “Build number” four or five times and you’ll unlock a secret menu
  5. Head back a screen and go to System
  6. Then scroll down to a new option called Developer options


The developer menu is for, well… developers. It lets you bypass the usual settings offered to normal users. If you wanted to, you could set the screen to never go to sleep, show the developer layout of the entire phone or configure every colour and ratio, to name just a few of the settings.

3. Combine emojis with Gboard

Emojis have become their own language, with their definitions rapidly evolving over time. And although a picture can tell a thousand words, sometimes there isn’t the right emoji to tell your story… until now. With Gboard installed as your default keyboard, you’ll be able to combine emojis to make new ones.


  1. Make sure Gboard is your default keyboard
  2. If not, head to the Google Play Store and download it
  3. Head to Settings > type in keyboard
  4. Choose Gboard, if it isn’t already selected
  5. Head to WhatsApp and tap the Google smiley under the X key
  6. Tap a couple of emojis and see what it spits out
  7. To add it to your conversation, just tap and it will appear as a sticker


4. Come face to face with a (digital) tiger

Have you ever wondered how big a sea turtle, or how tall a giraffe is? You can Google all sorts of large animals, dinosaurs and domesticated animals, and then project them into your world using AR. All you have to do is type “Tiger” (for example) into Google and then scroll down to the moving animal and tap “View in 3D.” For the best results, view larger animals outside in large flat spaces.


There are loads of things you can visualise in AR, including mammals, birds, human anatomical systems, house pets, cellular structures, biological terms and cultural heritage sites. Try some of the below out:

  • Land animals: Tiger, giant panda, leopard, goat, cheetah, pony, brown bear
  • Sea life: Great white shark, octopus, angler fish
  • Birds: Macaw, emperor penguin
  • Dogs: Pomeranian, Golden retriever, Labrador, Rottweiler
  • Biology: Human digestive system, respiratory system, endocrine system
  • Heritage sites: Chichén Itzá, Brandenburg Gate, Thomas Jefferson Memorial


For a full list of all the search terms, check out Google’s dedicated AR page here.


5. Have fun with Google Assistant

OK, the speaking assistants aren’t really as exciting as sci-fi would have us believe, but they’ve always got a bunch of fun responses built in. Try this lot out with Google Assistant. Just say “Hey Google” or press the dedicated Assistant button on your Android device.


  • Sing the Vaccine Song (a spirited song celebrating doctors and the vaccine)
  • Roll a dice (rolls a virtual dice, you can ask to roll again as many times as you like)
  • Tell a joke (it has a lot of jokes)
  • Play Are You Feeling Lucky (a trivia-based gameshow for up to four players)
  • Do you dream? (a fun Phillip K Dick joke here)
  • What noise does [animal] make? (it’ll play the noise)

6. Earworms be gone

An earworm is a song that gets stuck in your head, even when you don’t know the lyrics or the title. And although apps like Shazam are great at identifying songs when you play them out loud, it can’t get inside your head. Thankfully Google Assistant is on hand.


If you’ve got a rough idea of the melody, you can hum, whistle, or sing the tune to Google Assistant, and it’ll figure it out. Just launch the assistant, ask “What’s this song?” and then it’s over to you.

7. Play a secret T-Rex game

Even when you’ve got no signal, cell connection or Wi-Fi, Google doesn’t want you to be bored. There’s a secret arcade game built into the Google Chrome browser app, designed to offer a morsal of respite when you’re disconnected. To check it out (even if you do have a connection), do the following.

  • Turn on Airplane mode, which you’ll find in the swipe-down menu
  • Launch the Google Chrome app
  • Search for anything you like, you won’t be able to connect
  • An error message will appear, stating “No internet,” next to an 8-bit T-Rex
  • Touch the dinosaur to launch the endless runner
  • Tap screen to jump, and avoid the cacti and pterodactyls


8. What’s you BPM?

You don’t need any specialist equipment to check your heart rate, just the Google Fit app, which should be pre-installed on your Android phone. Using your phone’s camera, the app is able to monitor and read your heart rate.


  • Launch Google Fit – it’s the Google colours in the shape of a heart
  • From the main menu, tap Browse from the menu along the bottom of the screen
  • Choose Vitals
  • Tap Check your heart rate
  • Allow permission to use your camera
  • Place you index finger over the rear camera lens
  • Follow the on-screen instructions

9. App shortcuts

Most apps will have shortcuts built into them, so you can get things done quicker. It’s a pretty basic feature, but not one that gets talked about enough.


To check out the shortcuts associated with each app, long press and a menu will appear above each, offering a bunch of options tailored to you. The offerings are all based on things you do most with that specific app. For example, your favourite contacts will be on the Phone app, or your most common orders on Uber Eats.

10. Night light

This night mode strips all the artificial blue light out of your screen, reducing strain on your eyes and allowing your brain to calm down. You can set it to turn on at a specific time in the evening – generally after sunset is a good rule. This is how you do it.


  1. Go to your Settings menu
  2. Scroll down to Display
  3. Tap on Night Light
  4. Here you can customise the settings to suit your schedule

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