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Beginner's Guide to the iPhone

Getting your first iPhone is a thrilling experience. There are a multitude of things you can do with it, and many of them are useful for your everyday life. In order to help you get the most out of your iPhone, we’ve compiled a list of the most helpful default apps, shortcuts and accessories, along with a brief explanation of what they can do for you. (If you need help with the initial setup of your device, refer to our Three Minute Beginner’s Guide to the iPhone to get started and then return back here when you’re finished.)


Keep track of your email and calendar using your iPhone


If you’re someone who uses email religiously for work, your iPhone’s Mail application will come in handy. Not only is it incredibly straightforward and easy to use, but it’s a one-stop destination for all your email accounts. 

Add accounts: Settings → Mail → Add Account → Select your email provider → Enter your username and password

Send: Within the Mail app, tap the pencil-and-paper icon in bottom-right corner to create a new email. You know how to do the rest.

Read: You can view all your emails in one place via “All Inboxes” or separated within your individual email accounts. Regardless of how you view them, all unread messages will be indicated by a blue dot.

Delete: If you’re on one of your inbox pages, swipe left on the message you wish to delete. If you’re within the email thread itself, simply click the trash can or archive symbol in the bottom bar.

Bonus: See that icon in the bottom left (a circle with three lines within)? Click that and all your unread emails will be brought to the top.


The Calendar app lets you create events, set alerts, and share them with coworkers and family all with a few taps of the screen. You can also create multiple calendars, specifically for different endeavors and groups of people. Don’t want your boss to know you’re ducking out of work early to see Kings of Leon next Tuesday? Put it on your ‘personal’ calendar instead of ‘work’ and you’re good to rock your face off.

Add event: Select Calendar→ “+” icon in top-right → Title your event → Set location for event → Set alert (or not). 

View: You can view your calendar daily, monthly, or yearly -- or you can have it in list form, sorted by most recent event. Tap on the specific day to have a daily view or tap on the top-left month or year to zoom out.

  Use your iPhone as a camera and as a map


The Camera app lets you do more than simply snap photos and take videos. Among other things, you can take panoramic photos, slo-mo videos, and time-lapse videos.

Basic settings: Toggle the flash on/off by clicking the lightning bolt in the top-left. Flip between front and back-facing with camera icon in bottom-right.

Capture photo: Tap the round white button on screen or click either one of the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone.

Record video: Tap the round red button on screen to start and stop the video.

Review: Click the photo thumbnail in the bottom-left of the screen to review your shots. You can also view your images in the Photos app.

Options: Switch between panorama, slo-mo, and timelapse modes by sliding between the options just above the capture button.

Need photography tips? Check out our article: How to Take Quality Photos with Your iPhone


The built-in Apple Maps app is the simplest way to help you get from A to B, providing step-by-step directions and estimated time of arrival.

Add destination: Type in an address, business, or service type (e.g., gas, fast food) in the search bar.

Turn-by-turn directions: Click “Directions” then “GO” after selecting your destination and maps will guide you with audio and visual cues.

Rideshare: Don’t feel like driving? Download the Uber or Lyft app and for the price typically cheaper than a cab, someone will come pick you up and drop you off at your requested location.

Alternatives: You can always download Google Maps and/or Waze as alternatives to Apple Maps if for whatever reason you don’t jive with the interface. Waze is particularly useful because it updates your optimal route based on other users’ input (traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, etc.).


Wake up and stay woke with your iPhone clock and social media apps


The Clock app lets you set wake-up alarms (Alarm), check the time of cities around the world (World Clock), and keep track of how long your DiGiorno has been in the oven (Timer).

Add alarm: Select Alarm → “+” icon in top-right → Set alarm time → Choose sound and whether or not you’d like it to repeat.

World clock: Select World Clock → “+” icon in top-right → Select city.

Timer: Select Timer → Set timer length → Start.

New feature: Apple recently added the new Bedtime option, which helps you keep a consistent sleeping schedule by monitoring your sleep habits and suggesting times to go to sleep and wake up. Simply select Bedtime and follow the on-screen instructions.


Want to share that sweet pic you took earlier? Download any/all of your favorite social-media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from the App Store for free.

Share photo: Photos app → Tap “Select” in top-right → Select photo(s) → Tap box-arrow icon in bottom-left → Select the social media app you want to share your photo(s) on. You can also share via text, email and more.

Organization: Too many social media apps littering your home screen? Hold down on any of the apps and then drag on top of another to create a single “social” folder.

Need inspiration? Check out totallee’s Instagram and Twitter feeds.


Pay with your iPhone and check the weather

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is quintessentially Apple: streamlined, elegant, and easy to use. Instead of fumbling through your wallet to find the credit card/debit card you want to use for a purchase, Apple Pay lets you pay directly with your iPhone.

Add card: Open Wallet app → “+” icon in top-right → Plug in card info → Wait for bank verification

Paying in person: Select the credit/debit card you’d like to use in Wallet app → Put iPhone near payment processor → Rest thumb on home button → Wait for fingerprint verification.

If you’re an iPhone X user, and want to take advantage of FaceID, just double-click the side button→ Glance at your phone to authenticate your beautiful face → Put your iPhone near the payment processor → Wait for the checkmark to appear.

In-app purchase: When checking out within an app or online, tap the Buy with Apple Pay option and rest your finger on the home button for fingerprint verification to complete the transaction.


Using your iPhone’s internal GPS, the Weather app shows the current weather conditions of your present location. You can also keep weather tabs on whichever cities around the world you so choose. The default city in your Weather app is Cupertino, California (Apple headquarters) but don’t worry, you can delete it and customize your list of cities however you like.

Add: Scroll down → “+” icon in top-left → Search city name → Select city

Delete: On the overview screen, swipe left on the city you wish to remove and select “delete”.

View: The overview screen lets you view the weather of all your selected cities at once. Click on a specific one to see daily weather for the coming week and more detailed info such as humidity, chance of rain, and wind direction/speed among others.


Keep up on breaking news with your iPhone


Instead of having to sift through multiple different news sources, have daily headlines curated and compiled for you in one app.

Your interests: Upon launching the News app for the first time, you will be prompted to define your areas of interest. Simply pick your favorite journals and categories, and the News app will aggregate each day’s news according to your preferences.

Quick access: If you swipe right when you’re on the home screen, your top news stories will be displayed just below your calendar and “Siri App Suggestions”. If you want additional content, head directly into the News app itself.


Use your iPhone to track your daily sleep patterns, steps walked, and what food you’re eating to help you stay healthy and keep up good habits -- or serve as a reminder to change bad ones.


Setup: Plug in height, weight, sex, age, and other general info → Optional sign up for organ donation (yes/no) → Get Started

Features: Activity tracks your daily step total, flight count, and total walking distance. Mindfulness lets you add and track mindful sessions. Nutrition lets you add and track the food and macronutrients you’re consuming every day. Sleep keeps track of how many hours you sleep a night. Medical ID provides important medical information about you in an emergency.

Want more health tips? Check out our article on how to get healthy with the help of your iPhone.




Now that you’ve mastered the basics, check out our brief list of home-screens shortcuts and useful add-on accessories.


Home Screen Shortcuts

From the home screen you can accomplish a variety of primary tasks on your iPhone with a few simple swipes...

Swipe right: to view your calendar, most used apps, News, and Weather.

Swipe from the top down: for a list of notifications. If you’re an X user make sure you swipe from the top-center and down to see notifications.

Swipe from the bottom up: to quickly control WiFi, Bluetooth, Flashlight, and Airplane mode. However, this won’t be the case for the iPhone X. If your phone is locked, you can glance at your phone while swiping up to unlock it. If your phone is already unlock, you can swipe up to go to the home screen

Swipe from the top-right and down (iPhone X only): to quickly control WiFi, Bluetooth, Flashlight, and Airplane mode.

Swipe left: to view additional page(s) of apps (if you have more than the homepage holds).


Case: A cover for your phone is almost always a good idea, but don’t overpay when you can get quality protection for less than an Andrew Jackson. Take a look at totallee’s collection of quality affordable options.

Screen protector: Want to double down on protection? Consider adding a tempered glass screen protector to shield your iPhone’s display from falls and scratches.

Want even more? Check out our favorite minimalist iPhone accessories